Francis Vierboom's Blog

A blog about things. Mostly news, ideas, and Sydney

Being a foreign minister not all bad

with one comment

On the rare occasion when you get to disagree with the USA.

Stephen Smith is taking some time off after a stressful month of stonewalling on Lateline about the Oceanic Viking by visiting Cuba. It turns out that Australia is actually very friendly with Cuba, and even voted in the UN with Cuba against the US embargo. Which surprised me, because I’m pretty sure that it is extremely rare that Australia votes against the USA in the UN.

This being the internet, it stuck me as an interesting question to actually determine. I can’t figure out right now how to do it using the official UN databases, but it turns out that the US State Department actually does produce a detailed annual report on voting practices in the UN, identifying key issues to the US and outlining who agrees and who disagrees.

Australia does indeed vote with the US more than any other state except one: Canada. Together with Canada, we agree more often with the US than anyone else on the 13 resolutions that the State Department identifies as ‘Important votes’ (Both Aus and Canada had 10 in agreement, 1 abstain, 2 disagree). Canada, Australia and the UK all voted against two resolutions, on the death penalty and the Cuba embargo. The UK scores lower because it abstained from several key votes on Israel/Palestine, while Canada and Australia joined the USA in the ‘pro-Israel’ column.

Which is a neat segue into the point I had in mind when I read this. If Australia is happy to bite its thumb at the US over Cuba, why do we feel the need to support the US so strongly on the Israel front? For a long time reading about the Middle East debate, and of course sitting in the inner west pubs of Sydney with the best of Gen Y’s chardonnay socialists, it really does feel like the rest of the world is taking crazy pills. Take this classic exchange from the recent US press briefing following Israel’s announcement of new settlement expansions in East Jerusalem (worth reading in full):

QUESTION: You said a little bit earlier that we understand the Israeli point of view on Jerusalem. Can you explain what you mean by that?

MR. KELLY: Well, you have to ask — I’m not going to stand up here and characterize the Israeli point of view on —

QUESTION: No. I’m just asking you, if you understand the Israeli point of view on Jerusalem, why are you saying that this is not a good thing?

MR. KELLY: I’m not saying we support the Israeli point of view. We understand it.

QUESTION: Right. And then, last one on this, you characterized this decision by the planning commission as dismaying.

MR. KELLY: Yes.

QUESTION: You can’t come up with anything stronger than “dismaying”? I mean, this flies in the face of everything you’ve been talking about for months and months and months.

MR. KELLY: It’s dismaying.

Of course on the other side you have Sarah Palin, who seems to have consulted the Republican index of litmus tests and decided she has to be as flagrantly pro-Israel as is grammatically possible, talking to Barbara Walters:

“I disagree with the Obama administration on that,” Palin said. “I believe that the Jewish settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon, because that population of Israel is, is going to grow. More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead. And I don’t think that the Obama administration has any right to tell Israel that the Jewish settlements cannot expand.”

UPDATE: See an new piece over at newmatilda by Jake Lynch looking at the UN vote on the Goldstone Report, a human rights inquiry into the most recent Gaza conflict, where the UK, Australia and the US were part of the dissenting minority against a motion to refer the report to the Security Council. The article makes a bunch of points I won’t repeat here about the substance of the dispute but totally agree with.

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Written by Francis

November 24, 2009 at 10:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. […] a comment » Yesterday I wrote that Australia was second only to Canada sticking up for the USA in the UN. However, I neglected to […]


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