A senior Palestinian official said Thursday evening that it was “absolutely disgraceful and shocking” that Australia would no longer use the term “occupied” territory in reference to East Jerusalem, a shift announced by Canberra earlier the same day.
The announcement came as the Palestinians were marking Naksa Day, an annual commemoration marked in remembrance of Israel’s victory during the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel captured East Jerusalem, the Old City and the West Bank from Jordan, among other territorial gains.
“It is absolutely disgraceful and shocking that on the 47th anniversary of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), and Gaza, Australian Attorney-General George Brandis is issuing such inflammatory and irresponsible statements… Such pronouncements are not only in blatant violation of international law and global consensus, but are also lethal in any pursuit of peace and toxic to any attempt at enacting a global rule of law,” PLO Executive Committee member and veteran politician Hanan Ashrawi said.
The Australian government had announced in a statement earlier Thursday it would no longer refer to East Jerusalem as “occupied” territory in what one legislator called a “massive shift” in foreign policy.
Attorney General George Brandis explained Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s position that using the word “occupied” was judgmental and does not contribute to the dialogue about the contested area, the Australian Associated Press reported.
“The description of East Jerusalem as ‘occupied’ East Jerusalem is a term freighted with pejorative implications which is neither appropriate nor useful,” Brandis said during a Senate meeting. “It should not and will not be the practice of the Australian government to describe areas of negotiation in such judgmental language.”
Ashrawi said that the “illegal annexation of East Jerusalem” is a “deliberate and egregious violation, not just of international humanitarian law and consensus, but of the basic norms of responsible behavior that governs relations among civilized states.”
“Trying to fabricate or distort the law to fit Israel’s lawless behavior is shameful and dangerous,” she continued. “Attorney-General Brandis, whether out of ignorance or whether out of blind bias, is trying to render Australia complicit in the Israeli occupation, and is forcing it to become an advocate of international criminal behavior.”
Israel effectively annexed East Jerusalem in 1980, unifying the city under Israeli sovereignty, though most of the international community has not recognized the move.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.