What do Israel and Papua have in Common?

By John Pitcher

You cannot deny the existence of Palestinians and support the imperial and colonial creation of the apartheid state of Israel and also support the West Papuan’s fight for justice and freedom (two support positions often assumed on MyT): I support both West Papua’s right to free determination and the Palestinians rights to the same in their own country. In both cases I believe the UN (as it often does) bent to the will of the US and other powerful nations. Under these circumstances I believe the UN decisions should be reviewed and altered to suit modern requirements and international law as it is today. Those who cherry-pick the UN decisions that agree with their prejudices need to examine themselves and their motives.

I have looked at the absurdity of the UN’s 1948 Resolution 181 that split Palestine in two unequal parts with the smallest being offered to the largest section of the population (Balfour to A Stab in the Back Other articles on the same subject are in the Archives). This offer was refused and the smallest section of the population immediately took what it wanted racing immigrants into the land to create something illegal: Israel. The UN was useless as a guarantor of its own high ideals. By even framing the Resolution an essential Article of The General assembly to never accept any decision based on sex, ethnic or religious grounds was broken. Israel was forced into existence.

Twenty-one years later (1969), the UN watched as Indonesia went through the motions of the Act of Free Choice in West Papua and gained international acceptance of its violent invasion and takeover of the former colonised province after seven years of murder, rape and community destruction; started in 1962 when the Dutch could no longer cling on to the last remnant of their colonial empire. Everyone concerned is still dancing around the problem as though greed and self-interest don’t exist as human characteristics; all being guilty of them. Few will mention the fundamental reason for Papua’s plight just as few want to mention the reason for the invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya; and the existence of Israel; all situations considered essential to the American necessity of access to oil and strategic positioning in the Middle East and Asia to maintain that access (plus in the case of Israel a tool for the Middle East arms trade of the American Military Complex).

The Dutch tried to give many reasons for their desperate attempts to cling on to West Papua after the 1949 Round Table Conference in The Hague finally confirmed the independence of the Republic of Indonesia. They wanted to see a bastion of democracy against the possible incursion of Communists through the islands. They wanted to make sure the tribal and largely uneducated people were ready for independence. They wanted to say and do anything that hid their real interests and they did hide them.

Even in 1949 the world was aware that there was at least one mountain, effectively, made of copper in West Papua; that there was a massive gold mine ready to be exploited. Everyone knew but no one wanted to mention the facts: West Papua was, and remains, one of the most mineral rich areas in the world. Its value is incalculable; the resources still not fully quantified, the offshore oilfields still not fully developed.

The Act of Free Choice was the final disgrace that allowed Indonesia to get what it had been promised at The Hague. West Papua was to remain a Dutch Protectorate (according to the independence agreement) for one more year after the signing (1949). Within that year arrangements were to be made to complete the return of the last colonial asset to the ‘Unitary State’ of The Republic of Indonesia. The Dutch clung on until 1962.

In 1962, given the green light by America and others with mining interests to develop, Indonesia invaded West Papua and started a campaign to drive out the Dutch and secure the province by force. By 1969 the Dutch had long gone and Indonesia selected 1,025 representatives of the native Papuan tribe’s people and threatened them with death unless they voted to be a part of the Republic of Indonesia. They voted unanimously to join the rest of the old colonial provinces and islands in the ‘Unitary State’. At the time there was a population of about 800,000 indigenous people of Melanesian and Australasian origins whose rights were ignored and whose environment, culture and lives were considered too impoverished and unsophisticated to be worth bothering about.

The existing Transmigrasi policy of the Indonesian state that had (and still does) moved hundreds of thousands of people out of overcrowded, mostly Javanese, areas into less crowded Outer Island situations shifted, en bloc, people into West Papua to begin the age old process of creating a majority of your own kind by mass immigration (Israel’s development was not the last time this kind of colonisation occurred).

That the powerful gave Indonesia assistance and support both in terms of military equipment, training, finance and aid payments, and, crucially, leaned on the UN to get it to disregard the blatant manipulation of the 1969 Act of Free Choice; is now well known. Recent documents released under Freedom of Information Legislation reveal the depths of the iniquity. This is a copy of the Briefing Document from Kissinger to Nixon on the Presidential visit to see Suharto in Jakarta (1969) during the process of the Act of Free Choice. Under ‘Points to Avoid’ (page six) you will see Kissinger refer to

‘…. Direct elections would be almost meaningless amongst the stone age people…..’ a gross racial slur disguising the naked lust for the wealth of these ‘stone age people’.

There was ‘….a UN Observer on the scene…’ and Kissinger felt that his lobbyists at the UN had been effective enough and he could claim confidently that

‘…. U Thant will go along with the form of the Indonesian Act of Free Choice…..’

U Thant did go along and so did the rest of the world that had clout. West Papua was then deliberately exploited with no regard to the welfare of the inhabitants of the country; and an influx of foreigners from Java that submerged culture and religious practices. The Indonesian Army came in large numbers and what has been described as ‘slow genocide’ began.

Today? After the fall of Suharto (1997/8) there was a brief respite but then priorities brought things back to normal. Forty percent of the Indonesian government’s tax earnings and foreign exchange earnings come from West Papua. American, British and Australian mining concessions are massive and incredibly valuable to these countries. The freedoms and lives of a few ‘stone age people’ cannot be allowed to get in the way of the greed. This from The Jakarta Globe in October 2011: Payments amounting to 64 million USD were made, in cash, to the police between 1995 and 2004 alone. The last audits of the American Mining Giant Freeport I can find that admit to payments for ‘security’ are for 2003: They show 18 million USD paid to individual officers. At that rate there would have been 162 million USD paid during the 9 year period. Perhaps a more likely sum remembering that the 64 million USD estimate came from a policeman who had obviously profited.

Since the (2004) first direct election for the Presidency and the governments of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono there has been much more international attention able to be brought to bear on West Papua. Regional autonomy has been increased and army personnel are being prosecuted for corruption and brutality; but it is not enough. The amounts of profit are so obscenely high that Stone Age life is a nuisance that can be wiped from history without much problem. Yet would sudden independence be the right result for West Papua? I think not and can offer Timor Leste as an example and will look at that tragic area next. But in the meantime consider how the UN is a failed organisation continually bending to the will of the mighty and denying its own fine ideals. The UN has no credibility as guarantor of the worlds will on anything.

To support the decisions taken with regard to the creation of Israel and then to support independence for West Papua is hypocritical. The UN’s acceptance of the fait accompli of its botched Resolution 181 in 1948 that brought Israel into existence; is as immoral as is its acceptance of the Act of Free Choice that gave West Papua to Indonesia without any international protection and supervision to save the Papuans from exploitation and death. The Palestinians and the West Papuans have been treated with the same brutality and contempt within their own lands. Both are being subjected to a ’slow genocide’.

Both decisions were wrong and should be changed to reflect the will of the world community. That expression of will can only be assessed at the UN; so that deeply flawed organisation needs restructuring or replacing. At the very least the operations of the Security Council need to be stopped as it is this body that allows the massive influence of the powerful to crush the weak.*

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