60 Years of Friendship and Displacement


The majority of Australians supported Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as he said sorry to the Indigenous people of this land.

Yet today, our Prime Minister will lead a parliamentary motion acknowledging the success of another colonial dispossession – the 60th anniversary of Israeli "independence". The motion will commemorate Australia’s role in the creation of Israel and commend Israel’s commitment to democracy, the rule of law and pluralism. The Opposition Leader will second the motion. Then, celebrations will take place at a reception in the Mural Hall of Parliament House.

If Palestinians and their supporters had any hopes of a sympathetic hearing from the new Government on the multiple human rights abuses being perpetrated by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, those hopes are now well and truly dashed.

Every Australian ought to be asking why our Government feels so humiliatingly obligated to Israel that they must go to these lengths to show their friendship with a country that consistently violates international law, United Nations resolutions and human rights conventions?

This year marks 60 years of Palestinian dispossession and displacement and a savage, relentless occupation. Palestinians are starving in Gaza. Palestinians are being sold out in the West Bank. Palestinians are dying. Their very existence is under threat. It is as simple and as awful as that.

Those Palestinians living inside Israel have reached the status of second-class citizens, disadvantaged in education, health and economic opportunity. Called "Israeli Arabs", they are also subjected to discriminatory restrictions, and many neighbourhoods in their own nation are considered off-limits to them as owners or residents.

For those Palestinians living in the West Bank, restrictions on movement and access to water and land confiscation by a State seeking to accommodate Jewish settlers are all daily realities. And let’s not be fooled by talk of the Palestinian Authority, which lacks true authority and control while the occupation continues.

In Gaza, things are worse still. A densely populated district with ongoing economic, health and social problems, it is subjected to acts of collective punishment and isolation. Locally controlled by an elected government that is considered an outlaw by the outside world, Gazans struggle to see an end to their misery.

Currently, Israeli tanks and soldiers are bombarding Gaza. In the West Bank, Israel is increasing – not decreasing, as it promised to do in the most recent peace negotiations – the number of checkpoints that totally suffocate ordinary daily movement. It is ignoring every request to stop its illegal West Bank settlement project that is literally turning thousands of Palestinians on to the streets – homeless and stateless and forced to rely on humanitarian aid.

It is on the human wreckage of Palestinian lives that Israel celebrates its independence, honoured so gratuitously by our Government.

Every human rights organisation reporting on the situation has documented Israel’s violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and they provide enough evidence to challenge the appropriateness of aligning ourselves with Israel. The words "apartheid" and "ethnic cleansing" have already begun to enter mainstream consciousness after being given voice by former US President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. And in churches, universities, social justice groups and other pockets of society, the consciences of people are finally being stirred.

Regrettably, our leaders will continue to pursue their self-serving policies until ordinary, decent people force them to accept that our common humanity is worth more than the lucrative deals that bring such enormous profits to the multinational corporations, and from which many governments benefit. Just as people brought down the apartheid regime in South Africa, the people can bring down the ethnically divisive Zionist regime in Israel as well. This is why the word "apartheid" so rattles Israel’s supporters.

But we have a long way to go, especially when governments insist on continuing their love affairs with Israel. In the meantime, al-Nakba – the Palestinian catastrophe of dispossession and displacement – is being accelerated. An imprisoned, destitute Gaza is being bombed right now. It is this crime against humanity that needs to be acknowledged in our Parliament.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.