The Pacifist Intifada


"We cannot be selective. We must be consistent in our approach to the region. It is not good enough that Australia and the international community offer little more than words and sanctions that continue to be defied. Australia needs to be a leader in its condemnation of the atrocities."

Now this oration deserves a standing ovation. If only it was Australia’s foreign policy.

These passionate words of Liberal front bencher Joe Hockey echo exactly what a growing chorus of Australians have been chanting (pdf) about Palestinians. Except that Hockey was referring to Syrians, in a speech sparked by the mutilation of 13-year old-Syrian child Hamza al Khatib.

Hockey hails from a Palestinian father and established the parliamentary Friends of Palestine. Yet why is he afraid to express the same moral outrage at the daily atrocities committed against Palestinians?

It has never been politically popular to support so-called terrorists and to offend friends in high places. But in case our MPs have not noticed, the Palestinians are unarmed in this third Intifada and their pacifists have arrived. The litany of excuses and delays should be stripped away.

Instead, UN resolutions "continue to be defied" and the members of the Congress of the world’s sole superpower jumped up on cue 55 times to applaud the defiant words of the Israeli Prime Minister. They jumped so high we could almost see the strings dangling and tangling above them — but not the faces of the puppeteers.

These double standards raise the question — when does morality matter more than money when it comes to Palestine?

Australia’s position will be put to the test in September when the UN General Assembly decides on the legitimacy of Palestinian statehood within the pre-1967 borders. The well-oiled machine will wield the usual carrots and sticks internationally to ensure that Palestine remains subservient and indeed sub-human, in the hope that at least a two thirds majority of the 192 UN members also jump on cue when their strings are pulled. However, this vote has to be recommended by at least nine members out of the 15 who sit on the Security Council, and cannot be vetoed by any permanent UNSC member. 

If the application is successful, the sovereign state of Palestine will be able to make claims against Israel in the International Criminal Court, just as Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has called the UN to do with the Syrian president. Some Israeli leaders fear that to legitimse Palestine would delegitimise the "Jewish state". Indeed Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned of a "diplomatic tsunami [toward]Israel’s delegitimisation".

Israel could also choose to become part of the human rights revolutions in its neighbourhood.

The global rise of non-violent movements to end the immoral and illegal occupation of Palestine is gaining momentum. These movements aim to re-legitimise, not de-legitimise, Israel, within international law.

We find many manifestations of this spirit: The mass march of thousands of unarmed Palestinians towards the Israeli borders to commemorate Al Nakba Day on 15 May, marking the exodus of 760,000 Palestinians in 1948 to make way for the Israeli state.

The grass-roots driven BDS campaign which includes boycotts by performers such as Roger Waters from Pink Floyd. 

The second multinational Gaza flotilla carrying humanitarian aid. The June fleet will consist of 15 ships carrying over 1500 activists from about 100 countries, double the scale of the first and ill-fated flotilla 12 months ago. 

The courageous rise of Jewish voices who distinguish between Jews, Israelis and Zionists. A prime example is the launch of The General’s Son, a firsthand account by Israeli Miko Paled about the 1948 and 1967 occupation. He warns that "when the truth and reconciliation commission begins its work and they [occupiers]are finally shamed into admitting they were wrong, they need to remember to go down on their knees and beg forgiveness from the people they so greatly wronged". 

The regular candle vigils (pdf) held by church groups for peace in the land that is sacred for all Christians. 

The rise of Palestinian pacifists such as Gazan Doctor Izzedin Abuelaish who spoke about his book I Shall Not Hate at the Sydney Writer’s Festival and the Wheeler Centre last month. After losing three of his children during the Israeli assault on Gaza in January 2009, this Palestinian is touring the world preaching peace through compassion.

The release of Freedom for Palestine by international musicians One World. This song was inspired by Free Nelson Mandela by The Special AKA in 1984, because "apartheid in South Africa has fallen but something very similar remains in Palestine".

The list goes on as the third but non-violent Intifada takes root globally and uproots the immoral occupation of our minds, after decades of wearing terror-tinted glasses.

But does this groundswell of people-power matter if puppet strings can still be pulled by those wielding the carrots and sticks?

Even though the stone throwing and the shoe throwing have stopped, morality must be given an opportunity to prevail. And Australia has a historic opportunity to lead by conscience, rather than follow like cowards. Only then will we be "consistent in our approach to the region".


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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.