He normally goes about his work very quietly, very humbly. And as the founder of the Sydney Peace Prize, he’s normally in the background promoting other people’s work. But last week Emeritus Professor Stuart Rees couldn’t help but be at the centre of attention after he was awarded the inaugural Jerusalem (Al Quds) Peace Prize, at a ceremony at state parliament in Victoria.
The award was in recognition of his Professor Ree’s “persistent and courageous advocacy for the human rights of all Palestinians living in Gaza, the West Bank, Israel, the refugee camps and the Palestinian diaspora generally”.
Professor Rees delivered the first Jerusalem (Al Quds) Peace Prize lecture as part of the ceremony, and his award was presented by former Foreign Minister and NSW State Premier the Hon Bob Carr on November 29, to coincide with the United Nations Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
Nasser Mashni, chair of Australians for Palestine (AfP) and a Board Member of the Australia-Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN), said the choice of Professor Rees would help to highlight strong global support for a just outcome for Palestinians, felt by millions around the world.
“For all his inspirational work on Palestine nothing reveals more about Stuart Rees’ humanity than his belief in a simple anecdote about a Palestinian refugee who wanted to discuss with Israeli students his right to return, only to be told ‘you want to kick us out’. ‘No,’ the Palestinian replied, ‘I simply want to live with you,’” Mr Mashni said.
Mr Mashni said Professor Rees’ numerous books, anthologies of poetry, and his willingness to write and speak publicly on social justice issues, have seen him described as one of the most humane voices in Australia today.
“Those issues have driven his indomitable quest to find out what it really means to be human and to alert us all to our common humanity,” said Mr Mashni.
Professor Rees said he felt “very honoured” to be recognised from amongst the many long-committed voices for Palestine in Australia.
“This award comes at a time when Jerusalem is facing great challenges from influential global powers to its UN-protected international status, UN Security Council resolutions, international law and majority consensus. We cannot allow antagonistic voices to weaken the hopes of so many for a peaceful and sustainable solution,” he said.
“Jerusalem’s spiritual, cultural and legal character are under serious threat and only a concerted effort of advocacy and activism by people everywhere, can Palestinians possibly hope to see an end to their displacement, eviction and expulsion.”
The Jerusalem (Al Quds) Peace Prize will now be awarded annually by Australians for Palestine and the Australia-Palestine Advocacy Network.
Donate To New Matilda
New Matilda is a small, independent media outlet. We survive through reader contributions, and never losing a lawsuit. If you got something from this article, giving something back helps us to continue speaking truth to power. Every little bit counts.