A shouting match broke out in the chambers of the New South Wales (NSW) Legislative Council chambers on Thursday during a motion debate about a ‘Study Mission to Israel’ hosted by the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel under the auspices of the NSW Jewish Board Of Deputies, attended by a delegation of NSW Parliamentarians last January 6-10.
The purpose of the ‘Study Mission’ was “to build an understanding amongst the delegates of the complex and various issues impacting on Israel and other jurisdictions within the Middle East.”(pdf)
While Legislative Council members who were part of the delegation sang the praises of Israel, Greens Legislative Councillor David Shoebridge (video above), Labor Legislative Councillors Shaoquett Moselmane, and Lynda Voltz had a few other topics to discuss.
The Jerusalem Post reported on it here, and below is the transcript of a portion of the debate, it gets wild, I recommend:
Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE [10.28 p.m.]: I speak to this motion and note at the outset that it is a very unbalanced one. Indeed, a member asked if The Greens took part in this study mission to Israel. As far as I am aware, no Greens member of Parliament went on this study mission. That was primarily because of the one-sided nature of the itinerary, which is reflected in the one-sided nature of this motion. In a motion that purports to talk about building an understanding of the complex and various issues impacting on Israel and other jurisdictions within the Middle East, it is extraordinary that in the more than 100 words and five paragraphs of this motion not one word is mentioned about Palestine or the Palestinians. The human rights of the Palestinians are airbrushed out of the motion, just as they were airbrushed out of the itinerary of the study tour that travelled to Israel and some very small parts of the West Bank. Having heard the contributions of members who went on the study tour and having read the motion, I can see that this is little more than a public relations exercise for the Israeli Government. Indeed, this public relations exercise has been run in part through the offices of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies which arranged the tour and, I understand, partly paid for the study trip to Israel.
For the record, I do not recall getting an invitation from the Jewish Board of Deputies for this visit. However, had I received one I would not have accepted the invitation to go on this study trip because of the extraordinarily one-sided itinerary provided to members. If the Parliamentary Friends of Israel were interested in building an understanding of the complex issues in the Middle East, as they purport to be, their itinerary should have included a couple of other places to visit. First, the itinerary should have included visits outside the limited confines of Israel, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. How could members of this Chamber who wanted to get a balanced understanding of the issues facing the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Middle East travel to that part of the world and not meet with any members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, or at least those members of the Palestinian Legislative Council not currently being held in Israeli jails, many of them without trial and without being charged with any criminal offence?
How could members go there and meet with only one of the legislative bodies, the Knesset, and ignore the Palestinian Legislative Council? How could members, who wanted to get a balanced understanding of the issues facing Israel, Palestine and the Middle East, go to the other side of the planet and fail to visit Gaza, the world’s largest outdoor prison? How could members not go to see the way the Palestinians live under the illegal blockade or not speak to the local health workers about the conditions in Gaza, or the paramedics about how they respond to the impacts of aerial bombardments by the Israeli military? If they had visited Gaza they would have been able to see the X-rays that the Gaza doctors show of children’s kidneys riddled with kidney stones because of the saline water they are required to drink. The Israeli wells on the edge of Gaza are stripping out the fresh water from the arterial basin and the arterial basin is filling up with saline water from the sea. That saline water fills the wells. Most of the water treatment plants have been destroyed by Israeli bombardments and almost every child in Gaza has kidneys riddled with kidney stones and ongoing health problems.
Next time members should go to Gaza, look at the children, look at the damage, look at the X-rays and get some balance in their visit. If they had gone to Gaza surely they would then have gone to the West Bank and outside Bethlehem and Jerusalem and spoken to Palestinian villagers whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed by the apartheid wall. Talk to the farmers whose olive groves have been cut off by the illegal apartheid wall, who cannot get to the fields that generations of their family had previously tended because of an illegal apartheid wall built by Israel through the middle of their homes, villages and farms. Surely members could also have met with Israeli peace activists, such as Jeff Halper from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and spoken to Palestinians who have been illegally evicted from their homes and land to make way for internationally condemned settlements being built by the Israelis.
But, no. Members spoke to the Israeli settlers but they did not visit and speak to the people who have been evicted illegally for these internationally condemned, unlawful settlements that are now riddling the West Bank. How could members not have travelled to Hebron and done the Breaking the Silence tour, where former Israeli soldiers would have told them about what goes on in the occupied territories, about the violence and the discrimination perpetrated by the Israeli military and the settler movement against the native Palestinian population? Or were they Israeli voices that members wanted to edit out and not hear? The inconvenient truth.
The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: What about the Qatar and Hamas civil war? What about what Qatar and Hamas do to each other? Did you go to the police building in Gaza? Did you go to the town hall in Gaza where they chuck people off? Did you go to the police building in Ramallah where they throw people out the window?
Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: It is the inconvenient truth of the illegal, violent, discriminatory and brutal occupation in the West Bank.
DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! It is disorderly to interject.
Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: How could members not visit the Palestinian refugee camps in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, where Palestinian refugees from 1948, 1967 and beyond live in sub-standard Third World conditions?
The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: What is the right of return for Vietnamese refugees?
The Hon. Lynda Voltz: Point of order: Members speaking in this debate have been heard in silence. Some members may not agree with other views expressed in the Chamber, but members should be allowed to express their views in a democratic way. I ask you to stop members of this Chamber from yelling down other members with whose views they may disagree.
DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! There is a motion on the floor and members are entitled to share their views.
The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: I’m just reminding him that there are two sides to the story.
DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! There are diverse views in this Chamber and, in terms of protocol, they are entitled to be heard in silence.
Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: How could members not visit those Palestinian refugee camps in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, where Palestinian refugees from 1948, 1967 and beyond live in sub-standard Third World conditions and are denied their human right to return to their homes? Members did not speak to them, see their title deeds and see the keys they still hold for the homes that were taken from them in the illegal occupations and evictions that have been taking place for decades in that part of the world? It is extraordinary to note that Labor members, one of whom is notionally from the Left, visited Israel and small parts of the West Bank but did not travel to Nablus and meet with any of the Palestinian trade unions. How could members have travelled over there and not spoken to the firefighters in the Nablus fire station who were locked into their compound by Israeli tanks and snipers and prevented from doing their job as firefighters? They were prevent from savings the lives and homes of their families and friends for days and days as homes burned; children and other people died while the Israeli military shelled and burned their city around them.
The motion is not balanced; the visit to Israel was not balanced. It was not about getting an understanding of the complex and various issues but, rather, about getting a narrow part of the Israeli understanding. For members who went on such an unbalanced tour and failed to see the balanced truth, the oppression the Palestinian people face daily as a result of the illegal occupation of Israel, and to support this motion and preach to the rest of the Chamber about truth, understanding, peace and non-violence is extraordinary.
The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE [10.48 a.m.]: All people have a right to a homeland—all people, including Jews, Kurds, Armenians and Palestinians. All people have a right to exist and receive the protections under international law and live in peace and security. Since the 1948 United Nations resolution to divide Palestine between the Jews and Arabs, the Palestinian people have been left to suffer the indignity and trauma of people dispossessed. I am not surprised that there is no mention in the motion of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian land, the Palestinian suffering, the Palestinian rights as people deprived of their land, persecuted, imprisoned, killed, traumatised and dehumanised. I wonder whether the members on their study mission considered the Palestinian people; I wonder whether the human rights of the Palestinian people crossed their minds. I hope it did cross their minds and that they pondered a little about the human rights of others now being dispossessed of their land, their dreams, their aspirations and their future as a people. Ever since 1948 the Israeli Zionist plan has been acquiring territory to expand the borders of the Jewish colonial state. Zionist ideology demanded—
The Hon. Walt Secord: Point of order: My point of order is on relevance. The member is not speaking to the motion and as the Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel I disassociate myself from his remarks.
The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: To the point of order: This is a fairly broad-ranging motion. While the member’s speech is not directly relevant to the wording of the motion, it would be unfair if the member were not allowed to continue to speak, considering the breadth of topic that has been debated in relation to this motion.
DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane may resume his speech. He is within the latitude of the general purpose of the motion.
The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: After the United Nations allocated 56 per cent of the Palestinian territory to a Jewish State, 80 per cent was seized by force. Christians and Muslims made up two-thirds of the population. Jews, who owned only 6 per cent of the land, have now taken 85 per cent of the former Palestine land. The 800,000 who were initially dispossessed, expelled from their land—now five million—live in diaspora. There was nothing fair or legitimate about the United Nations’ offer. It was carried out over the objections of the majority, but even this corruption of justice was not enough to satisfy the craving to take over people’s land. Arab voices were ignored. Not a single Arab was consulted on the plan. Now five million Palestinians are scattered across the globe and those still living in their homeland are living in two non-contiguous territories—Gaza and the West Bank—which makes up less than 20 per cent of the territory they originally had after 1967. I believe it is more like 14 per cent of the former Palestine that they now live in. Members will see from this plan the former Palestine territory and the land that Palestinians now own, just spots of land scattered all over.
The Hon. Walt Secord: Point of order: The member is using props. The use of props is out of order.
DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! The member would be well aware that the protocol of the House is that members should not use props to support their arguments.
The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: The Palestinians’ right to return to their homeland is a fundamental right of all people. It is a fundamental right that is at the heart of the Palestinian struggle. This must be addressed and resolved fairly. In all the speeches made in the House today, we have not heard about the Israeli assaults on Arab territories in 1956, 1967, 1982, 2006 and 2009. In the 2009 assault on Gaza 1,000 residents were killed, over 300 of them children, and 5,000 were wounded. As was described by a member earlier today, Gaza is the world’s largest open-air prison camp, containing 1.5 million people in a very small parcel of land. The Israeli assault continues on Gaza. According to the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, some 90,000 Gazans were forced to flee their homes. Residents of Gaza city and to the north had no water and no electricity; they were trapped, traumatised and terrorised. Nothing was said in this debate about the rights of those Palestinians, who were effectively murdered by this military machine. They did not have hospitals. The Israeli military machine effectively erased government buildings, apartment buildings and mosques, and it struck United Nations schools, as well as the compound of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, ambulances and hospitals. Their actions can be seen as violation of international humanitarian law.
The International Committee of the Red Cross accused Israel of breaches of humanitarian conventions for failing to bring assistance to wounded and starving civilians and preventing ambulance access for four days. B’Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights and other Israeli human rights groups have described civilians being fired on in doorways by Israeli soldiers, attacks on ambulance crews and aid workers, and schools being used as civilian refuges. The Human Rights Watch accused Israel of using white phosphorous munitions over densely populated areas of Gaza in violation of international humanitarian law. The United Nations Human Rights Council has condemned the Israeli offensive for “massive violations of human rights”. Amnesty International says that Israeli shelling of residential areas is “prima facie evidence of war crimes”. The organisation has also accused Israeli soldiers of using Palestinians as human shields:
It’s standard practice for Israeli soldiers to go into a house, lock up the family in a room on the ground floor and use the rest of the house as a military base.
Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories and Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, says that Israel is in breach of the United Nations Charter, the Geneva conventions, international law and international humanitarian law. Falk says:
If there were the political will there could be an ad hoc tribunal established to hear allegations of war crimes. This could be done by the general assembly acting under article 22 of the UN charter which gives them the authority to establish subsidiary bodies.
But they did not do so. A Human Rights Watch investigation found that Israel had repeatedly and indiscriminately fired white phosphorus over crowded areas of Gaza, killing and injuring civilians—
The Hon. Walt Secord: Point of order: My point of order relates to relevance. I remind the honourable member that the motion states:
That this House notes that:
(a) The NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel under the auspices of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies hosted a delegation of New South Wales Parliamentarians on a study mission to Israel from 6 January 2013 to 10 January 2013—
The Hon. Lynda Voltz: You cannot read the whole motion.
The Hon. Walt Secord: I am just reminding the member of the motion.
The Hon. Lynda Voltz: Get to your point of order.
The Hon. Walt Secord: It was relevance.
The Hon. Lynda Voltz: Relevance has already been raised.
The Hon. Walt Secord: This speech is simply an anti-Israel rant.
The Hon. Lynda Voltz: You are trying to stop democratic debate in the Chamber.
The Hon. Walt Secord: This is simply an anti-Israel rant and he is not speaking to the motion.
The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: That is rubbish, and you know that.
DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! The Hon. Walt Secord is correct. Members have the motion in front of them, or have access to the motion. While I have been generous in general about speeches, the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane needs to stay within the purview of the motion and not give a lengthy history.
The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: If ever there were a group in need of protection from war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing it is the Palestinians, and yet the Palestinians receive little outside help.
The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: They received billions from the UN.
The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon.
The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: Billions.
The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: Deputy-President, I did not interrupt other speakers. I let them make their speeches without interruption. Previous speakers had the opportunity to speak without interruption and I ask that the same courtesy to be shown to me. I have only four minutes left to speak. I have the right to inject some balance into this debate. I am glad that I am a member of this House and have the opportunity to speak and inject balance and humanity into this debate. I have that right and I have four minutes to do so.
The Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox: Point of order: Could the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane retire while I take my point of order?
DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane will retire to his seat while a point of order is taken, as per the protocols of the House.
The Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox: I have listened with tolerance to the member. I take a point of order based on relevance. This is a motion about a study mission to Israel and members have noted the facts in relation to that study mission. The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane did not even go on the study mission. He is having a little rant about personal issues. The motion is about a study mission to Israel, nothing more, nothing less. The House has been more than tolerant in listening to some of the garbage that he has been talking about.
The Hon. Trevor Khan: To the point of order. Whilst I agree with the Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox with regard to the words of the motion, speakers have raised a very broad range of matters. It is my argument that having allowed broad discretion in the debate so far and, to be frank, having allowed a scab to be picked, the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane is entitled to have his say. He has only a few minutes left in which to speak.
DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! I ask the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane to address his remarks to the motion. Mr David Shoebridge was given an opportunity to speak on a range of matters and I will extend the same latitude to the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane.
The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: As I stated, all people have a right to a peaceful existence and so do the Palestinian people. I want this House to know that and I want that comment to be recorded. They as well as the Jewish people have a right to peaceful existence and to a homeland. We have heard comments about how peaceful and democratic the Israeli Government is. I remind the House that in 1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon and then occupied Lebanon for 18 years they imprisoned people. People in southern Lebanon were tortured. I visited the camps and I saw the prisons. I invite members to go to these torture camps that the Israelis set up in southern Lebanon and see for themselves. They occupied Lebanon for 18 years. I resent members here accusing the resistance of being terrorist groups. I salute the resistance.
If the resistance in Lebanon had not forced the Israelis out of Lebanon I would not have been able to go to my grandparents’ home in southern Lebanon and visit the land I was born in. I salute them for their resistance. It is the right of people to do so. Imagine what the response would have been in 1941 or 1942 if we had condemned resistance against Nazi Germany. Guns would have been blazing at us for not resisting Nazi Germany. In Lebanon the resistance was able to force the Israelis out. In 2006, towards the end of the Israeli war on Lebanon, they dumped three million cluster bombs in little southern Lebanon. Those three million bombs are buried in the ground. A child walking on the ground will be blown up or lose a limb. An animal walking around will die. Three million cluster bombs will exist for hundreds of years and people will continue to suffer. In conclusion— [Time expired.]
The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ [11.03 a.m.]: While I did not go on this Israeli study tour I have travelled to Israel and Palestinian, including Gaza and the West Bank, on a number of occasions. Unlike my colleague Mr David Shoebridge, if I received an invitation from the Jewish Board of Deputies to go on a tour of Israel I would certainly take them up on the offer because I am a strong believer in the notion that travel broadens the mind and that you should always listen to a person’s point of view with an open mind. Travel should expose us to beliefs that are contrary to our own and challenge some of our views, particularly of history and international politics.
However, if the reports of the study tour I have heard are anything to go by, I doubt there was any significant challenge to the existing views of those who went on the tour. As I am sure the Hon. David Clarke will agree, in the past I have discussed the issue of Palestine with him. I have also discussed it with other members of the Chamber. While we may not agree it does not mean I do not respect his views. I understand his views because I have had a lengthy discussion with him about them. Certainly the Jewish Board of Deputies are entitled to put their case in relation to the way they see the situation. I do not think anyone in the Chamber disagrees with that.
It is important as members of Parliament to remember to ensure there is balance in the views we express in this Chamber. I do not think balance has been expressed in the debate arising out of this study tour. I note that one of the few meetings with someone whose views may not have reflected those of the Israeli Government was with Abdel Fattah Hamayel, the Governor of Bethlehem, who is appointed by the Palestinian Authority. It is interesting that none of the reports by members included the views of the Governor of Bethlehem. In particular, I wonder whether some of the outrage that was expressed in this Chamber over the campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions [BDS] was relayed to the Governor who undertakes inspections of local shops to ensure that no products from illegal Israeli settlements are sold anywhere within Bethlehem. It is also interesting that the tour did not meet with the democratically elected mayor of Bethlehem given all the support for democracy being voiced around this Chamber.
The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: I met with him.
The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ: It is a woman, so I doubt you met with him.
The full debate can be found here.