Earlier this month I wrote an article for Mondoweiss on the story of Jewish-Israeli academic Dr Marcelo Svirsky and his 300 km walk from Sydney to Canberra. The purpose of his walk was to gather support for a BDS Petition against Israel.
The petition was presented to The Australian Parliament and tabled on Monday night. The next day I did something I have never done before: I sent flowers to an elected representative of Parliament. The recipient was Melissa Parke (ALP, Freemantle WA). Parke spoke to the petition on Monday. She was brave and principled. I wanted to show my gratitude to her, and thus the flowers.
Speaking to the petition Parke implored the Parliament to find a solution to end the state-sanctioned violence many Palestinians are currently suffering. She said, “… we know that violence is not the solution. We affirm that the rockets fired from Gaza into Israel are an illegal response to Israel’s actions. But it does beg the question: what then is the alternative to the vicious cycle of bloodshed we have witnessed in recent months?”
Suggesting the BDS as a way forward Parke continued, “… nonviolent means of protest are and must be seen as legitimate. It is notable that both Israel and the US approve of boycotts and sanctions against other such states such as Iran and Brunei, so why is it objectionable to boycott a state that is,among other things, committing repeated grave violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention as Israel does with its illegal settlements?”
Echoing the frustration felt by many Parke also said, “If we are genuinely concerned about national and global security as well as international justice, we, along with other nations, including the US, should be insisting that Israel do its part to lay the groundwork for peace by, among other things, ending its illegal occupation, settlement construction and the Gaza blockade. Until this happens BDS is a perfectly acceptable form of protest and I congratulate Dr Marcelo Svirsky for his courageous walk and his brave stand.”
Although her speech was a cri de coeur for common sense and common decency it was remarkable for its uniqueness. No Australian politician, except Parke, would deign to speak up for Palestinian suffering in Parliament. In Australia, as in the US, most politicians are just ventriloquist dolls for the pro-Israel lobby. The same old dross is spouted. For example, “Israel has the right to defend itself” or “the bonds between Israel and (insert country here) are unbreakable” But Monday night Parke walked into no man’s land. The brickbats will inevitably follow as our Australian versions of Haim Saban and Jeffrey Goldberg try to take her down. But Melissa, you don’t deserve the brickbats, you deserve bouquets. You are, to my knowledge, the first elected representative in an Anglo-phone country to speak up for a peaceful way to get Israel to start behaving itself. Thank you.