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Antipodean Update

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Around this time last year I wrote three articles about the situation in Australia regarding Israel and Palestine. Given recent events, I think it useful to update what has been happening more recently ‘Down Under.’

Last year Israeli academic, Dr Marcelo Svirsky, led a protest walk from Sydney to Canberra. The walk was designed to draw attention to the injustice suffered by Palestinians and upon arrival at Parliament House a petition was presented to Federal Parliament asking for a BDS to be implemented against Israel. Last year, I joined Marcelo for the last two days of his walk. All elected representatives shunned our arrival in Canberra, although one MP, Mellissa Parke (ALP Freemantle), subsequently spoke in favour of the petition in the House of Representatives. Shortly afterwards, former Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced he was forming a “Labor Friends of Palestine ” group.

Fast forward 12 months and another three hundred and thirty kilometer walk was embarked upon, this time instigated by me and once again designed to highlight the injustice of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. I carried with me another petition to Federal Parliament. This year the petition was to ask our elected officials to formally recognise the state of Palestine. This seemed apt because of events that had taken place within the Australian Labor Party.

Whist our current Australian Government retains a very pro-Israel Middle East position (voting against the raising of the Palestinian flag at The UN recently), the opposition Labor Party has been pivoting slightly away from its past unequivocal and unconditional support of Israel. The influence of Bob Carr as a persuasive elder statesman seems to be having an effect. At the July 2015 triennial Labor Party Conference, the issue of Palestinian recognition was hotly debated. Sections of the party proposed a motion that endorsed immediate recognition. Previously dominant pro-Israel factions fought back furiously and managed to water down the final wording of the resolution but the dam was starting to leak. As the Shadow Finance spokesman Tony Burke said,  ‘It is the case that any Australian Government, in international form, must have a position on these issues. And it is important that when Australia takes those positions it does so in a way that speaks the truth about the situation there.’ Tony Burke’s speech can be viewed here:

The Recognise Palestine Walk that I spearheaded this year left The Opera House in Sydney on the 4th October. The project generated significant support. An article on the walk appeared in our national newspaper The Australian.

We also managed to garner over 1100 signatures. The Australian Parliament does not, at present, accept cyberspace petitions. So each signature had to be collected by hand, usually after a verbal explanation of the aim of the document.

Upon arriving at Parliament House on the 13th of October we were very pleased to be met by six MP’s: Melissa Parke (ALP); Maria Vamvakinou (ALP); Laurie Ferguson (ALP); Craig Laundy (LP); Adam Bandt (Greens); and Lee Rhiannon (Greens).

Delivering the petition.

Delivering the petition.

Co-convener of the Parliamentary Friends of Palestine, Maria Vamvakinou MP, was also gracious enough to make a speech in Parliament affirming the aims of the walk on the 15th of October. Her speech can be read here.

Adam Bandt, Greens MP, also made a speech in Parliament referencing the walk that can be viewed here.

For those interested, glimpses of the 2015 protest walk can be viewed on the event’s Facebook page: Recognise Palestine Walk 2015.

As a way of drawing attention to the plight of the long-suffering Palestinians the walk proved very effective. It built upon a notable shift in the Labor Party policy. A Morgan Poll in 2014 revealed that 57 % of respondents thought Australia should vote “yes” to Palestinian recognition as an independent Member State of the United Nations. My vox pops experience this year concurs with these figures. We can only hope this momentum is maintained and built upon. Surely the moral and intellectual arguments supporting occupation into the foreseeable future cannot be sustained.

John Salisbury

John Salisbury lives in Melbourne, Australia.

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16 Responses

  1. saritalr on November 2, 2015, 11:57 am

    John – thank you for doing this work. Fantastic.

  2. a blah chick on November 2, 2015, 3:17 pm

    Ethnocracies don’t work, never have. Let’s hope there are good people left when Israel crashes and burns.

  3. light2014 on November 2, 2015, 4:16 pm

    Interview, with Egyptian Copt who worked as a Senior Partner at the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth, aired on Australian TV – ABC on October 25 , 2015.

  4. kalithea on November 2, 2015, 11:37 pm

    Keep chipping away!

  5. Dutch on November 3, 2015, 8:44 am

    Thanks for your article and all you do, John! Very inspiring.

  6. Kay24 on November 3, 2015, 10:00 am

    Seems Simon Perez can get it. It makes me wonder why the Israelis keep supporting a war monger/liar like Netanyahu, and prefer the status quo.

    ““Better to have a Jewish state on part of the land than have the whole land without the Jewish state,” he said. “Israel should implement the two-state solution for her own sake because if we should lose our majority, and today we are almost equal, we cannot remain a Jewish state or a democratic state . . . That’s the main issue, and to my regret they (the government) do the opposite.”

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius on November 3, 2015, 10:12 am

      Perez fought enthusiastically in several of Israel’s wars, and his Labour party equally enthusiastically built the ‘settlements’ he now criticises, and has supported, if not started, all of Israel’s wars, sieges and occupations. Perez himself was personally responsible for bombing a Lebanese refugee camp as an electioneering stunt, killing over 100 civilians, many of them children.

      In other words, he has absolutely no moral authority on anything. I respect Juan Cole in many ways, but at the end of the day he is a Soft Zionist, as his praise of war criminal Perez makes clear.

      • Kay24 on November 3, 2015, 10:30 am

        True enough, but there is a remote chance he might have seen the error of his ways.
        Israel’s leaders all seem to follow the same disastrous path.
        Any criticism of Netanyahu’s idiotic policies that are making things worse, should be welcomed, and a debate among the Israelis should begin. They cannot seem to see any sense, and are unable to see the larger picture. Many polls show they support apartheid policies, and prefer the status quo.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius on November 3, 2015, 10:43 am

        “True enough, but there is a remote chance he might have seen the error of his ways.”

        Nothing in what he has said suggests that. It’s all the usual waffle about ‘2 state solutions’ with no clue whatsoever as to how this is going to be implemented – and of course Perez doesn’t need to worry about this as he is not in power (if he was, he’d be the same as all the rest). And worse, it’s all about what’s good for Israel, and the ‘demographic threat’ of ruling over millions of non-Jews. I see nothing praiseworthy in what he has said.

        “Any criticism of Netanyahu’s idiotic policies that are making things worse”

        But the thing is, they’re not just Netanyahu’s policies. They don’t differ in substance from those followed by the ‘leaders’ of Perez’ Labour party. If Herzog had won the elections, it would have made no difference – in fact, it might have made things worse, by putting a ‘reasonable face’ on Zionism. At least with Bibi, there are no illusions.

        “Many polls show they support apartheid policies, and prefer the status quo ”

        But in a way, how can you blame them? The status quo is quite comfortable for most Israelis. They can bomb, besiege and occupy pretty much at will. In the so called ‘war of the knives’, a grand total of 9 Israelis have been killed – and that is considered an intolerable situation. Yet given the misery and violence Israel inflicts upon Palestinians every single day, it’s a remarkably low toll. The occupation is almost cost-free to Israelis. They get to have their Jewish Disneyland, largely unsullied by unwanted Palestinians.

        Obviously, it’s a deeply ugly state of affairs, and I certainly would not want to live in such a society. But if you’ve been brainwashed from birth to think of yourself as a victim, and to believe that a Jewish majority must be maintained at all costs, then what Israel has today is pretty comfortable. The alternatives – either a civil-war instigated by displaced ‘settlers’ in the case of a ‘1 state solution’ , or – worse yet – having to live on equal terms with Palestinians in the dreaded 2 state solution, are just too awful to contemplate. Hence, the wish to keep the status quo. Vile though it seems to outsiders, for Israelis, it’s quite alright.

      • Sibiriak on November 3, 2015, 11:22 am

        For years, and at the height of his political power, Peres rejected a genuine two-state settlement. Instead, he advocated a “visionary” plan for a Palestinian-Jordanian political confederation and a Jordanian-Palestinian-Israeli ‘”Benelux” economic union–a hopeless proposal that did nothing more than provide cover for Israeli expansionism.

      • Kay24 on November 3, 2015, 11:22 am

        I agree that the majority of Israelis prefer the status quo, because they have to upper hand to bomb, steal, and ultimately benefit handsomely from these crimes. Yes, they have been brainwashed from their infancy, to hate, and feel they are picked on by their neighbors (never mind Israel keeps stealing from them, and have an ongoing occupation) therefore they have to resort to violence to keep that superior position, at the expanse of the Palestinians.

        The US enables them to keep doing it.

    • eljay on November 3, 2015, 10:47 am

      “Better to have a Jewish state on part of the land than have the whole land without the Jewish state,” he said. …

      No, it’s better to have no religion-supremacist “Jewish State” – or any supremacist state of any kind – on any part of any land.

      … “Israel should implement the two-state solution for her own sake because if we should lose our majority, and today we are almost equal, we cannot remain a Jewish state or a democratic state …

      Curse those pesty non-Jewish demographics, eh, Shimon? :-(

      I agree that if Jews in Israel were to lose their majority status, Israel wouldn’t remain a religion-supremacist “Jewish State”, and that would be a good thing. But nothing except Zio-supremacist fear-mongering can say with any certainty that Israel would not or could not remain a democratic state.

      But ol’ Shimon, he’s not as worried about democracy as he is about Jewish supremacism in/and a supremacist “Jewish State”.

      Once a Zio-supremacist…

    • Misterioso on November 3, 2015, 6:24 pm

      Shimon Peres offered to supply apartheid South Africa with nuclear warheads.

      EXCERPT: “According to documents obtained by the newspaper, a secret [1975] meeting between then-Israeli defence minister, Shimon Peres, and his South African counterpart, PW Botha, ended with an offer by Jerusalem for the sale of warheads ‘in three sizes’. The Guardian claimed on Sunday that those ‘sizes’ referred to conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons.”

      During Israel’s 1996 “Grapes of Wrath” invasion of Lebanon under PM Peres, 800 Lebanese civilians sought refuge at a U.N. compound near the village of Qana. With utter disregard for both the U.N. personnel and the civilians it sheltered, the IDF shelled the compound, killing 106 civilians and injuring over 100.

      A U.N. investigation concluded it was unlikely that the shelling was due to errors, as Israel first claimed. Peres then justified the attack by blaming Hezbollah, using the tired and discredited “human shield” excuse. Other investigations were more forthright: An Amnesty International inquiry found that the attack was “intentional and is condemned.” Human Rights Watch’s report stated, “We have declared this a massacre that was intentional using very highly accurate missiles and explosives.”

  7. CigarGod on November 5, 2015, 10:39 am

    Terrific Foreign Policy Journal article, inbound39

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