Senator Anne Urquhart – speech congratulating APAN’s annual dinner and calling on Australia to call out Israel on its ongoing injustices against the Palestinians

photo of Senator Anne Urquhart
August 21, 2018

With Labor’s national conference coming at the end of the year, I signal that I’m campaigning for our party to adopt the clear policy that upon forming government we must immediately recognise Palestine as a state. Simply, enough is enough. If the heavy-handed violence towards protesters in Gaza, the ongoing persecution of children in the military courts and the ongoing theft of time for ordinary Palestinians were not enough, the passage of the nation-state law is the final nail in the coffin for a peaceful two-state solution.

Full speech

Senator URQUHART (TasmaniaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (19:25): I rise tonight to congratulate a tremendous organisation, the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, on another successful annual dinner. The APAN annual dinner was held in Parramatta last Friday night with a crowd of around 450 in attendance. We heard from APAN president Bishop George Browning about the crucial work the organisation is doing with all sides of politics, both here in Australia and in sending tour groups to Israel and Palestine.

Our keynote speakers were Gerard Horton and Salwa Duaibis, who founded the Military Court Watch, which conducts invaluable legal and advocacy work to support Palestinian children detained by Israeli military authorities, and we heard from Dr Olfat Mahmoud, from the Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organisation, based at the Burj el Barajneh refugee camp, in Lebanon. Mr Horton and Ms Duaibis spoke about the injustices of the Israeli military courts. I visited a military court in Israel last year and was horrified by that injustice.

Mr Horton is an internationally acclaimed human rights lawyer, who spends his days trying to support these children to navigate the Israeli military court system. Ms Duaibis is a Palestinian entrepreneur and women’s rights advocate, who works with parents and children before the Israeli military courts so their stories are documented and shared with the wider population and the outside world. Both spoke at parliament last week to an event well attended by all sides. We recognise that the arbitrary indefinite military detention of children is just wrong, and we must speak out against it at every opportunity.

Afterwards, we heard from Dr Olfat Mahmoud, an inspirational Palestinian refugee who has campaigned for decades about the plight of her people living just over the border from home, in Lebanon. Dr Mahmoud has written a book, Tears for Tarshiha, of her people’s dreams to return to their home. Dr Mahmoud gave us a taste of her book—of the cruelty of the situation of being so close, yet so far from home.

Dr Mahmoud is here in parliament this week, and the parliamentary launch of her book is tomorrow evening at 6 pm. I would encourage everyone from all sides to come along and hear of what the Palestinian right of return means to Palestinian refugees living so close to home, because we all need to take a fresh look at the current situation. We need to rethink our current support for the status quo of the past 25 years. Why do we blindly continue to support a two-state solution that every day gets further and further from reality?

With Labor’s national conference coming at the end of the year, I signal that I’m campaigning for our party to adopt the clear policy that upon forming government we must immediately recognise Palestine as a state. Simply, enough is enough. If the heavy-handed violence towards protesters in Gaza, the ongoing persecution of children in the military courts and the ongoing theft of time for ordinary Palestinians were not enough, the passage of the nation-state law is the final nail in the coffin for a peaceful two-state solution.

The nation-state law is unequivocal. It states that national self-determination in Israel is unique to Jewish people. It enshrines Jewish settlement as a national value and mandates that the state will labour to encourage and promote its establishment and development. It relegates Arabic, the language of 20 per cent of the population of Israel, to being a secondary language. It affirms that the capital of Israel is the unified and complete city of Jerusalem. Many respected commentators and public figures have labelled this law an apartheid law.

As I have said before in this place, Australia has been a friend of Israel since its creation, and as a friend we must respectfully tell our friends when their actions are wrong. We must not appease their actions. We must not stand idly by. When our friends are taking deliberate actions that they claim promote peace and unification but, in fact, undermine any chance for sustained peace, we must call them out and help them find a different path. Where Israel law is clearly in breach of international law we must be firm, because Israel is becoming increasingly isolated. As friends, we must not allow the last chances of a long-term peaceful resolution to be lost. Such a resolution requires the clear affirmation that Palestinians must have equal rights to Israelis.

Link to parliamentary Hansard

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