Today is the United Nations International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian People. This day exists to call on the international community not just to speak but to act. We must recognise the rights of Palestinians as equal to those of Israelis: to have self-determination, to have security and to live equally amongst the world’s nations.
Senator URQUHART (Tasmania—Government Whip in the Senate) (21:30): Recently the US ordered an investigation into the death of one of its citizens, Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran Al Jazeera journalist and one of the biggest names in Arab journalism. She was also a Palestinian. Shireen was wearing a vest emblazoned with the word ‘Press’ when she was shot in the head and killed. The Israeli military immediately blamed Palestinians for her death. However, when independent probes, including by the New York Times, found there were no Palestinians firing in the area, the military retracted that statement. Israel’s own probe now admits that there is a high probability that an Israeli soldier fired the shot but that it was accidental, and there will be no criminal investigation. Just to be very clear, she was working as a journalist and clearly wearing a press jacket, and Israeli soldiers were the only ones firing. Israel have said that they will not cooperate with the US probe, even though they’re supported by US$3.8 billion every year in military aid from the US.
Shireen is one of 197 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces this year alone. This includes 43 children. Those killed in the last two months include a 15-year-old girl, Fulla Rasmi, who was shot while she was a passenger in a car driving slowly along Palestinian residential streets, and 12-year-old boy Mahmoud, who allegedly threw a few stones at a military jeep in his town—a town where, under the Oslo Accords, Israeli forces should not be. In response, soldiers shot him with live ammunition. Speaking about Israel’s attacks on Gaza in May, the UN Secretary-General said:
I am shocked by the number of children killed and maimed by Israeli forces during hostilities, in air strikes on densely populated areas and through the use of live ammunition during law enforcement operations, and by the persistent lack of accountability for these violations.
An opinion poll conducted by YouGov earlier this year revealed a majority of Australians want an end to Israel’s military occupation of Palestine and to the Egyptian and Israeli siege of Gaza. The opinion poll asked if Palestine should be given full recognition and if there should be support for the International Criminal Court investigation into war crimes in Palestine. I saw with my own eyes the impact of Israel’s military occupation of Palestine. I watched children being tried in military courts. These did not meet any of the basic standards of a fair trial. This process, which ends with a 99 per cent conviction rate for Palestinians, can hardly be deemed just. I saw homes that had been demolished by Israeli forces. I saw families displaced by settlements and their farming lands being declared closed military zones. I stood beside the nine-metre-high concrete wall that Israel has built—twice as high and four times as long as the Berlin Wall—which rips apart Palestinian neighbourhoods and annexes Palestinian lands.
Military occupations are inherently brutal, but they are never supposed to be permanent. Military occupations must be opposed, whether in Ukraine or in Palestine. A recent report by the UN commission of inquiry found that the Israeli occupation is unlawful under international law. I’d like to quote Commissioner Chris Sidoti, formerly of the Australian Human Rights Commission. He said:
The actions of Israeli Governments reviewed in our report constitute an illegal occupation and annexation regime that must be addressed. The international system and individual States must act and uphold their obligations under international law. That must begin at this session of the General Assembly with a referral to the International Court of Justice.
The Australian government is committed to an international rules based order which upholds the rights of all people wherever they may live. Today is the United Nations International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian People. This day exists to call on the international community not just to speak but to act. We must recognise the rights of Palestinians as equal to those of Israelis: to have self-determination, to have security and to live equally amongst the world’s nations. We must also support Israeli accountability in international courts and ensure Israel’s violations of international law are challenged.