Israel does have a right to defend itself, but it has no right to inflict the collective punishment and war crimes that the Israeli government is currently inflicting in Gaza.
Senator RICE (Victoria) (19:42): This place, Parliament House, was built on the stolen lands of Ngunnawal people, and I want to acknowledge them as the First People of these lands. I acknowledge all First Nations peoples across the country and their elders and I acknowledge that I’m a settler on these lands. Many First Nations people are hurting this week following the defeat of the Voice referendum. The consequences of invasion, ongoing dispossession and genocide are felt today, and I salute the resilience and strength of First Nations people, who have suffered so much for so long.
The parallels between the struggles of First Nations people and the continuing campaign for a just and lasting peace in Palestine are stark—invasion, occupation, resistance and catastrophe. I want to acknowledge the pain, the suffering, the mourning and the grief that are being experience by people in Palestine and Israel. This pain is also being felt across Australia and around the world. These are awful times. I send my love to the families, friends and communities of everyone who has been killed, injured, displaced, traumatised by the continuing war in Israel and Palestine—Palestinians and Israelis alike.
My colleague Senator Steele-John has moved to amend the motion we are debating today on Israel and Palestine to call for an end to the invasion and siege of Gaza and an end to the occupation of Palestine and to condemn the war crimes perpetrated by the state of Israel. We also have on the Notice Paper our own motion, which we think better reflects what we believe the position of the Senate and the government should be in order to be supporting an end to the violence in the Middle East and for a just and lasting peace. I want to be clear: the Greens and I condemn the attacks by Hamas on innocent civilians in Israel. My heart goes out to the families and friends of the people who have been killed and injured in these attacks.
Israel does have a right to defend itself, but it has no right to inflict the collective punishment and war crimes that the Israeli government is currently inflicting in Gaza. The civilian death toll continues to climb in Gaza. The constant bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli Defense Forces has killed thousands. The Israeli Air Force has dropped nearly 6,000 bombs in Gaza in just six days. This is almost the same number of bombs that the US dropped in Afghanistan in the whole of 2019. The denial of food, water and electricity is resulting in catastrophic losses of life. Authorities in Gaza have said that more than 2,300 people have been killed, a quarter of them children. Nearly 10,000 have been injured, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. Gaza is one of the most densely populated places in the world, and it’s estimated that 40 per cent of the population are under the age of 15.
A spokesperson for the UN agency working in Palestine, UNRWA, has said today: ‘We are overwhelmed. Our supplies are dwindling and running out fast. Our staff are also very, very tired. They have been impacted themselves by the war. Many of them have lost loved ones. We have sadly at UNRWA lost 14 staff members, and these numbers continue to increase. No place is safe in the Gaza Strip at the moment as the bombardments continue. UNRWA teams are operated from an overcrowded warehouse in southern Gaza, with hundreds of people sharing one toilet.’ The spokesperson added: ‘Our own staff have had to ration drinking water to one litre.’ She said: ‘Most of Gaza—in fact, the vast majority of Gaza—does not have running water. We are fearful that waterborne diseases are going to start spreading and are going to start spreading soon.’ She also said: ‘UNRWA has not been able to bring any supplies, including fuel, into the Gaza Strip.’ The World Health Organization has called the order to evacuate hospitals a death sentence for the thousands of sick and injured.
The Greens condemn all horrific attacks on civilians. There must be an end to the escalating violence and an end to the war crimes. The Israel-Palestine conflicts have been ongoing for over 70 years, since the beginning of the state of Israel—since the Nakba, when, between 1947 and 1949, at least 750,000 Palestinians from a 1.9-million-person population were made refugees beyond the borders of the state. The world has to act to stop the wars and the violence. We have to focus our efforts into achieving a just and lasting peace. For there to be peace, there must be an end to the state of Israel’s illegal occupation of and siege of Palestinian lands.
That being said, the right to resist occupation must be in accordance with international law. The premeditated targeting of civilians by Hamas violates these laws, and, as I have said, the Greens condemn their actions. The bombing of civilians by the state of Israel in response violates these laws. All perpetrators must be held accountable for their actions, in accordance with international law. The Greens are calling for an immediate ceasefire and then, following that ceasefire, a redoubling of efforts to end the occupation and establish a just and lasting peace.
While the state of Israel is practising the crime of apartheid against Palestinians, as has been noted by prominent human rights organisations, there will be no peace. While the state of Israel continues to oppress, arrest, jail and kill Palestinians just for being Palestinian and speaking up and campaigning for their rights to their lands, there will be no peace—even with all the technology, all the deadly machines of war and all the security apparatus that the Israeli state can muster.
The only way that this could lead to peace would be if the plan was complete annihilation, genocide, ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian peoples in Palestine so that there is no-one left to resist. Surely this isn’t what the state of Israel has in mind. Surely Australia and the rest of the world would not allow the state of Israel to do this. There is a way through these conflicts. It starts with people and governments listening to people’s heartfelt desire for peace, a just and enduring peace, and committing to peace. And building this peace includes calling out hateful and violent racism and bigotry, including antisemitism and Islamophobia. There is no place for antisemitism or Islamophobia in the push to end the occupation of Palestine and to build a lasting peace.
As Adam Bandt has said:
This is a painful time for the Jewish and Palestinian communities in Australia, who must be able to grieve the loss of loved ones and publicly express solidarity for those trying to stay safe back home, and antisemitic and Islamophobic attacks on Australia’s Jewish and Palestinian communities must stop.
The desire for peace was demonstrated in the last week, as thousands of people gathered around Australia to peacefully protest the brutal war that is bringing pain and grief to so many.
So what can be done? The Greens have recently revised our declaration on justice and human rights in Palestine and Israel. The principles we set out in it are all the more relevant as we grapple with the current horrific reality. In it we acknowledge:
The state of Israel continues to deny the right of self-determination to Palestinians and continues to dispossess them of their land. We aim to rectify this injustice in ways that will allow both Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace, security and equality, exercising self-determination as described by the United Nations Charter.
Call on all parties to comply with international law, relevant United Nations (UN) resolutions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.
We call on governments to:
Reject and condemn all forms of violence, especially against civilians, whether perpetrated by a state, organisations or individuals, while recognising the right of the Palestinian people to resist Israeli occupation in accordance with international law.
… support the tactics of boycotts, divestments and targeted sanctions that are strategic and human rights aligned on:
a) Government representatives, institutions and state-affiliated entities of the state of Israel and the Israeli military and/or;
b) Corporations, entities and organisations that profit from or are complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights.
Affirm that criticism of Israeli government policies and actions is not antisemitic, and therefore oppose the adoption and enforcement of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism which conflates criticism of the state of Israel with antisemitism.
Recognise the rise of hateful and violent racism and bigotry including antisemitism and Islamophobia in Australia and commit to the development of thorough anti-racism policies.
Recognise the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their place of origin through a just and acceptable solution based on UN Resolution 194, or compensation for those who choose not to return. Additionally, support the establishment of international mechanisms guided by international law to facilitate this outcome.
Given the continuing disregard by the state of Israel of calls to halt settlement expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Australian Greens:
Call upon the Australian and State governments to halt military and security trade and cooperation with the state of Israel.
Reiterate our call for the immediate freezing of all Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Call for the removal of existing Israeli settlers and Israeli security and military forces from the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The Greens stand for peace—peace for Palestinians, peace for Israelis. History will be on the side of those who condemn the violence, condemn the murders and condemn the occupation.