Just a week ago, the Sydney Opera House and this very building were lit up in blue and white, a symbol of the undifferentiated position this government takes on this conflict. The world and the Australian government is portraying this as an assault on the Israeli people only as a further attempt to eradicate the Jewish people. My thoughts are with the many lives lost and those families who have lost loved ones. But this war goes beyond that and is also an attack on the Palestinian people.
Se nator THORPE (Victoria) (12:45): by leave—Thank you to the government for allowing this to happen. I rise to speak to this motion as I think we’re all hurting. We’re hurting because, instead of moving towards peace—which is what every human being in this world desires—the world is being plunged into another war, costing thousands of lives already. We all know that that’s by far not the end of it. I also rise because the debate on the international stage so far and in this very country has been extremely one sided. Just a week ago, the Sydney Opera House and this very building were lit up in blue and white, a symbol of the undifferentiated position this government takes on this conflict. The world and the Australian government is portraying this as an assault on the Israeli people only as a further attempt to eradicate the Jewish people. My thoughts are with the many lives lost and those families who have lost loved ones.
But this war goes beyond that and is also an attack on the Palestinian people. While the world mourns what has happened to Israelis, governments—including this one—seem to condone the tragedy unfolding for Palestinians. Israel’s indiscriminate bombings on Gaza are killing thousands of innocent people—people who already had to suffer for so many decades in what is often called the world’s biggest prison. These people didn’t attack Israel, and yet they are the human collateral of Israel fighting back against Hamas with unprecedented force. They will be the ones suffering the long-term consequences, which will more than likely be the continued, and possibly reinforced, oppression of the Palestinian people through Israel.
How can the world let this happen? All the talk of governments supporting a two-state solution seem all but forgotten, worth nothing but a side note. Let’s be honest: the current war has potentially set the solution back decades. Most Palestinians want nothing but to live peacefully in a free Palestine. For 75 years now, Palestine has been under brutal occupation. The state of Israel was founded on Palestinian land in 1948, when tens of thousands of Palestinians fleeing violence sought refuge in Gaza as their towns and villages were ethnically cleansed. Palestinians call this the Nakba, meaning catastrophe. About 80 per cent of people in Gaza are refugees or descendants of the Nakba. As the world was reminded over the past week, the Nakba is not just a historic event.
Palestinian voices have all but been silenced over what happened, so I want to share today the powerful words of Sarah Sari, a young Palestinian woman: ‘Throughout these 75 years, not once was this parliament lit up in a red, green and black. Not once was the illegal apartheid state of Israel condemned for their inhuman, violent, repressive siege. You have stayed silent for 75 years. You have stayed silent throughout the whole year when 250 Palestinians were killed up to Saturday, including children. You have stayed silent to the illegal open-air prison that Palestinians have been blockaded under for 20 years. You have stayed silent as children were being kidnapped, homes were being demolished and people were being wrongfully convicted, tortured and terrorised. You have been silent when we have been denied human rights, when we have lived in unliveable conditions, when we have been attacked, oppressed, silenced and suppressed. The sheer hypocrisy genuinely aches my heart. You might say silent but we will not be.’
Sarah continues, ‘Falsehood and propaganda have attempted to shift the narrative away from the root cause of the violence. The media, politicians, news and celebrities have dismissed us as peoples. They have rebranded our cause to one of terrorism and barbaric violence. Where was the outrage when atrocities were being inflicted on the people of Palestine all these years? The camera is turned on their bruises but turned away when we are dying. The core issue of this conflict is 75 years of violent displacement, apartheid, segregation, land theft, humiliation and dehumanisation. Time and time again, the international community has failed us. Western powers have failed us. Our very own country that we stand on today has failed us.
Over the past few days, Palestinians have been stripped of our humanity, paving a bloodshed rooted with lies. Do we not matter as much? Why is the death of 3,000 Palestinian children overlooked? Or Israel’s repeated bombing of Gaza? Why has the world turned a blind eye to the millions of displaced or killed Palestinians? Do Palestinian lives not matter? The world jumped up and down, condemning, supporting, sympathising with the occupier. The blather double standard is shameful.’
As a First Nations woman, Sarah’s words ring all too true to me. Palestinians live with a generational trauma of oppression and dispossession. They continue to fight for sovereignty, liberation and land back, as do first peoples of this country. Colonisation and dispossession are not things of the past you just read about in the history books. They are ongoing, violent processes happening right now. You have the responsibility to support Palestinians standing against it, just as you have the responsibility to support First Nations people here standing against it. I am not surprised that the Australian government, which is itself an illegal occupier of these very lands, condones illegal occupation of other lands and sides with an oppressive regime. It is not even a double standard; it is simply placing a lower value on black and brown people, as well as on Muslims. I think the West has been quite consistent in that approach.
Governments across the world, in an attempt to address antisemitism and somehow address the horrors of the Holocaust, are allowing Israel to get away with apartheid, ethnic cleansing, detention of children, torture, restriction of movement and other freedoms, and the illegal occupation of land. After every genocide, the world cries out, ‘Never again,’ and yet here you see another attempted genocide unfold right in front of your eyes, and you don’t just watch on quietly but also actively support the oppressor. But we will not allow you to get away with that.
While I am, by all means, condemning the attacks by Hamas on the Israeli people, I am also condemning the violence Israel is and has been inflicting on Palestinians since 1948. I stand with the Palestinian people for their right to self-determination. As long as we allow for the continued oppression of Palestinians and place higher value on the lives and right to self-determination of some over others, we will not see peace in the Middle East. There cannot be peace without justice and there cannot be healing without justice. I would like to finish with Sarah’s words: ‘Peace is not possible without our freedom from our oppressors. If the peace you seek does not include an end to the occupation, the right of return, the end of the Gaza siege, then you are not calling for peace.’