Senate debates

Tuesday, 9 May 2023


Palestine: Nakba Anniversary

8:36 pm

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Monday 15 May will mark the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, the catastrophe that saw the violent expulsion of approximately three-quarters of all Palestinians from their homes and homelands by Zionist militias and the new Israeli Army during the establishment of the state of Israel. This initial reign of terror started in 1948 but lasted years—and indeed continues to this very day. Many Palestinian cities were attacked and over 500 villages were destroyed. About 15,000 Palestinians were killed in a series of mass atrocities, including dozens of massacres. The Deir Yassin massacre was particularly infamous. Approximately 100 Palestinian men, women and children were murdered by Zionist paramilitaries. By 1949 at least 750,000 Palestinians had been made refugees. Whole Palestinian communities fled the violence or were violently expelled, never to be allowed to return to their homes.

But the Nakba is not just about that day. It is about the continued dispossession of the Palestinians, the denial of their human rights and their ongoing targeting by Israel. The Nakba is live every day for the more than seven million refugees displaced during Israel's creation and their descendants still awaiting justice. Every day Palestinians are killed or imprisoned or have their houses destroyed or their land taken by Israeli settlements, and they live under an apartheid system of laws. The Nakba is not a history lesson; it is a lived past and present for the Palestinian people. It is lived every day that they are denied the right of entry to their land. It is lived every day by the people in the Gaza Strip who are kept in an open-air prison camp because Israel and Egypt refuse to open the borders. It is lived every day in the West Bank as Israel's settlements expand and settlers are allowed to behave with impunity.

For 75 years the Palestinians have been betrayed by countries in the so-called West that refuse to hold their persecutor, Israel, to account and that give a blank cheque of diplomatic cover to anything the state of Israel does. That extends here to Australia and to this parliament, where there is a bipartisan commitment to the denial of Palestinian rights and a minimisation of the crimes of the Israeli state. This year, for the first time, the United Nations General Assembly will officially commemorate the Nakba, a simple and long-overdue ask, supported by the overwhelming majority of countries that voted to pass the resolution. But guess how Australia voted? It voted no. Disgustingly, the Australian government couldn't bring itself to even acknowledge the existence of the Nakba and support a public event. In December the UN General assembly also voted for the International Court of Justice to provide an opinion on the legal consequences of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories. Yet again, Australia voted against justice.

After a decade under the Liberal's repulsive foreign policy, we expected better, but Australia continues its traditional role as the USA's lackey, running interference to support Israel no matter what crimes it commits. Israel executes journalists, like Shireen Abu Akleh, then tear-gases the funerals—no problem. Teenagers murdered near Jericho and Bethlehem—crickets. Israel occupies and expels worshippers from Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan repeatedly—there is a mild-mannered media statement from Foreign Minister Wong that, of course, leads with the reaffirmation of Israel's rights. Australia still insists it seeks a peaceful resolution in Palestine, but there is no doubt that we are a bad faith actor. We are part of the problem.

The people are awake to this duplicity. The people are with Palestinians and their anticolonial struggle for an end to occupation. All around Australia thousands will come to Nakba rallies. Seventy-five years after Nakba, Palestinians and their supporters remain committed to justice, peace and a permanent solution to the crisis caused by Israel, including the right to return for all refugees. Silence in the face of the persecution, dispossession and displacement of Palestinians is not an option. To stay neutral or to use weak both-sides language is to choose the side of the oppressor. There are no two ways about this. We demand justice for Palestine.