TEXT OF SPEECH BY DR. DAVID PALMER
Burnside Community Centre
Wednesday, 31 October 2007.
Australian foreign policy, the current election, and the issue of justice for the Palestinian people.
Tonight I would like to focus on the importance of foreign policy in the current Australian election, and in particular the issue of Palestine, Palestinians, and Israel.
It is curious – isn’t it? – that foreign policy is hardly an issue for either the ALP or the Liberals at the moment. We hear nothing about the US-led war and occupation in Iraq; and nothing really on the horrendous treatment of Palestinians on the West Bank, where the illegal “wall” is being built, or the Gaza Strip, where people are going hungry and are threatened with having electricity and water cut off by the Israeli government.
The war in Iraq is immensely unpopular in the United States, and even service personnel – some of whom I know quite well – believe it is a war for oil profiteers and opportunistic politicians. Lebanon had a thriving economy at the beginning of last year, but it was completely ruined by Israeli bombing by mid-year, with support from the US State Department and US military aid. Combatants had been captured on both sides, but the Israeli government decided to wreck vengeance on the Lebanese people, killing some 3,000 civilians and displacing almost half a million from their homes.
President George W. Bush has called regularly for democracy in the Middle East, but when the Palestinian people held their elections in the territories last year they elected the wrong people – a majority Hamas government. The US and its allies, however, refused to accept the democratic verdict of the Palestinian people, even though Hamas agreed initially to end violence. Democracy, then, must mean those approved by President Bush, so perhaps the word “democracy” has a new meaning in this strange new century.
The reality is that for the majority in the world, international issues like these ARE important. Even in one of the most conservative countries in the world – Japan – the people in the last few months ended the LDP majority in the upper house because of LDP support for US naval operations linked to the Asian wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But in Australia – even though a majority here has long disagreed with the US-led war in Iraq – we have a foreign policy that basically could have been written in the US State Department by Condoleeza Rice. And the same goes for uncritical support for Israel and refusal to recognize Palestinian rights.
Now the US wants to attack Iran, with George Bush claiming that Iran soon will be able to send missiles with nuclear weapons to attack cities in Europe and America. Haven’t we heard this before? Why does anyone take this absurd rhetoric seriously? If the State Department’s Christopher Hill can get the US to work with China, Russia, and South Korea to negotiate with North Korea, then why can’t the US and its allies – including Israel – negotiate with Hamas? Hamas was democratically elected – the dictatorship of Kim Jong-il was not – but Hamas is branded as “terrorist” while Kim and his coterie are recognized as negotiating partners.
This same hypocrisy is evident with regard to Iran. Yes, Iran may supply aid to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories – but this aid is miniscule compared to US aid to Israel. Israel, as I’m sure most of you know, is the largest recipient of US aid in the world. Israel is a nuclear power with missile delivery capacity, yet it has not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The US demands that Iran allow for inspection of nuclear sites, but makes no such demand on Israel.
Why does Australia support US policy and in particular the policies of the current Bush administration? Why, instead, does Australia not act as a broker – a negotiator – for peace in the Middle East? Why is the current Australian government so fanatically pro-US and pro-Israel, instead of assuming an independent stance – against any violence directed at civilians, whether Palestinean or Israeli?
The Liberals will lose government on November 24 – regardless of what the Murdoch press trumpets daily in The Australian with Newspoll claiming Howard is clawing back. Howard will go and Labor will form a new government. To vote for Christopher Pyne in this seat is to vote for a government that will be turfed out – in essence it is a waste of your vote. The Liberals, too, offer nothing in terms of peace in the Middle East or Iraq. And they offer nothing in terms of justice for Palestineans or security for Israelis. Labor may appear to be the same, but they are not. The differences are very important.
Labor has supported a negotiated settlement to the North Korean nuclear crisis – it did in the past and it will in the future. The US once did, then opposed real negotiations under Bolton’s role in State, but now has been compelled to reverse course under Hill. An Australian Labor government should advocate the same multilateral approach – negotiations with all parties, a just settlement, and opposition to military aggression and occupation – on the Palestinean issue. There is no point to continuing to back US policy in support of militarized Israel. Yes, Kevin Rudd is an ardent supporter of Israel and seems to support its militarism – but the ALP is bigger than just Rudd – and Rudd was a key figure in the initial policy of engagement with North Korea in the Keating years. Perhaps I’m naïve, but I believe that potentially things can change under a different government here in Australia.
There is another political reality that Australian politicians – from all parties – will soon need to face. A majority of Australians oppose the war in Iraq. Many in this majority understand that there is a link in all the US-led and backed wars that have occurred and may yet occur in the Middle East and western Asia – whether in Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, or Palestine. A large part of Australia’s ethnic groups – those from Arab countries and Iran – feel the same way, as do many in Australia’s large Muslim community from countries stretching half way across the globe, from Indonesia and Malaysia to Africa.
However, there also is another constituency that needs to be heard, however, and its numbers are presently very small in Australia compared to America. These are Jews who disagree with current Israeli policy – people like Antony Lowenstein, author of My Israel Question. Australians need to understand that “Israel” does not equal “Jews” – they are not the same. To criticize Israeli policy toward the Palestineans, also, is not to “deny” the Holocaust – but in fact to fully recognize it and not repeat it against others. The Holocaust included theft of property, ethnic cleansing, persecution based on race and religion, and denial of all legal rights. The slogan “never again” applies to the Holocaust under fascism, but also in other places. I have heard it too from atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki where I have conducted interviews and research. Certainly we can apply this most basic human right to the Palestineans as well – and support justice for them.
In the United States, former President Jimmy Carter has spoken out for a just settlement of Palestinean rights and was invited by students to speak at Brandeis University – the premier non-sectarian Jewish university in the US – earlier this year. As a Ph.D. history graduate of Brandeis, I was proud that my alma mater took this courageous stand, which has been very unpopular with some older donors who have lost the deep sense of social justice that has long been a Jewish tradition. I am proud that finally these younger people took their stand – in that tradition and despite fierce opposition.
We need to take this stand in Australia also. Your vote in the upcoming election can make a difference – for peace in the Middle East – but only if you also involve yourself in speaking to your MP – an MP who is part of the new government, not the old one that will soon be gone – for justice on this major issue.
TEXT OF SPEECH BY PAUL HEYWOOD-SMITH QC
Burnside Community Centre
Wednesday 31 October 2007
Welcome to all. You are participating in the democratic process. It has been said recently that democracy in this country has been hijacked. The parties and the media control the debate.
We are here tonight to say. The people can raise an issue.
Let me commence by acknowledging that there will be people here this evening who are strong supporters of Israel. To you I also say, “Welcome”. My Association is mindful of the interests of Jewish Israelis. Our view is that Israel has been taking the wrong path. It’s interests are dependant upon it reaching a just accommodation with it’s Arab neighbours.
Let me also make it absolutely clear from the outset that AFOPA is totally opposed to racism of any sort –whether that racism is directed against people of the Jewish faith, Arabs, Muslims, Australian aborigines, Sudanese – any racial, ethnic or religious group. We hold no truck with White Supremacists, Holocaust deniers, whoever. In fact we consider ourselves – in World terms – as totally mainstream. It’s because we believe that the Australian government is out of step on this issue, that we are raising it.
Christopher Pyne – in one sense he’s a little unlucky. If AFOPA was based in Melbourne we might have brought this campaign against Michael Danby, Labor MP for Melbourne Ports. But we are not. We are based in Adelaide. Even in Adelaide, we could have based it on the seat of Mayo. Heaven knows Alexander Downer deserves it. But no, Sturt is more accessible and has a lesser margin and Christopher Pyne has stuck his neck up there and been vocal and has invited this challenge. But it’s not a personal campaign. All we wish to do is to raise this issue as an issue. Neither major party, indeed no party, seems to be particularly interested in foreign affairs. We are here to say to the Australian electorate: “Hello, there is a major issue here”. “Perhaps you should be interested in what is happening in Palestine”. “Perhaps there is some connection between it and what happens each time you are forced to take your shoes off when you go through a security screen at an airport. Perhaps there is some connection between it and your disquiet when your son or daughter goes off for a holiday in Bali, or Malaysia, or Lebanon or Egypt. Perhaps there is some connection when your son is sent off to Iraq in the Armed Forces”.
I have given many speeches on this topic.
What I have learnt? Any speech on this topic must start at only one place…the history.
I intend to spend about a half hour on the history – necessarily truncated. David Palmer will then address us on Australian foreign policy and the need for it to be independent.
Before I commence I want to say that what I here assert comes essentially from mainstream history texts, including by Israeli historians, and recognized contemporary commentators.
Humans have lived in Palestine continuously for thousands of years. The Zionist catch–cry, “A people without a land, for a land without a people”, was, when it was first uttered in the 19th Century as it is today, a palpable falsity and an insult to any adult’s intelligence. As too is the suggestion that “God gave us this land”.
“I give this country to your posterity from the river of Egypt up to the Great River, Euphrates”: Genesis XV, verse 18.
“For the Jews this is the origin of their right to the Promised Land. However the “posterity” includes the descendants of Ishmael since he was the son of Abraham by his concubine Ketivah, and the ancestor of all the Arabs, Christian or Muslim”. (I.F.Stone: “Holy War”).
In biblical times people of the Jewish faith and others, people who we today call Arabs, lived in Palestine which was part of the Roman Empire. It had become part of the Roman Empire in 63 B.C. For something approaching 80 years prior to that time there had been what might be described as an independent Jewish state in part of what we know as Palestine. Are we seriously being asked to give any weight to that as a claim by the Jewish peoples to Palestine?
As with so many other defeated peoples in Roman times, many Jews were taken to Rome as slaves. Gradually they dissipated. Some communities of Jewish people remained in what we now call the Middle East but as the centuries passed the Jewish religion lost its driving power there.
With the fall of the Roman Empire Palestine came to be ruled by Persia and Byzantium. In 638 AD Jerusalem surrendered to the Arab Caliphate. From that time until today whilst Muslims, Jews and Christians have all resided in Palestine, there can be no doubt that the overwhelming majority were Muslim and Arab.
From the 10th Century onwards, the majority of the World’s Jewry was settled in Europe, and became, decisively, a European, as opposed to an Oriental people. This is critical, because it meant that when the Jews returned at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Centuries, they did so as colonizers.
By the 1880’s Palestine’s population was 650,000. No more than 50,000 were Jewish.
Anti-Semitism in Europe at this time prompted the creation of a Zionist movement to create a home for the Jewish people in Palestine. Some might say a noble goal, but for the fact that the plan, as evidenced by Herzl’s diary, was that it was to be at the expense of the native population who were to be spirited out of the country and their land expropriated.
The Zionist movement commenced to buy Arab land in Palestine. The Jewish National Fund, established in 1901, laid down that all land which it acquired was to remain inalienable Jewish property that could not be sold or leased to others. Moreover only Jews should work the land that Jews acquired.
The Balfour Declaration in 1917 occurred whilst Britain was at war with the Ottoman Empire and after Britain had been flooded with Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe, causing riots and demonstrations against them in the streets of London. The Balfour Declaration called for a home for Jewish people in Palestine but added “…nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.
The Balfour Declaration was of course internally inconsistent. It was not possible for there to be a ‘home’ as contemplated and for that ‘home’ not to prejudice the non-Jewish communities. At the start of WWI Kitchener promoted the Arab Revolt (against the Turks), promising: “If the Arab nation assists England in this war England will guarantee that no intervention takes place in Arabia and will give Arabs every assistance against external foreign aggression”. That the Arabs believed that they were betrayed by the British is totally understandable.
That betrayal in my view derived from a deep seated British racism towards the Arabs. Peter Mansfield in his book The Arabs notes:
It is scarcely necessary to go any further than this to find justification for the Arab’s sense of betrayal by the West and their special bitterness over Palestine. If the West has a feeling today that the Arabs are taking their revenge it should be easy to understand the reasons.
That book was written by Mansfield in 1978. How prophetic was it to become?
A British census of 1918 gave an estimate of 700,000 Arabs and 56,000 Jews. This was a significant population. The land mass of Palestine is half the size of Tasmania. Tasmania’s population today is less that $500K. No “land without a people” there.
It is the tragedy of the Palestinians that the Balfour Declaration occurred at a time when President Wilson was advocating self-determination of subject peoples following the Great War and it is illuminating to consider what happened to the balance of the Arabian part of the Ottoman Empire. All, Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan, Iraq, Egypt, the Persian Gulf Sheikdoms and Yemen (including what was to become Saudi Arabia in 1926) had either full independence or sufficient to control immigration by at latest 1936 – most much earlier. The indigenous people of Palestine, however, the most socially, culturally and economically advanced, were not considered fit for independence at any time prior to when it was too late, in 1948.
The Palestinian Arabs provided bitter resistance from as early as 1921, even when immigration was relatively small. After 1933 their alarm turned to despair, as they saw large numbers of Jews coming into their country and buying up the land and utilizing it to the exclusion of all Arabs. The Arabs may well have absorbed significant Jewish immigration but for the totally inadmissible premise that the Zionists planned to make their culture the only one in the country. They insisted on Hebrew, separate schools and hospitals, self segregation, and the expulsion of Arabs from every institution they established. Theirs was undoubtedly a racist agenda.
In 1939, when the Jewish percentage of the total population was approaching one-third, Britain purported to stop further Jewish immigration. This decision remained in force until after World War II. The revelations of the Holocaust, however, made it difficult for Britain to stop immigration both officially and via the Zionist underground. In August 1945 President Truman endorsed the Zionist demand that 100,000 Jews should be allowed immediately into Palestine. By late 1947 the official UN estimates for Palestine were: Arabs, 1.3 million; Jews, 600,000.
In 1947 the United Nations voted 33:13 (with 10 abstentions) to partition Palestine. The 33 chose to give another nation’s land (some 54% of it) to the Jewish people. An Arab proposal to ask the International Court of Justice to judge the competence of the General Assembly to partition a country against the wishes of a majority of its inhabitants was only narrowly defeated. (It is hardly necessary to point out that no such resolution could conceivably be passed today, or even ten years after 1947, after the addition of many Afro-Asian countries to the General Assembly.)
It is of interest to note the views of prominent Australians at the time. Australia of course voted for partition. However Australia had two quite senior officials in the UN Secretariat. The most senior was Sir Raphael Cilento who served in the UN Secretariat from 1946 to 1951. The most senior Australian official in the Secretariat after him was Sir Walter Crocker, to become Australia’s High Commissioner for India in 1951 and later, for many years, the Lieutenant-Governor of South Australia. Crocker delivered a paper on Cilento in 1984 entitled “The Role of Sir Raphael Cilento at the UN”. In 1948 Cilento was Director of Relief Projects based in Beirut in which post he had much to do with Palestine.
Crocker records his own perceptions of the creation of Israel:
At the seat of the UN at Lake Success, day after day, week after week, month after month, the public galleries, the lobbies, the corridors, the cafeteria, were filled with Zionists and other Jewish zealots, pushing and persistent. Not a few were fanatical, not a few were arrogant, all were increasingly self-confident. They were given over to the dream of turning Palestine into Israel. Their dedication was admirable.
But, unfortunately, the fact that Arabs already were inhabiting Palestine, and had done so for centuries, had no relevance for the zealots. The Arabs had no rights: they were to be torn up from their land to make way for the Jews. The self-centeredness on this point was absolute and it was not admirable.
What the Zionists later referred to as “the miracle of Lake Success” could indeed scarcely have happened except in that place and at that time. In the name of internationalism a form of extreme nationalism was carried to victory, and in the name of the rights of small nations to independence… a minority in Palestine, the Jews, took by force of arms the home of the indigenous majority, the Arabs.
Crocker records Cilento’s belief that the creation of Israel and the manner of its creation, made wounds that were unlikely to heal and further, that the Palestinian Arabs were condemned to degradation if not genocide. How prophetic was that. Cilento was charged with anti-Semitism and like others his career at the UN ceased; moreover, despite his incredible career to that point in time, following his return to Australia in 1951 (aged only 58), he never held another official post. But as Crocker records, to charge Cilento with anti-Semitism was “as unfair to Cilento as was charging all Jews with the values of the Zionists.” What Cilento questioned was Zionist imperialism and in that he was joined by the Vatican, by leftwing papers like the Guardian, and others.
But let us return to the story. In 1948 on the withdrawal of British forces the Palestinian peoples, along with their Arab neighbours resisted what they saw, not surprisingly, or unreasonably, as the stealing of their country.
In the war which resulted, Israel occupied some 80% of the land (26% more than allocated to it by the UN). The Israelis occupied over 500 Arab villages and towns and destroyed some 380, so that the inhabitants could not return. I quote from Tanya Reinhart’s work “Israel/Palestine”. Tanya Reinhart was an Israeli (Jewish) scholar and journalist. She delivered the Edward Said Memorial Lecture at the University of Adelaide in October 2006 and later addressed a number of our federal parliamentarians in Canberra. I was privileged to be at both events. She wrote:
“During the war of 1948, more than half of the Palestinian population at the time – 1,380,000 – were driven off their homeland by the Israeli Army. Though Israel officially claimed that a majority of the refugees fled and were not expelled, it still refused to allow them to return, as a UN resolution demanded shortly after the 1948 war. Thus the Israeli land was obtained through ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants”.
Tanya Reinhart passed away in New York earlier this year.
The Palestine War and the harsh injustices that it caused the indigenous inhabitants left a legacy of bitterness among all the Arabs against Israel and the two Western Powers most responsible for its creation – Britain and the U.S. It has been the single most powerful factor behind the bitterness of the Arab and ultimately Muslim worlds and the growth of anti-Western feeling over the past six decades.
In 1950 the Israeli Knesset passed the Law of Return that “every Jew has the right to immigrate to Israel”. No such right was afforded, however, to the true inhabitants who now resided in refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.
Immediately after the 1967 war in which Israel occupied the remaining 20% of Palestine, Israel encouraged settlers to go into the occupied territories and take the land.
In 1988 an Intifada Meeting of the Palestinian National Council called for partition of historical Palestine into two independent States … along the lines of the ’67 borders, as determined by the UN Resolutions 181, 242 and 338. This is significant. Israel justified its settlement activity on the basis of a need for security given that the Arabs wanted to push Israel into the sea. Here was the white flag (and most unfortunate it was for Israel) for Israel cannot afford peace, for peace means boundaries, confinement, and the loss of the dream of a Greater Israel.
Henry Siegman, writing in the London Review of Books, in August of this year, quotes the commentator Geoffrey Aronson, who has monitored the settlement enterprise from its beginnings, thus:
Living without a solution, then as now, was understood by Israel as the key to maximising the benefits of conquest while minimising the burdens and dangers of retreat or formal annexation. This commitment to the status quo, however, disguised a programme of expansion that generations of Israeli leaders supported as enabling, through Israeli settlement, the dynamic transformation of the territories and the expansion of effective Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan River.
1993: the Oslo Accords – whereby the Palestinians re-committed to the idea of two states, involving giving up nearly 80% of the historical Palestinian homeland. Nothing was to come of it. Instead Oslo has been used by Israel as a cover to extend and consolidate its illegal occupation and to double if not treble the settler population. The attitude of the Likud government is best illustrated by Sharon, then foreign minister, in 1998: “Everybody has to move, run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours…Everything we don’t grab will go to them.”
2000: Camp David Summit at which Arafat was said to have refused a most generous offer giving to the Palestinians some 95% of the West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem as its capital. This presentation was put out to people around the World to encourage them to abandon any interest in the Palestinians that they might have had. It was of course a fraud. It was a slander on the Palestinian people. It is an indictment of the Western press that allowed the Israeli publicity machine to put it across. It is a monument to the power of constant repetition, that such repetition raises the lie to objective truth.
The truth started to come out when a U.S. official who was present became too disgusted by the hypocrisy after putting up with it for a year. Robert Malley published a series of articles in the New York Times. And what came out of them was this.
Israel withdraws from 90 – 95% of the Occupied Territories retaining 130 settlements in the 5 – 10%. Included in the Palestinian lands would be 50 additional settlements which would entail 40 – 50% of the newly created State that Palestinians would have no access to. The 5 – 10% making up settlements retained in Israel was occupied by 120,000 Palestinians, but they would not become Israeli citizens since they would vote in the Palestinian elections. Thus Israel could annex the land without giving any rights to Palestinian residents. The small village of Abu-Dis on the outskirts of Jerusalem would be re-named Al-Quds, the Arab name for Jerusalem thereby enabling Israel to present to the World that it was dividing Jerusalem. The Arab inhabitants of East Jerusalem (to become part of Israel) would not become Israeli. Israel ‘agreed’ that Palestine would have the privilege of providing health, education and welfare to them; but they could not have citizenship, nor, the right to vote in Israeli elections. Barak’s unofficial map allowed no external borders with any other country for the Palestinian State.
That was the Israeli idea of sovereignty. That was the most generous offer that was refused.
The ME peace process may well be the most spectacular deception in modern diplomatic history. Since the failed Camp David summit of 2000, and actually well before it, Israel’s interest in a peace process – other than for the purpose of obtaining Palestinian and international acceptance of the status quo – has been a fiction that has served primarily to provide cover for its systematic confiscation of Palestinian land and an occupation whose goal, according to the former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon, is “to sear deep into the consciousness of Palestinians that they are a defeated people”.
September 2000: Sharon announces that he intends to exercise his “elementary right” to visit “our holy site” (Temple Mount) thereby provoking the second Intifada.
2001: Sharon is elected. Military rule in the territories is re-established. The Palestinian Authority’s infrastructure is destroyed. Life is made totally unbearable for the Palestinians in the hope that they will just leave. In December 2001 the Israeli Army raids the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in Ramallah, destroying and confiscating computers and documents. In the words of Edward Said: “They were effacing virtually the entire record of collective Palestinian life”. It does not take much imagination to see how important it is that if there is to be systematic ethnic cleansing that the less records there are to verify that people actually lived in a particular place the better.
2003: In April a “Roadmap” for resolving the conflict is announced by Kofi Annan on behalf of the US, the UN, Russia and the EU (the Quartet)…The Palestinians accepted the road map in its entirety but Israel announced 14 caveats and prerequisites that would preclude any final peace talks and thus ensured the initiative’s failure.
2003-6: Apart from all of the other destruction that it does one clear purpose of the Wall is the destruction of Palestinian history. Ancient buildings are bulldozed to create the Wall and settler roads. The purpose is to Judaize Palestine. By targeting historical Arab sites Israel plans to destroy Palestinian cultural heritage. Its a form of genocide. It is happening particularly in Hebron and Nablus. It is in direct contravention of the Hague Conventions.
There is of course a certain attraction to the wall, because it shuts in as well as shuts out. Those who have felt for the Palestinians first asked themselves: is this something positive? Is this going to give the Palestinians respite from the creeping annexation?
But when it became apparent where the wall was being built, and how, it became clear that this was just another tool in the oppression of these poor people. If the Israeli Government had set about building a wall on the ’67 borders, on the Green Line, rather than on occupied Palestinian land, I rather suspect many people would have said: “This is good”. But of course if the Israeli government was prepared to do that they wouldn’t need a wall. There would be no suicide bombers. A great yoke would have been lifted off the shoulders not only of the Palestinians, but of the Israelis, and, ultimately, of us.
But no the wall as envisioned contemplates three Bantustans. These are Gaza, and two West Bank areas all totally encircled by Israel. No external borders. No right of free passage. No independent economy. This is what Sharon had in mind when he spoke of a Palestinian State.
The sole consideration that dictates the path of the Wall is the settlements, and assuring that they remain on the western side of it. But it catches Palestinian villages as well – leaving them on the western side of the Wall. There is a stench associated with these villages. It is the stench of transfer. That is, transfer “out”. For what choice do the Palestinians have caught on the West of the Wall. They cannot move. They cannot find a livelihood. Similarly other Palestinian villages are left on the East of the Wall but their agricultural lands are placed on the West. One of the purposes of the Wall, without a doubt, is to make the lives of the inhabitants Hell, in order to convince them by and by to go away, to become, with their brothers and sisters of 1948 and 1967, refugees.
I should mention the International Court of Justice? On 8 December 2003 the UN General Assembly voted to request an Advisory Opinion from the ICJ with regard to the legality of the construction of the wall, and whether Israel was under a legal obligation to remove it.
This was a significant development. This was the first time the World Court had been drawn into the dispute. The vote to request the Advisory Opinion was passed with 90 states in favour and eight opposing: Australia, the USA, Israel, Ethiopia, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau. Good company. 74 states, including the European Union, abstained. The US in opposition to the request to the ICJ expressed the view that “giving an advisory Opinion … risks undermining the peace process and politicizing the court”. Australia, or at least the government of which Christopher Pyne is a part, took a similar position saying that the decision might “complicate the work of the international quartet or jeopardise the implementation of the Road Map”. Hello, what work, what Road Map?
On 9 July 2004, the court handed down its Opinion, that the construction of the wall by Israel is in breach of international law and that it violates principles of the UN Charter and norms that prohibit the threat or use of force and the acquisition of territory. The construction of the wall was also found to be inconsistent with the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people. More significantly, the court also said that all states should not recognise “the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall”. The Court was composed of 15 eminent Justices. The ruling was 14:1. The one was a US judge.
In the immediate aftermath of the publication of the Opinion, Israel declared that it would seek the support of the US to veto any Security Council resolution relating to the Opinion and the wall and the US did indeed indicate that it would veto attempts by the Council to adopt a resolution on the issue. On 20 July 2004 the Tenth Emergency Session of the General Assembly resumed to consider the Opinion. It adopted Resolution GA10248 condemning Israel’s construction of the wall and calling on it to dismantle the structures and abide by the court’s Opinion. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 150 states in favour, ten abstained, while Australia joined five other countries (the USA, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands and Palau) in voting against the resolution. Good company again. Well done Christopher Pyne. That’s why were here.
2005 – and the withdrawal from Gaza. Gaza, the evacuation of whose settlements was so naively hailed by the international community as the heroic achievement of a man newly committed to an honourable peace with the Palestinians, was intended to serve as the first in a series of Palestinian Bantustans. Gaza’s situation today shows us what these Bantustans will look like if their residents do not behave as Israel wants.
UN General Assembly Partition Resolution 181 of 1947, which established the Jewish state’s international legitimacy, also recognized the remaining Palestinian territory outside the new state’s borders as the equally legitimate patrimony of Palestine’s Arab population on which they were entitled to establish their own state, and it mapped the borders of that territory with great precision. Resolution 181’s affirmation of the right of Palestine’s Arab population to national self-determination was based on normative law and the democratic principles that grant statehood to the majority population. (At the time, Arabs constituted two-thirds of the population in Palestine.) This right does not evaporate because of delays in its implementation.
In the course of a war launched by Arab countries that sought to prevent the implementation of the UN partition resolution, Israel enlarged its territory by 50 per cent. If it is illegal to acquire territory as a result of war, then the question now cannot conceivably be how much additional Palestinian territory Israel may confiscate, but rather how much of the territory it acquired in the course of the war of 1948 it is allowed to retain. At the very least, if “adjustments” are to be made to the 1949 armistice line, these should be made on Israel’s side of that line, not the Palestinians”.
Let us start by considering the position of the Palestinian today.
The position of the Palestinian is seemingly hopeless. He watches (as he has done for 40 years) and sees the Israelis or Jewish people from the Bronx, or Melbourne, come on to his land and build a settlement. The settlers either uproot the olive trees that he tended with his father and grandfather as a child, or confiscate them to themselves. This is easily done. They simply say that they are a security risk – snipers could hide in them. He has no job, he lives in poverty. He watches the bulldozer come in and bulldoze his house. If he resists the Israeli Government screams “terrorist”, but more painful than that, the U.S., and World’s media calls him a terrorist. By so labelling him, Israel and the West systematically suppress the reality of the Palestinian experience of dispossession and make it possible to ignore the Palestinians’ undeniable claims to the land. The Palestinian is in despair; he has been rendered peripheral; he is isolated; his sense is only of displacement and loss. He probably feels how a Jew in 1930’s Germany felt.
In January 2004 Gideon Levy, a highly respected Israeli journalist, described a recent visit to Nablus. He writes:
“One sees Nablus declining relentlessly into its death throes…
An hour’s drive from Tel Aviv, a great Palestinian city is dying, and another of the occupation’s goals is being realized. It’s not only that the splendid homes have been laid waste, not only that such a large number of the city’s residents, many of them innocent, have been killed; the entire society is flickering and will soon be extinguished. A similar fate has visited Jenin, Qalqilyah, Tul Karm and Bethlehem, but in Nablus the impact of the death throes is more powerful because of the city’s importance as a district capital and because of its beauty… But the true wound lies far deeper than the physical destruction: an economic, cultural and social fabric that is disintegrating and a generation that has known only a life of emptiness and despair.
Joseph Weitz was from 1932 the director of the Jewish National Land Fund. In 1965 his diaries were published in Israel. On 19.12.1940 he wrote:
“It must be clear that there is no room for both peoples in this country…the only solution is Eretz Israel, or at least Western Eretz Israel, without Arabs. There is no room for compromise on this point!…there is no way besides transferring the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries, to transfer them all; except maybe for Bethlehem, Nazareth and Old Jerusalem, we must not leave a single village, not a single tribe. And the transfer must be directed to Iraq, to Syria, and even to Transjordan.
Today the settlers, generally Jewish fundamentalists, and their supporters regard ethnic cleansing of the Arabs as an imperative, even a commandment from God. Jewish fundamentalists are thought to account for some 20-25 per cent of the Israeli population, higher than the number of Muslim fundamentalists in Iran. Jewish fundamentalists are of course embarked on a process of genocide; witness Baruch Goldstein’s murder in 1994 of 29 Muslim worshippers in Hebron’s Mosque. This act was praised by many rabbis and Goldstein elevated to the status of martyr. Witness the attempts today to have the assassin of Yitzak Rabin released from prison.
Tanya Reinhart, of whom I spoke earlier, notes the statistics pertaining to Palestinian injuries. She notes the standard IDF assertion that some Palestinians were injured by ‘stray bullets’. She questions how it can be that ‘stray bullets’ have a remarkable tendency to overwhelmingly strike eyes, the head, or knees. Reinhart makes this allegation:
“Israel’s systematic policy of injuring Palestinians cannot be explained as self-defence, nor as a spontaneous reaction to terror. It is an act of ethnic cleansing – the process through which an ethnic group is driven from a land that another group wishes to control. In a place so closely observed by the world as Israel/Palestine, ethnic cleansing cannot be a sudden act of massive slaughter and land evacuation. Rather, it is a repetitive process by which people are slowly forced to perish or flee.”
For years I have been advocating ‘justice in Palestine’. Many times people have said to me, “Oh, yes, but how can you possibly defend those suicide bombers?”. There is a fallacy there. It is that to promote Palestinian rights is to condone suicide attacks. The Israelis turn the fallacy on its end. If you remove the constraints on Palestine, if you open a roadblock, or remove soldiers, or, dare I suggest it, lift the occupation, you would be rewarding terrorism – rewarding suicide bombers. The best response to suicide bombers is justice, not more repression. Justice, or the giving of it, should not be seen as giving in to terror. Justice is justice. It stands apart, and on its own feet.
You and I live in a free and secular society. We can vote in a Federal election. We naturally are offended by and lament the methods of the suicide bombers. But it is appropriate to attempt to understand them. It is not difficult to understand them.
Let me also say this. Palestinian atrocities come, after all, in the service of what the World regards as a legitimate purpose, the ending of occupation. The Fourth Geneva Convention stipulates that occupied peoples have the right to fight for their liberation. Israeli atrocities come in the service of an illegitimate purpose, that occupation’s perpetuation. It was Herzl who said: “He who desires the end desires the means”. But in proposing such an end – a Jewish state in Palestine – and such means, he was proposing a great deception, and laying open his whole movement to the subsequent charge that in any true historical perspective the Zionists were the original aggressors in the Middle East, the real pioneers of violence, and that Arab violence, however fanatical it might eventually become, was an inevitable reaction to theirs.
In July and August 2006 we witnessed an atrocious event – the 6th Lebanon War. Zionism rests on the fundamental belief that Jews have superior rights to the land. Such belief excludes any possibility of true democracy or equality of peoples. Israel’s destructive rampage in Lebanon is merely the next step in the evolution of that ideology. At the end of that War the World had an immediate expectation. That there would be, within as short a time as possible, an International Conference to address the issue of the festering disputation: primarily between Lebanon and Israel; the Shebaa Farms; but also between Israel and Syria; the Golan Heights; and also between Israel and the Palestinians.
We shouldn’t have held our breath. Within days it was business as usual. Our National Press largely dropped the issue. Our politicians did the same. Christopher Pyne had this to say about it in the first week of August 2006 at the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation:
We’re here tonight to support Israel. I can’t know what it is like to be a Jew right now in the world, not being of the Jewish faith. I can’t imagine what it is like to be a Jew sitting here in the synagogue, or a Jew in Israel, or a Jew anywhere else in the Diaspora, thinking about the War of Independence in 1948, the Suez Crisis, the Six Day War, Yom Kippur, the 1982 offensive in Lebanon, the Intifada’s that have occurred since that time, the withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, and now to be back again in Lebanon in 2006.
The only thing that I can imagine that Jewish people around the world must be thinking is: “When will this end?” And it is a very good question. …….
Nobody believes or wants Israel to be involved in war, but it is not true to say that there is a moral relativity between the actions of Hezbollah and the actions of the state of Israel. It is not true to say that the terrorism of Hamas or the desire of Iran to wipe Israel off the map, or Syria to support Hezbollah or Hamas are somehow morally relative to the right of Israel to protect itself and its people. This is a debate which we have been having for ten – twenty – or more years. In my experience I’ve been having this debate for thirteen and a half years as the Member for Sturt. And again in the last two weeks we hear that there is fault on both sides: Israel is as much to blame as Hezbollah, or Syria, or Iran, or Hamas.
It is not true, and we have to say it is not true.
We agree its not true Christopher – Israel is totally to blame by reason of it having maintained an illegal occupation for 40 years.
But this is an issue that must be urgently re-instated. It is an issue which is poisoning our lives. Consider the London bombings in July, 2005. Journalists and commentators had a field day in addressing the war on terror.
Why do young British people, of Arab and Muslim extraction, with everything to live for, become suicide bombers? Let me tell you. It is not because they are upset over poverty in Africa, nor that they have concerns over globalisation. And neither are they radicalised by global warming, or even the reliance by the West upon oil. From my reading of history, nor does it appear to me that militant Islamists are intent on converting Christians, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists or whoever, to Islam. Islam has in fact been a religion of tolerance throughout its thirteen centuries, unlike, at particular times, what might be said of others.
Some of these issues might get the odd Muslim excited, even angry. They do not cause an 18 year old Leeds boy to blow himself up and hope in doing so that he will take as many of his fellow citizens with him as he can.
No, it is none of these things. It is something far more personal than that. It is racism practiced against his fellow Arabs and Muslims, if not himself. It is injustice on a mammoth scale. It is humiliation daily thrust upon his brothers – a humiliation of ninety years standing which continues today as strongly as it commenced during the British Mandate. It is Palestine.
That is not to say that it is only Palestine. There is Chechnya. There is Kashmir. There is the arrogance of the West in Iraq, and Iran, and Syria. But Palestine is where it started. And Palestine is where it continues, and is at its heart.
And Palestinians’ brother Arabs, and brother Muslims know this. They feel the same pain, the same humiliation. They have felt the same pain, and the same humiliation for sixty years. That pain and humiliation does not dissipate, because the injustice continues. The injustice has never been addressed. The parents and grandparents of many Arabs were expelled from their homes, and the homes of their ancestors, in Israel in 1948 and never compensated. They lived their miserable lives in refugee camps in Lebanon and Gaza, Jordan and the West Bank. They died without compensation. Their children remember them, and it’s their time to act.
As I have indicated, it is not only Palestine. But Iraq is a convenient extension. War is made the easier because the inhabitants of Iraq are Arab and hence inferior. And who implements the war? The answer is the usual suspects – Britain and the U.S. They are aided by their Anglo-Saxon cousin, Australia. These are the rulers, and the Iraqis, like the 1917 and 1947 Palestinians, are the ruled.
As if it is not bad enough that these rulers invade and occupy, but they must praise themselves as bringing democracy to the Iraqi people. And if you think that these views might exaggerate the position, consider that young Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, Saudis, Egyptians and Iraqis may not think so. Their Muslim brothers in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indonesia might just agree with them. They might just have a feeling that history might be repeating itself. They are aware of one occupation that has been continuing now for nearly forty years – that in the West Bank and Gaza. They may not want another. And when they hear Bush and Blair and Howard, and Pyne, assert that the insurgents are foreign terrorists, they really hear them saying: “These people are of such an inferior culture and state of development that they simply couldn’t want to just have their own country back”. In other words, they recognize inherent racism when they see it.
Terrorism and suicide bombing will thrive wherever there is injustice and illegitimate occupation. And it will thrive all the more the longer that injustice and occupation continue.
Thank you for your attention. I invite you to listen to my colleague David Palmer. I hope that you will start demanding something from your politicians. I hope that your first step will be to send a message. A message that results from the dis-election of Christopher Pyne.
 David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch. (Nation Books, 2003.) p. 159.
 After the receipt of the MacDonald White Paper, the Government asserted that it was “not part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish state, that 75,000 Jewish immigrants should be admitted over the next five years, but no more after that without the approval of the Arabs.”
 Hirst, p. 139.