I acknowledge traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay tribute to their history, their culture and their ongoing fights for justice.
Thank you to the organisers for the invitation to join you tonight – the General Union of Palestinian Workers, the Australian Palestinian Club and Australia Palestinian Graduates Association I appreciate your invitation.
It is good to be together on Palestinian National Day and to celebrate this most significant occasion – particularly in these COVID times, we have not been together all year.
On this day we remember the huge sacrifice so many have made in the Palestinian struggle. Since 1948 thousands of Palestinians have been killed by Israel. In The Great March of Return, on the Gaza-Israel border, from 2017-19 more than 250 Gazans have ben killed by Israeli forces. The injuries are staggering – more than 36,000, so many are young people.
These shocking Zionist crimes, the crimes of 1948 and the ongoing Nakba are a reminder of our responsibility –
- to stand together for Palestine,
- to stand for the right of return,
- to stand for Palestinians right of self determination.
In these dying days of the Trump administration it is relevant to consider the impact US policies have had on the Palestinian struggle.
This US President made the destruction of Palestine one of his top projects. He and his team have actively supported Israel’s colonising settlers, they have declared the BDS movement to be anti-semitic and have cut all overseas aid for Palestinian projects, in an attempt to destroy UNRWA, the United Nations aid body that assists Palestinian refugees.
This approach from the US over the past four years made life tougher for Palestinians in refugee camps, in Gaza and in the Occupied West Bank. The global Palestine support movement has had to fight shocking attempts to discredit our work with baseless allegations of anti-Semitism.
Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia – all forms of racism are abhorrent. And so are false allegations equating the BDS movement and any criticism of Israel over its policies towards Palestinians as anti-Semitic. False allegations of anti-Semitism are a crude Zionist tactic to try and limit the growing support for Palestine.
As we know the peddler of these shocking policies is soon to be gone. Now I have no great faith that president elect Joe Biden, when he is in the big job, will be a voice for Palestine. But I do have faith in people’s struggles and the power of international solidarity to change the opinion of world leaders.
We saw this happen in the South African anti-apartheid struggle. Social democrat, liberal, and conservative politicians who had refused to condemn the apartheid regime in Sth Africa and in some cases actively worked with that regime, in time became active backers of the anti-apartheid movement. It was the power of public protest, the boycott campaign of that time, that changed attitudes and built a mighty movement. Our own former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, a leader of the Liberal Party, became a great champion of the anti-racism struggles in Africa.
Now I don’t hold out hope for Scott Morrison and I acknowledge I know little about US politics so I make no predictions about Biden on Palestine. But what we do know is that we must build the movement for Palestine.
In 2014 I had the opportunity to visit the West Bank and Gaza. Thank you to the General Union of Palestinian Workers for helping to arrange this trip. I returned to the West Bank in 2017. These trips for me were very moving and incredibly informative. I learnt a great deal on those visits about the crimes against humanity that the Palestinians have endured since 1948.
On those trips I met many Palestinians, who said to me please speak up for Palestine when you return to Australia, please put pressure on your government to support Palestine.
We have a big job to do.