Australia must speak out against Israeli apartheid


In a statement to the parliament earlier this month, senator Janet Rice expresses the Australian Greens’ solidarity with Palestinian people, and condemns both Israel’s Actions and Australia’s silence.

By Senator Janet Rice

This week Palestinians commemorate Al Nakba day – Arabic for ‘the catastrophe’ – when in 1948 thousands of Palestinians were killed and an estimated 700,000 lost their homes and became refugees. Many of their descendants have remained in refugee camps since.

This week, some Palestinians are facing the threat of a second expulsion, this time from Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem.

In the aftermath of the Nakba, the UN and Jordan built and granted ownership of homes for 27 families on what was vacant land in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. Since that time, generations have been born, grown up, married and died in these houses.

However, Israel seized control over Jerusalem in 1967 and, despite international calls for it to withdraw, it has refused.

East Jerusalem is recognised as being under military occupation. Israel has used a raft of discriminatory residency regulations and planning frameworks to reduce the Palestinian population in Jerusalem. It has passed a law that allows Jewish people to claim land that was owned by Jews prior to 1948. But, in contrast, Palestinians who lost homes or property in 1948 are not compensated nor can they exercise their inalienable right to return to their former homes inside what is now Israel, which is a right enshrined in UN Resolution 194.

These are some of the policies that have led human rights groups to conclude that Israel is committing apartheid.

Last month, a report by the US-based Human Rights Watch found:

“… in most aspects of life, Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power and land has long guided government policy. In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity.”

Human Rights Watch's report follows one by Israeli human rights group B'Tselem that reached the same conclusion, as did a 2019 report to the UN by Palestinian human rights organisations.

This institutional discrimination is felt acutely in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. While the pandemic rages, 500 Palestinians are at risk of unjust eviction – 87 of them imminently. They've faced years of long, exhausting court battles that have been financially draining, beyond the personal stress on those residents. This is the tragic experience of people facing discriminatory laws and policies from the Israeli government.

The Greens support the rights of the Palestinian and Israeli people to live in peace and security in their own independent sovereign states and recognise the ongoing injustice that has been done to the Palestinian people. That injustice needs to be rectified to enable Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace. We condemn the escalation in violence overnight, which has cost the lives of Palestinian civilians, including children. This violence has roots in the efforts of Israeli settler groups to evict Palestinian families. We need to end injustices like settlements, forced evictions and the occupation itself to have a hope of putting an end to violence and conflict, starting with no evictions in Sheikh Jarrah.

Last week the EU said “The Israeli authorities should cease these activities and provide adequate permits for legal construction and development of Palestinian communities,” with similar sentiments expressed by UK officials and the US State Department. Australia must speak out and add our voice to stop the ongoing Nakba for Palestinians.

I have spoken before about ongoing human rights abuses and I will keep speaking out in this parliament.

Janet Rice is the Australian Greens’ spokesperson on Foreign Affairs.

Hero image: Pixabay.

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