Our government does not speak for us

The following letter is circulating around Australia and reflects the deep anger towards the government and its media whores:

As citizens of conscience we would like to protest in the strongest possible terms against the proposed Australia-Israel cultural exchange trip to Israel to be led by Julia Gillard and involving other parliamentarians, academics, business people, and journalists. We consider this trip a dreadful affront to the many Palestinians left maimed, wounded, traumatised and homeless by Israel’s devastating assault on the Gaza Strip in late 08/early 09. The statistics of dead, wounded and dying are in the thousands, whole neighbourhoods lie in ruins, hospitals are bursting at the seams without adequate medical supplies to help the suffering, and world aid – some of it already rotting – lies massed outside Gaza’s entry points unable to be distributed because of Israel’s draconian restrictions, a policy of collective punishment that is an egregious violation of the Geneva Convention. Reports of illegal phosphorous attacks are evident in the horrific burns endured by the victims months afterwards. Every parliamentarian ought to think seriously about the moral implications of Australia normalising relations with a state that is still under investigation for war crimes committed during Israel’s ‘Cast Lead’ operation.

Further, Israel is refusing to commit to the two-state solution that Australia supports, it is continuing to build illegal settlements in the West Bank in defiance of the current United States administration and it is continuing to maintain an illegal military Occupation of Palestinian lands that denies Palestinians basic human rights such as freedom of movement. We remind all those contemplating such a trip that Israeli is not a truly democratic society even when it comes to the Palestinian citizens of Israel. As we write the Israeli Ministerial Committee on Legislation has approved a preliminary proposal which would make it illegal to hold events or ceremonies marking Israel’s Independence Day as a ‘Nakba’ or catastrophe for the Palestinians dispossessed of their homes and land in 1948. We remind you that the party of Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman ‘Yisrael Beitneu’ has submitted a bill, subsequently rejected, for cabinet approval which would require all Israelis, including Palestinians, Christians, and Bedouins, to declare loyalty to ‘the state of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist, and democratic state’ before they can be issued a national identity document. We remind you that a bill has just passed its first reading in the Israeli Knesset that would institute a one year jail term for anyone who speaks ‘against Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state’, and that the Second Annual Palestine Festival of Literature in Occupied East Jerusalem was ordered to close down by the Israeli Ministry of Internal Security only moments before its opening on 23rd May, a festival supported by UNESCO and the British Council among others.

We reject the oft touted cliché that Israel is a democracy like Australia, rather we remind those intent on strengthening cultural and political exchange between Israel and Australia that Israel is not a state for all its citizens but a state that explicitly advances the interests of one ethnicity alone, a state of affairs that is simply unthinkable in modern Australia. Along with the current editor of the respected American periodical ‘The Nation’, we wonder how a ‘State that imprisons 4 million Palestinians behind ghetto walls, bypass roads and a blockade, and treats another 1.5 million as second-class citizens, [can] be democratic?’

Yours Sincerely

Dr Mohamad Abdalla (Griffith University)

Hiroshi Amemiya

Avigail Abarbanel

Board Member: Deir Yassin Remembered

Dr. Anthony Ashbolt (University of Wollongong)

Dr J. Keith Atkinson

Dr. Hans Baer, University of Melbourne

Dr Ruth Barraclough (Australian National University)

Jumana Bayeh (Macquarie University)

Robert Birch (Friends of Palestine, NSW)

Professor Raewyn Connell (University of Sydney)

Dr Gaik Cheng Khoo (Australian National University)

Dr Ned Curthoys (Australian National University)

Professor Ann Curthoys (University of Sydney)

Professor John Docker (University of Sydney)

Vicki Grieves (University of Sydney)

Professor Heather Goodall (University of Technology Sydney)

Rand Hazou

Dr. Evan Jones (University of Sydney)

Sonja Karkar (Australians for Palestine/Women for Palestine)

Zaid Khan (Lawyer – Aboriginal Legal Service NSW)

Dr Rick Kuhn (Australian National University)

Dr Robin Laycock,

La Trobe University

Antony Loewenstein, Sydney-based journalist and author.

Associate Professor Jake Lynch (Director, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney)

Peter Manning,

Adjunct Professor of Journalism,

University of Technology, Sydney.

Miriam Margolyes O.B.E.

Dr.Glen McConnell, the University of Melbourne.

Helen McCue

Dr Gideon Polya

Dr David Pritchard, The University of Queensland.

Lee Rhiannon, NSW Greens MP.

Dr Peter Slezak

University of New South Wales

Murray Smith of Trinity Gardens, South Australia.

Dr Bill Snowdon AM (Retired CSIRO Scientist)

Dr. Paul Tabar

Director of the Institute for Migration Studies

Lebanese American University

Dr. Kathryn Welch (University of Sydney)

Dr. Ron Witton (University of Wollongong)

Dr. Adel Yousif (Deakin University)

6 comments
  • George Theodoridis

    I agree wholeheartedly with your views and wish you all the best.

  • Janice Hinckfuss

    I was appalled to learn of the Australian delegation to Israel, led by none other than Ms Julia Gillard. How can we believe that our government is principled and interested in advancing social justice if it agrees to high level meetings with a country that only grants social justice to some of its citizens. A country that does not abide by United Nations resolutions, that seems to feel it is outside the code of conduct required of civilized democracies. I thank and applaud your writing the above letter. I too would like to condemn this visit in the strongest terms possible.

  • http://www.stephenlomas.com Stephen Lomas

    I am not so much appalled at this exchange as frustrated, angered & disappointed. I had hoped that with the demise of the Howard regime Australia was indeed about to evolve into something a little stronger, more compassionate & even handed. Seems our new government wishes to excell at little else than "more of the same."

    Can we add our signatures?

  • W Mg

    I agree, and more should be done to chastise government officials for ignoring the people who elected to govern, in the interest of all Australians, Countries such as Isreal should be punished and not acknowledged until they acknowledge Palestine and her borders before 1947..

  • g3

    1 world…our world…we are the people.

    let reason and diginity be lived across this orb

    THE stench of WAR made manifest by s0-called-LEADers

    *no longer valid.

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