On the 23rd September, 2014, politics lecturer Dr Marcelo Svirsky from the University of Woollongong set off on foot for Canberra to bring a petition for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel 287 kilometres from concerned Australian citizens to the attention of Parliament.
Federal Member for Fremantle, Melissa Parke took a principled position and broke from the mainstream ALP to present and support the petition in the House of Representatives on the 27th October.
“There comes a time when injustices have so mounted up that plain speaking becomes a duty …”
Parke counters the ubiquitous Israeli hasbara which wrongfully invokes antisemitism against BDS and its advocates.
“It is not antisemitic to protest injustice.”
She concludes by commending Dr. Svirsky for his courageous walk and brave stand.
TRANSCRIPT OF MP MELISSA PARKE’S FULL SPEECH:
Petition: Middle East
Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (21:00):
‘What I am to say today will likely not be popular in this place or indeed in the wider community. However, there comes a time when the injustices have so mounted up that plain speaking becomes a duty. This year is the UN International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. However, despite overwhelming support within the international community for a Palestinian state and for an end to the Israeli occupation and settlement building, as well as the blockade of Gaza, there has not been any positive change for Palestinians on the ground. Rather, recent events have left more than 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza dead and thousands more injured, while more than a million Palestinians—who are a proud, educated and enterprising people—are dependent on food aid and there is a massive damage bill to be picked up again by the international community. Meanwhile settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem continues apace, each build putting a further nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.
We know that violence is not the solution. We affirm that the rockets fired from Gaza into Israel are an illegal response to Israel’s actions. But it does beg the question: what then is the alternative to the vicious cycle of bloodshed we have witnessed in recent months? What is a legal and justified response to actions by Israel that the international community agrees are illegal? In my view, non-violent means of protest are and must be seen as legitimate. It is notable that both Israel and the US approve of boycotts and sanctions against other states such as Iran and Brunei, so why is it objectionable to boycott a state that is, among other things, committing repeated, grave violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention as Israel does with its illegal settlements?
I now present a petition delivered to me by University of Wollongong academic and former Israel soldier, Dr Marcelo Svirsky, following his completion of a 10-day walk over 300 kilometres from Sydney to Canberra to draw the attention of the House to the plight of the Palestinian people and requesting the government to honour its obligations under international law.
The petition read as follows—
To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives
This petition of citizens and residents of Australia draws to the attention of the House the critical predicament of the Palestinian People in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza under Israeli occupation since 1967 and of the Palestinian citizens of Israel suffering racial discrimination since 1948.
Notwithstanding UN resolutions condemning Israel’s policies as illegal, Israel continues violating international law and human rights, expanding its colonies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, imposing a siege on Gaza, and persisting in apartheid and oppressive actions, policies and legislation towards the Palestinian people under its control.
As a response to the failure of all forms of diplomacy to change Israel’s policies, in 2005 the Palestinian Civil Society called upon the world to impose on Israel initiatives of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) until Israel meets its obligation to end all forms of occupation; dismantles the illegal ‘Separation Wall’ in the West Bank; ceases the siege on Gaza; implements full equality for its Palestinian citizens; and honours the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.
WE THEREFORE ASK THE HOUSE to instruct the Australian Government to fully and consistently honour its obligations under international law by excluding relations, through boycott, divestment and sanctions, with states, institutions and companies – Australian, Israeli or other – that are involved in the perpetuation of apartheid and discriminatory Israeli policies including the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
from 701 citizens.
Ms PARKE: The petition asks the government to exclude relations through boycott, divestment and sanctions with states, institutions and companies that are involved in the perpetuation of discriminatory Israeli policies, including the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
The BDS campaign has received an enormous amount of negative press in Australia, much of which is undeserved. I am not seeking to validate all of the actions that have occurred in the name of BDS, because it can mean different things to different people. However, I do wish to dispel some of the misunderstandings around the official BDS campaign, including that its supporters are anti-Semitic and intent on the destruction of Israel. That is not the case; it is not anti-Semitic to protest injustice. And as noted by Peter Slezak writing in New Matilda:
… BDS is directed against many non-Jewish, non-Israeli companies such as Veolia, G4S and Caterpillar, which are profiting from the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
The US organisation Jewish Voice for Peace has observed that ‘BDS is a viable democratic and non-violent response to the horrific policies of the state of Israel against Palestinians’.
Richard Falk, Professor of International Law at Princeton and a former UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Territories, has said that the ‘BDS movement provides a hopeful way of writing the future history of Palestine in the legal and moral language of rights, rather than the bloody deeds of warfare’. Nobel Peace Prize and Sydney Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said:
If we had not struggled so hard in the anti apartheid movement, Nelson Mandela would have died in jail. The Boycott Divestment Sanctions Movement is as important as the anti apartheid struggle. I urge you all to support it.
In July this year 17 European Union countries warned their citizens against engagement in business deals or investing in the illegal Israeli settlements or with bodies connected to them in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The European warnings described the settlements as ‘illegal under international law’, warning that ‘individuals or companies who engage in any economic deals with them could face legal and financial risks and harm their image’.
As said by Philip Gordon, the White House coordinator for the Middle East, in early July:
How will [Israel] have peace if it is unwilling to delineate a border, end the occupations and allow for Palestinian sovereignty, security, and dignity?
… it cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely. Doing so is not only wrong but a recipe for resentment and recurring instability.
As I have said on other occasions, the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinians is a source of distress and frustration for millions of people around the world, especially people from Muslim and Arab countries, and it is a powerful recruitment tool for extremist groups. If we are genuinely concerned about national and global security as well as international justice, we, along with other nations, including the US, should be insisting that Israel do its part to lay the groundwork for peace by, among other things, ending its illegal occupation, settlement construction and the Gaza blockade. Until this happens, BDS is a perfectly acceptable form of protest and I congratulate Dr Marcelo Svirsky for his courageous walk and his brave stand.’