I rise to mark the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The Greens recognise the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination and a future built on peace, dignity, justice and security.
In Palestine, as you travel from town to town and move along crowded roads, from time to time you look across to see other, faster-moving, more modern roads cutting through areas that make up the lands widely recognised as forming part of Palestine. But Palestinians are not allowed on these roads. Similarly, you visit refugee camps, as I did, where people tell you of their families forced from their own homes a few decades ago, and, even though these homes are still standing, in some instances kilometres away, their families were never allowed to return, and nor are the people still living in camps. You go to universities and you hear that basic things that we take for granted here, like people being able to get to class on time, are regularly disrupted because a student coming to sit their exam, say, has been stopped at another checkpoint and delayed for hours—a checkpoint that sits in the middle of their homeland but is not controlled by them.
As an Australian, you see water tanks on the roofs of Palestinian flats and houses and think it's about collecting falling rainwater, but then the locals tell you it is so that they can scavenge some water on the day that it's flowing to their towns, because it may not be flowing to them the next day, when they want to cook or clean, because their water system is not controlled by them.
All people have the right to peace, justice and freedom, and we want to see those rights valued equally for all. But, for decades, Palestinians have lived under occupation, and they are denied these rights. Israelis are entitled to their own state and to live in peace and security, but so too are Palestinians. Australia should recognise Palestine and advocate meaningfully for an end to the occupation, including ceasing the expansion of settlements and ending the Gaza blockade so that Palestinians and Israelis can live in a just and lasting peace.
Peace also means supporting civil society, democracy and transparency, but a few short weeks ago, according to Human Rights Watch, the Israeli government:
… issued a military order declaring six Palestinian civil society organizations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to be "terrorist organizations."
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, in a joint statement, said:
This decision is an alarming escalation that threatens to shut down the work of Palestine's most prominent civil society organizations.
UN special rapporteurs issued a statement noting:
Silencing their voices [the voices of human rights advocates] is not what a democracy adhering to well-accepted human rights and humanitarian standards would do. We call upon the international community to defend the defenders.
Statements of solidarity have come from human rights organisations in Israel and from around the world. The European Union, importantly, has seen the alleged evidence and has chosen to continue to fund these organisations. Here in Australia we support the statement signed by 70 organisations, including unions and faith, legal and human rights organisations, calling on the Australian government to condemn the move. As UN special rapporteurs and the International Commission of Jurists have said, the Israeli government should immediately review and reverse its decision.
On this day I also note the case of Mr El Halabi, Gaza's World Vision manager, who was arrested in 2016 and, after 50 days in Israeli state detention, was charged with diverting aid funding, which he strongly denies. Since he was arrested, World Vision has commissioned a forensic audit, which found no evidence of diversion of funds. An investigation by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade failed to show any evidence that the money was diverted. We support the call from UN special rapporteurs that Mr El Halabi should be given a fair trial or else released immediately.
Marking the international day, I pay tribute to the sumud, or steadfast perseverance, of the Palestinian people and offer our support to get Australia to push for a just and lasting peace.