Israeli Apartheid Week protest, Sydney, March 18 2018.
We’re standing today with millions of people in Palestine and around the world. Our demands are modest. We’re calling for the bare minimum that anyone committed to peace and justice should be demanding: an end to apartheid in Israel – now; the release of Ahed Tamimi and all Palestinian prisoners – now; and freedom for Palestine – now.
Our demonstrations have particular urgency. We’re not just about to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the crime of the foundation of the state of Israel, we’re also on the brink of a significant turning point in Israel’s entrenchment of apartheid.
It’ll demote the status of Arabic as an official language. It’ll officialize Jewishness as more important than democracy in Israeli law. It’ll step up the theft of land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. And it’ll give legal warrant to the establishment of Jewish-only residential communities.
If that doesn’t sound like apartheid, I’d like to know what does.
We’re used to Israel’s cynical propaganda about its ‘advanced’ and ‘tolerant’ democracy. That has a clear purpose: to mask the way it degrades and brutalizes Palestinians.
As people who live in Australia we understand very well how propaganda works. Our own politicians often use similar rhetoric to try to hide their violence against Aboriginal people and refugees, and their ferocious Islamophobia.
So we stand with all those groups today, because the demand for freedom for Palestine is also the demand for the freedom of all oppressed and exploited people everywhere.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has recently been expressing concern about far-right antisemitic activity here. We condemn antisemitism just like we condemn all forms of racism and discrimination.
But let no one be deluded: what Israel does to Palestinians is a shining beacon and inspiration for bigots and racists everywhere, and it’s appealed to by the very forces that ECAJ claims to oppose.
Let’s not forget that someone like the American alt-right guru Richard Spencer – a vicious white-supremacist, anti-semite and Islamophobe – describes himself as a ‘white Zionist’. Steve Bannon and other alt-right figureheads are regularly courted by the Zionist Organisation of America. Zionism and Jewish exceptionalism offer a powerful model for dangerous far-right ideologues like these.
Here in Australia, it makes sense that our government works hand in glove with the Israeli one, as one settler-colonial regime with another. Just a few months ago Turnbull signed a defence industry cooperation agreement with Netanyahou.
That defence cooperation makes Australia a direct contributor to the military apparatus that brutalizes Palestinians with checkpoints, ethnically targeted imprisonment, torture and murder, and with the periodic missile strikes that shatter the lives of ordinary people in Gaza while groups of Israeli spectators on the surrounding hills applaud at the explosions like Sydneysiders applaud at the New Year’s Eve fireworks.
And that brute force of laser-guided missiles and assault rifles goes hand in hand with crushing economic exploitation, grinding poverty, cascading power cuts, the denial of the most basic health care, all courtesy of Israel and its US sponsor. As Muhammad Smirny in Gaza put it the other day on Twitter, ‘The irony when your average income for a day is 1 dollar and you’re being bombed with 1 million dollars worth of an Israeli missile.’
So we can understand why it will take nothing short of a global intifada of people of goodwill, people who care about justice and peace, people who stand against racism, to bring this nightmare to an end.
That intifada is called BDS, and those of us in the staff BDS group at Sydney University will be continuing to do everything we can to stand with you and to advance the call for the boycott of Israel until Palestine is free. Long live Palestine.