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It Is High Time We Called Out the Injustices of Colonialism

As we debate the Voice, a modest but important symbol of recognition of the fact that Europeans have stolen land from the original owners, we might also pause to recognise that this month is the 75th anniversary of the dispossession of another people from their home.

We refer to the Palestinians who, in 1948, were also driven off their land. The state of Israel was created and today the Palestinians are still being terrorised by their colonial master, Israel.

It is time we called out colonialism, in all its guises, for what it is. Colonialism is always morally repugnant because the dignity of the colonised is completely undermined.

It is gross injustice always because the lands on which the colonialised have walked over centuries is stolen from them through the violence of the coloniser.

Seen in these terms – and how else can such a dynamic be viewed? – it is unconscionable that we continue to perpetuate injustice. It has to be said that those who oppose the Voice and those who support the policies of the Israeli government in oppressing the Palestinian people should be called out for what they are. They are people blind to equality and fairness; people who, in my opinion and in many cases, mount misleading arguments to justify what is inhumane.

The arguments against the Voice smack of sophistry and intellectual dishonesty. Those who oppose the idea of such constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australia have forgotten, or perhaps they never knew, the words of Atticus Finch, the white lawyer defending a black man in Harper Lee’s famous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it,” Atticus said.

This is surely an apt observation to remember when you step back and examine the lot of Indigenous Australians and the Palestinians. If you did follow Atticus’s advice then you could not be anything other than angered by the world as it is.

We know that the white persons’ justice system in Australia jails Indigenous people on an industrial scale. We witness racism daily throughout Australia and observe that, as a people, health, education and housing rights of Indigenous Australians are given lip service by politicians.

If we put ourselves in the shoes of Palestinians, there is the reality of check points and disproportionate responses to Palestinian violence by the Israeli military. And we know that supporters of the Palestinian cause are labelled anti-Semitic as the powerful Israel lobby in the West seeks to shut down criticism of its oppression of the people whose land they took in 1948.

As 1788 is the date on which the invasion of this land started, so it is that in May 1948, 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their land by Israeli forces. This time is often referred to by Arabs as “the Nakba”, an Arabic word meaning tragedy, disaster or catastrophe.

And the Nakba continues to this day. As Amnesty International puts it: “Entire Palestinian communities have been displaced by these settlements. Their homes and livelihoods have been destroyed, they’ve had restrictions enforced on their movement, access to their own water, land and other natural resources. The communities have also been violently attacked by the Israeli military and settlers.”

What needs to be called out are those in Australia who support the Voice but who remain silent on the suffering of Palestinian people. There are obvious links between the plight of the two peoples. But when do we read in the leftist Monthly or Saturday Paper, both owned by Melbourne property developer Morry Schwartz, an Israel supporter, any commentary linking the two injustices?

This is a point well made by Jewish activist and writer Em Hilton. Writing last year, Hilton observed that many Jewish organisations in Australia support the Voice and acknowledge country at their meetings. But she writes that while “it is important for Australian Jews to reflect on the ways they profit from the legacy and ongoing mechanisms of settler colonialism, and doing so marks a positive first step toward redressing the displacement of First Nations peoples, such gestures also present a troubling paradox: with the vast majority of communal organisations maintaining their commitment to Zionism, they are either silent on, or supportive of, Israel’s long-term … [policies in Palestine] which has vast parallels with Australia’s own colonial history.”

One might add perhaps those politicians who are pushing the Voice could reflect on their uncritical support of Israel. Does the intellectual dissonance not occur to them?

And finally if you think this is all a long way from Tasmania then you are wrong. Last week a pro-Israel group objected to the University of Tasmania hosting a lecture by a Palestinian lecturer. As always they labelled it “anti-Semitic’’, which is the Israel lobby’s way of shutting down any criticism of the appalling mistreatment of Palestinians.

Hobart barrister Greg Barns is a human rights lawyer who has advised state and federal Liberal governments.

Article link: https://todayspaper.themercury.com.au/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=2ffc1ad0-7f3e-4bd6-8b69-a32d0719399e
Article source: Hobart Mercury | Greg Barnes | 1.5.23

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

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