20 March '08
Letter sent to Kevin Rudd
View letter here
by Stewart Mills
15 March '08
For a Prime Minister who acknowledged recently the suffering of a displaced indigenous culture with his ‘sorry’ speech, it is disappointing Kevin Rudd could not extend the same acknowledgement specifically to the Palestinian people when he ‘lauded’ the creation of Israel 60 years ago – which resulted in 720,000 Palestinians having to leave their land, a disproportionate amount of Palestinian ‘bloodshed’ – and countless more refugees since then. It is unfortunate timing, that in the very same week, Israel continues to defy the UN Resolution and announced the resumption of the building of more Israeli settlements in the West Bank which will only further fragment the living conditions of the Palestinian people.
Yes, Israel is a democracy – but to call it as Brendan Nelson did “the custodian of .... the belief in the freedom of man, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly” shows a complete lack of understanding and awareness by our political leaders of the many oppressive and “undemocratic” policies and activities that Israel perpetuates to this day, affecting Palestinian Muslims and Palestinian Christians alike – which more than once, have been compared to South Africa’s state of apartheid by those who lived through it - such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and by active observers and writers on the topic such as former US President Jimmy Carter.
Bronte, NSW 2024
PS. On a personal note, I went and worked and lived in Israel for 5 months in 1990 after completing a university degree in Scotland. I went as your average apathetic apolitical backpacker, keen on a cheap working holiday and party-time in the sunshine. I worked on a moshav farm by the Sea of Galilee in the north, as a cleaner in the only orthodox Jewish holiday resort, and as a runner for a youth hostel at the border with Egypt near Eilat.
Although raised in a Christian family, I am not religious and feel that most institutionalised religions have caused more damage than good in the world. I knew diddly-squat about the history of Israel – I just knew that it gave working holiday visas to Aussies and I didn’t want to return to an Australian winter too soon.
Against the recommendations of my Israeli friends and with the encouragement of my fellow Western backpackers, I went and stayed in the Muslim quarter of Old Jerusalem and travelled by bus throughout the West Bank visiting various towns and historic sites. It was in those two places that I witnessed firsthand, events that open your eyes to how tragic the situation is for many Palestinians and although never condoning it, allow you some sense of understanding as to why they often react the way they do.
I stood aghast at the Gates of Damascus and various checkpoints throughout the city of old Jerusalem, watching the intimidation and patronisation of the Palestinian civilians by the Israeli soldiers as they went to work or their homes. Each night, I would walk the silent streets as the Intifada meant that all the shopkeepers closed their shops at sunset to silently protest the occupation of their land by Israeli forces. Nervously at first, I also experienced that famous Arab hospitality with lots of invites for cups of coffee in private homes, and was surprised at the pragmatic attitude they showed me to the situation they lived in – as in ‘yes we don’t like it, but we accept Israel won’t go away, so we now want peace and freedom in our own land.’ This did seem to be in stark contrast to much of the ‘we hate Arabs generally’ attitude my Israeli colleagues showed me – but I accept that the Palestinians I met, were obviously a lot more moderate than some of those we read about in the media who carry out the attacks from Gaza.
While walking around one day, I experienced a ghost town, as the Israeli authorities had stopped all Palestinians from entering old Jerusalem for 24 hours in response to a knife scuffle between an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian that had wounded the Israeli the day before. To put this into context as to how out of proportion this reaction was, imagine if a policeman was wounded in Eveleigh St in Redfern, the corresponding reaction would be to ban every single Aboriginal from entering, leaving or travelling around inner-city Sydney.
While on a bus travelling through the West Bank, I could not ignore the sight of the blatant building and expansion of the Israeli settlements and the incredible poverty of the Palestinian towns around those. Again, to use an analogy Australians would understand, every time an Israeli settlement is established in the Palestinian West Bank or in the Gaza Strip, it is like non-Aboriginals going and building whole suburbs on the Pitjantjara reservation in central Australia, without seeking permission from the local people and landowners. Obviously, this does not breed good relations.
These experiences made me study up on the creation of Israel, and look at the maps showing the erosion of the Palestinian land since Israel’s inception, and also to understand that for every one Israeli citizen that has been killed since the creation of Israel, thousands of Palestinians have also died in his/her place. It is a disproportionate amount, which is often not reported in the media but a life is a life, and it is a tragedy at how many lives from both sides have been lost and will continue to be lost in this conflict.
What many Australians don’t seem to know, is that the majority of Palestinians have tried and still try – peaceful ways to protest their situation – only to find that the normal diplomatic means are constantly confounded by Israel’s non-abidance of the UN Resolution that states for the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territories, and countries like the US previously vetoing UN proposed sanctions and countries like Australia turning a blind-eye to the human rights violations that Israel perpetuates, because it sees Israel as a “democracy”, “pro-Western”, and let’s face it, there is undercurrent racism that labels most Palestinians as a bunch of fundamentalist Muslim terrorists. When you see and hear first hand, the hopelessness and poverty that Palestinians face in places like Gaza and the West Bank, you unfortunately can also start to understand how they become breeding grounds for terrorism. As one Palestinian said “if you squeeze a cat hard enough, eventually it will scratch you”.
I wish wholeheartedly that the Palestinian factions that carry out their terrorist attacks on innocent Israeli citizens would stop immediately. It is barbaric and it achieves nothing towards a peaceful solution, and only allows justification and an ‘open cheque’ for the Israeli army to carry out systematic and retaliatory attacks which more often than not, kill too many innocent Palestinian civilians and other protestors (remember the American girl, Rachel Corrie in 2003 who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes).
For many years, not wanting to offend Jewish friends, I would not write letters or talk too much about my observations and experiences in Israel, as in the past, to condemn Israel’s actions was to find yourself fearful of being labelled anti-Semitic and nobody wants to be known as that. Now, however voices like Australian Jewish writer, Antony Loewenstein are being heard more loudly, expressing the same kind of concern I have about what is happening in Israel and to the Palestinians. For us it is not about the dominance of one religion, nor about ignoring horrific terrorist attacks on Israeli citizens – it’s about seeing injustice for what injustice is, and knowing that unless Israel stops its encroachment in the West Bank, and stops its inhumane tactics with controlling access and supplies to the Gaza Strip, then Israel will be remembered in history as another ‘apartheid’ regime, already made comparable with South Africa - by people such as Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela and former US President Jimmy Carter.
In the past, I couldn’t understand why many Israelis who’d experienced such horrendous inhumane experiences in the holocaust, would not be horrified at some of the human rights atrocities organisations like Amnesty International would report were being perpetuated by the Israeli government and its armed forces. A Jewish-Polish friend gave me some perspective when he compared it to a victim of child-abuse noting that often the ‘abused carry on the abuse’ and that when you have had your very survival threatened like the Jewish race did during the war, you will do anything to ensure you continue to survive - whatever that takes. Unfortunately, like Australia and previous policies involving our indigenous people, some of the tactics employed to ensure this survival, won’t be a good legacy for future generations of Israelis.
Dear Hon. Irwin
I read in the Age on the Parliament acknowledgement of the 60th anniversary of the Israel stateship and on your stand and that's the reason for my writing to you to show my appreciation of your action at the Parliament. The words raised such as, " - - - the only country adopting the Western Democracy in the Middle East - - - ", wouldn't fit in the reality over there and my question is why the Australian Government is obliged to ignore such a reality and give praise to Israel.
I see the conflict over there is an ethnic cleansing by Israelis of the Palestinian residents, taking away their land, homes, property and everything, and trying to eternally vanishing them out of their own and only land which is Palestine. I am puzzled why nobody call this conflict an "ethnic cleansing". What is the difference between Israeli Jews cleansing Palestinians out of their own land, the Serves under Slobodan Milošević cleansing Kosova Albanians and other non-Serve population of the ex-Yugoslavia, and even Hitler's regime cleansing Jews from Germany and other part of Europe? And the biggest question is why the world is closing its eyes and allowing Israelis cleansing Palestinians. The international journalism is reporting from the Middle East as if bad ones are Palestinians resisting Israelis cleansing them. What kind of resources do Palestinian resistant fighters have? Their society is bankrupt and they have only their bare hands while Israelis have the most powerful and modern military hardware on land, at sea and in the air, which they use to crush the resistance. The world strongest and most advance military force which is America, is right behind the Palestinian cleansing by the Israelis supplying to them their military needs.
This is my voice and I want my voice heard.
I wish you a very successful political career and I am to support you for your supporting the Palestinian causes. I would be happy if you put my name in your file so that you can contact me for support.
90 Sasses Ave., Bayswater
16 March 2008
Dear Mr Nelson,
I write to express my dismay at your recent support of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s motion to the House of Representatives to celebrate and commend the achievements of the State of Israel in its 60th anniversary year, when Israel has been the subject of over 100 UN resolutions condemning its policies and practices against the indigenous Palestinians. Israel’s acceptance into the United Nations was conditional on its acceptance of UN resolution 194, which called for the return of refugees – a right Israel has continued to deny to this day. Israel’s ongoing 40 year long illegal occupation of the remainder of Palestine is continuing the injustice of this original dispossession. Israel’s breaches of the Geneva conventions and violations of human rights conventions and UN resolutions and the continued colonisation of the territory it illegally occupies should have cautioned against supporting such a motion at this time.
While your speech made much of Israel being constantly embattled and struggling to defend its existence it showed absolutely no empathy for the dispossession, displacement and the illegal occupation of the Palestinians. They are also suffering a very real existential threat as Israel continues to illegally colonise the remaining land that is meant to constitute a viable Palestinian state. Israel’s repeated breach of its promised commitments of ceasing its illegal settlement building under the present peace negotiations is allowing it acquire more territory while scuttling any hopes of a just resolution to the conflict. These very acts and Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s very public assertions that settlements will continue point to Israel acting in bad faith in the current negotiations and completely undermines the two-state solution that both the opposition and our current government are supposedly committed to supporting.
Nobody is denying the wrong done to the Jewish people by the very real racist anti-Semitism that saw pogroms in Europe and which culminated in the horrifying Holocaust but this does not justify ignoring Israel’s culpability in denying Palestinians their inalienable rights and its direct role in dispossessing them of their land and resources and the very real suffering that is being caused by this illegal occupation and Israel’s policies of collective punishment.
Australia has a responsibility to the Palestinian people precisely because it voted for the partition of historic Palestine, which saw them dispossessed of their land and denied their inalienable rights to self-determination in their homeland. The UN Partition was in contradiction to the UN Charter of Human Rights and was, and is, the direct root cause of the Israel/Palestine conflict. In order to right a wrong done to the Jewish people another wrong and injustice was created for the Palestinian people. This injustice was never made right and was further aggravated by allowing Israel to continue its illegal occupation and colonisation of the remaining 22% of Palestine and condoning its human rights abuses that have accompanied this illegal occupation and which have been well documented by every reputable Human Rights group organization.
To celebrate Israel and commend it as a state that has a commitment to democracy, the Rule of Law and pluralism is premature given its record of racial discrimination against its own non-Jewish Arab citizens, its denial of the right of return to Palestinian refugees and its ongoing human rights abuses against the Palestinian population it illegally occupies. Until Israel abides by international law, the Geneva conventions and is no longer in breach of UN resolutions, that actively deny Palestinians their most basic human rights it should not be singled out as a state that upholds these values when for one group of people – the Palestinians, it most demonstrably does not.
One has to ask why after 60 years of denying Palestinians justice both sides of Parliament felt it necessary to honour Israel in this way, when this has never occurred on previous milestones since Israel inception. While I hope one day to feel Israel is deserving of this special honour, I cannot at this point in time accept that it is so, for the reasons I have just outlined. You, as Leader of the Opposition, had the opportunity to take the government to task on even suggesting such an improper motion in the House of Representatives. Instead it was left to the very courageous and lone voice of someone in your own party, Susan Ley, to point out the anomaly of the motion when Israel’s “settlement expansion continues” and “Gaza is besieged, contained and on the brink of starvation” and the “crushing economic embargo feeds fury and resentment”. She at least acknowledged the need for the leaders of this generation to be accountable for the results of the present peace negotiations. Without proper debate of all the issues and the political will to call Israel to account we will indeed be handing on to the next generation “a twisted mess of grievance, hatred and retribution” and it will be both the people of Israel and the Palestinians who will continue to suffer.
Dear Mr Rudd,
Your motion in parliament to celebrate Israel’s 60 years of statehood, which totally ignored the effects and ongoing injustice that this represents for the dispossessed and displaced Palestinian people, was surprising and extremely disappointing given your most recent courageous and principled stance on offering an official apology to our own indigenous people. Celebrating Israel’s statehood when Israel continues to be in breach of international law and human rights conventions and continues its colonial expansion into the illegally occupied Palestinian territories, which actively prolongs this injustice, indicates a very pro-Israel stance on the Israel/Palestine issue – one on which your government promised a return to an even-handed approach.
While Australia did have a hand in voting for the partition of Palestine in order to create a sovereign state for the Jewish people this was done without consultation and against the wishes of the majority indigenous Arab population that had inhabited the land of historic Palestine for centuries and who under international law have patrimony rights to that land. This vote was against the United Nation’s own charter, which should have recognised the rights of the indigenous Arab population to self-determination in their homeland. It was this original injustice, which failed to safeguard the rights of the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine, and for which Australia also bears some responsibility, that is the root cause of the conflict that continues to this day. It in effect created another wrong in order to make up for the wrong that was inflicted on the Jewish people through the holocaust. This wrong was made worse by Israel’s subsequent illegal occupation of the remainder of Palestine, which actively fuels the conflict to this day.
That Israel should be so singled out for praise when it is so actively continuing to dispossess and displace the Palestinian people through its ongoing illegal and brutal occupation is indefensible. This is not an injustice of the past for which the current Israeli government is not directly responsible. It is an ongoing injustice, which is seeing the fragmentation of the Palestinian people, through the denial of their most basic human rights and freedoms and the outright theft of their land and resources, against all the safeguards of international law, Geneva conventions and UN resolutions, put in place to prevent these injustices from occurring. Your speech and celebration of Israel’s achievements completely ignored this fact and the effect it is having in decimating Palestinian society.
To uphold an adherence to the two state solution as evidence of your government’s even-handedness in this conflict is frankly disingenuous when it is well known that Israel continues and even escalates its illegal settlements and land confiscations, in clear violation of its commitments to the peace process. Not only are the facts Israel is creating on the ground undermining the very peace talks it says it is embracing, but it fuels the conflict and is against international law and is a clear violation of the binding UN resolutions and the Geneva conventions. It also means that there is no viable two state solution, which could properly and fairly be offered to the Palestinian people because of what Israel is doing. Israel’s other human rights violations are well known and well documented and numerous reports of their effects on the Palestinian people have been submitted by every reputable Human Rights group organizations. Even the World Bank, the European Union, the Quartet and other NGOs that are seeking to find a peaceful resolution and/or deliver aid to the suffering Palestinian population concede Israel’s blockade, siege and denial of freedom of movement is devastating the Palestinian people and unhelpful to ending the conflict.
It is clear without sufficient international pressure and peace negotiations that are conducted within the framework of international law the situation will continue to deteriorate. While Israel enjoys the support of the world’s dominant superpower and its allies, who are apparently prepared to turn a blind eye and thereby condone Israel’s violations, it will not have any reason to change. In such an asymmetrical conflict it also means any solution will inevitably favour Israel at the expense of the Palestinians. This position is not inconsistent with our professed priority and values of upholding the rule of law and it is rewarding a state that should be admonished for its illegal actions in the interests of reducing conflict and furthering justice and peace in our world.
While the original wrong that caused the ethnic cleansing of over 80 per cent of the indigenous population of Palestine, the destruction of over 530 villages and eleven towns emptied of their inhabitants has still not been acknowledged, apologised for or redressed, the injustice against the Palestinian people actively continues with the 40 year long illegal occupation of the remaining 22% of Palestine. This is against UN resolution 242, which was unanimously adopted and reaffirmed on numerous occasions. To celebrate Israel as a democracy when it is militarily occupying another people is misguided and sends the wrong signals on how this conflict should be justly resolved. I sincerely hope that this is not an indication of your governments promised even-handedness but an aberration that will be rectified.
14 March 2008
Dear Prime Minister,
This is question you, both as our local MP and Prime Minister need to answer, and answer honestly and publicly.
Why did you permit and facilitate the take over of the Australian Parliament on 12th March 2008 to provide pubic support for a violent partisan cause?
You and your colleagues in the ALP must have been aware that this was a contentious issue, and also (especially with your background in Foreign Affairs) that Israel is in breach of numerous UN Security Council resolutions, most particularly UNSC 242. You must also be aware of the violence and oppression being visited on the Palestinian people every day by the Israeli military - violence far exceeding in scale the much smaller attacks against Israeli citizens by Palestinians resisting the Israeli assault. An assault, whose most recent excesses have been condemned by the UN and EU, and which many possibly most Israeli citizens do not support.
So why, why does your new government ignore all this and publicly honour the Zionist state that is responsible for these crimes, and do this in the heart of the Australian Parliament? And further, so arrange matters that no dissenting voice can be heard? This is both an abuse of your powers as Prime Minister and a fundamentally anti-democratic action.
There will be, we trust, many good and worthwhile things that your government will do during its term in office. But the public support you and your government have provided for continuing Israeli crimes of violence against the Palestinian people will be a sin that is not likely to be forgotten, whatever the government's other achievements.
Dr Sean Foley
Dear Mr Rudd,
It is with deep regret, disapointment and a sense of betrayal that by your actions in Parliament this Wednesday you seek to honour Israel's 60 years of independance, granted without consultation with the indigenous population and founded on the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent Palestinians. To me, this leaves your profession of faith, a faith inextricably linked to acts of justice and compassion, regard for truth and respect for human rights, and your proclaimed admiration for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a sham. Shame on you Mr Rudd.
Reverend Helen Cox
Wattle Glen 3906
I cannot believe that you are still going ahead with congratulating a murderous genocidal country like Israel, officially in OUR (not privately yours) Parliament. I don't know why you are doing it and how you can justify such an action. It proves to me beyond doubt that you have double standards. Like so many others you clearly prefer to keep blinkers on and pretend either that you don't know what is going on there, or that it's not as bad as it seems. Either way this is terrible for a head of state.
Your timing could not have been more off, when Israel has just been rampaging, bombing and shelling Gaza for weeks. And this is just the surface description of what is happening. There is daily torture, destruction of property, deliberate maiming, coercing Palestinians to inform on their own people, spying on them, controlling every aspect of their lives, starving them of basic necessities and medical help. Need I go on?
Today you are turning all Australians into collaborators in the genocide that is unfolding before us. Moreover, your action today makes your famous apology to Australian Aboriginies (many of who support the Palestinians) seem hollow.
By the time you and so many others wake up to reality it will be too late for the Palestinians. Shame on you Mr Rudd for being nothing more than just another sheep in the international herd of Israeli supporters. I wonder. Is it Jewish money donated to the Labor party? Or do you genuinely not care about what Israel is doing? Either way, it does not portray you in a positive light in the eyes of so many Australians, who are appalled by what Israel is getting away with.
I am a former Israeli myself, and an ex Staff Sergeant in the Israeli army, as I explained in a previous email to you. I do not speak as an antisemite or a hater of Israel. My entire family lives there. Whatever happens there hurts them too. Still, like Ilan Pappe (www.ilanpappe.org <http://www.ilanpappe.org> ) and other Israelis and ex-Israelis I speak up because it is immoral and criminal to stand by while the Palestinians are dying.
I am so disappointed but the truth is that we, the ordinary people have come to expect very little from politicians. You are really there for yourselves and for your own glory. You create the appearance of paying attention to deep issues but you do not have the character required to do the right thing when it is time to take the side of the victim.
Shame on you for today's motion in Parliament. It is another propaganda win for Israel who sees acts like your motion today as endorsement of its genocidal policy against the Palestinians and a green light to continue uninterrupted. Just remember that Israel's charter is and always has been, to create a safe haven for ALL Jews. They need all the land but without the people, and they are doing whatever they can to achieve precisely that, no matter what the human cost is. Israel sees only itself and no one else. If you can so publicly and officially support the ghetto mentality that Israel is using in Gaza and the partial Annexation of the West Bank, I no longer support you.
Avigail Abarbanel ACT
As our MP for Griffith the public positions you take need to take into account the preferences of the citizens that elected you. As Prime Minster for Australia, the positions the government takes also need to reflect the citizens of Australia, not just a small section of that citizenry. These points are especially important when the issue at stake concerns human rights and ethics.
It took from 1788 to 1993 - 205 years - for the ideology of Terra Nullius to be declared null and void - named and shamed for underpinning the continuing violation of the rights of indigenous Australians it facilitated. It took another 15 years before the Government of Australia - the new Labor Government - rightly made an apology for the violence, humiliation and suffering that Terra Nullius had been used to justify.
Sixty years ago Terra Nullius was declared by a small group of invaders in another corner of the world - Palestine. The Zionists who made this declaration have since then perpetrated much the same kind of violence, humiliation and suffering on the indigenous inhabitants as had occurred in Australia since 1788. Every form of dispossession and oppression imaginable - a continuing al-Nakba - of crimes against humanity committed in full public view.
Quite rightly Australia has done away with Terra Nullius and apologised for the suffering and violations of rights it caused in our own land. Having done this here, and only so recently, it beggars belief that the government, and especially you as a public Christian, MP for Griffith and Prime Minister, would celebrate and support the continuation of Terra Nullius against another people - the Palestinians.
To be consistent you either need to abandon your planned parliamentary vote in support of the Zionist ideology of Terra Nullius used to establish Israel in the land of the Palestinians, or revive Terra Nullius and all its horrors in Australia.
I'm sure you are aware of the contradictions inherent in the position your government plans to take. I am also sure you do not want to turn the clock back to Terra Nullius in Australia. The solution is to abandon your personal and the government's support for Terra Nullius in Palestine.
Dr Sean Foley