BDS Australia is pleased to host this important forum featuring Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) co founder, Omar Barghouti with key First Nations and Palestinian Australian speakers discussing the shared experience of dispossession, state-based discrimination and racism and how to counter it.
OMAR BARGHOUTI – Palestinian writer and founding member of the BDS campaign AMY MCQUIRE – Darumbal and South Sear Islander journalist and academic DR RANDA ABDEL-FATTAH – Palestinian author, academic and former lawyer PROFESSOR TONY BIRCH – Indigenous Australian author, academic and activist HIBA FARRA, Moderator – Palestinian lawyer and activist
BDS Australia condemns the recent violence against students and human rights defenders at York University in Canada. BDS Australia is a coalition of 12 Australian pro-Palestine associations, dedicated to informing and raising awareness in the Australian community in support of a just peace for the Palestinian people.
On 20 November 2019, Canadian human rights activists, students and others were protesting against the presence of former and current Israeli soldiers at York University’s Toronto campus when members of the Israeli lobby violently attacked and assaulted them. The Israeli soldiers were brought to campus by the right-wing Canadian branch of the Israeli organization called Herut. The students protested peacefully and we understand they were assaulted by the members of Jewish Defence League while the university security and police failed to protect them.
BDS Australia stands with activists from Canada and elsewhere internationally to unconditionally reject the assertion that protesting Israeli apartheid and Israeli violations of human rights and international law in relation to Palestine, is antisemitic.
We stand in solidarity with the Canadian students, staff, and others including progressive Jewish Israelis in the struggle against Israeli apartheid and Israel’s ongoing grave violations of international law.
We note that bogus claims of antisemitism against supporters of free and equal rights in international law for all Palestinians are disingenuous and a cynical attempt to discredit the ongoing international condemnation of Israel for its longstanding brutal and illegal colonization of Palestinian land and, oppression of Palestinians.
Dr Abu Sitta is an author, scholar and commentator. He has meticulously documented the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe). No-one can speak more authoritatively than he on that momentous event’s impact on the Palestinian people, nor on how to remedy the more than 70 years of the dispossession of their lands and the loss of their rights to self-determination and freedom.
Salman Abu Sitta was born in Palestine in 1937, not far from Beersheba. As a schoolboy when Israel was established in 1948, he was forced, with his family, to move from home to the Gaza Strip. He was educated in Palestine, Cairo and (at university) in London. Abu Sitta is a former member of the Palestinian National Council, the general coordinator of the Right of Return Congress. Abu Sitta is also the founder and President of the Palestine Land Society, London, dedicated to the documentation of Palestine’s land and people. Website www.plands.org.
He is the author of six books on Palestine including the compendium Atlas of Palestine 1917- 1966, English and Arabic editions, the Atlas of the Return Journey in Arabic, English and Hebrew and over 300 papers and articles on the Palestinian refugees, the Right of Return, history of al Nakba and human rights.
His most well known book is the “Mapping my Return: A Palestinian Memoir” which had strong reviews internationally. Dr Abu Sitta is active in many academic, legal and human rights groups.
EDITOR: Disappointingly the editor of Australian Jewish News has so far refused to publish Professor Falk’s point-by-point refutation of the allegations made in AJN last week, so we publish it here:
The article starts by reporting ‘concerns’ over my visit to Australia in response to speaking invitations in Sydney this July to address Israel/Palestine relations. At the outset I should say that my true position has always been to identify the conditions for peace between the two peoples. What has made my views controversial in the more militant pro-Israeli circles is my contention that a sustainable peace as distinct from a ceasefire depends on respect for Palestinian rights and an end to Israeli violations of international law. In my reports to the UN for the six years I served in this unpaid UN post, I attempted to do this in an objective, fact-based manner sensitive to the application of international legal norms. When I began my term as Special Rapporteur I made a formal appeal to extend my mandate to cover Palestinian violations of international human rights law, but this effort was rejected by the Human Rights Council after considerable debate by governmental representatives.
As for the specific allegations in the article, let me respond as best I can from a remote location far from my office. First of all, I have never ‘endorsed’ conspiracy theories, the allegation undoubtedly referring to my very limited writing about the 9/11 attacks on the United States. It is true that I wrote a favorable foreword to David Ray Griffin’s first book on the subject, A New Pearl Harbor, but it is also true that the book raises 17 questions that were at the time unanswered in the official account of the attacks, and deserved to be answered convincingly to put doubts to rest. It should be appreciated that Griffin, a close friend, is a distinguished professor of religious philosophy who is a founder of ‘process theology’ along with his academic colleague John Cobb. In subsequent commentary on my blog and in journalistic pieces I repeated in various ways that valid suspicions remain about the official version of the 9/11 attacks, but I have never supported conspiracy theories that offer alternative versions as to what happened. To plead for a removal of suspicion is not to allege ‘conspiracy,’ although when such suspicions are not removed, further doubts naturally emerge, but in the spirit of skepticism not an instance of conspiracy thinking.
It is true, especially while serving in an unpaid position in the UN as Special Rapporteur, I was accused of being ‘anti-Semitic’ or a ‘self-hating Jew’ guilty of spreading anti-Jewish ‘tropes,’ but these accusations came from similar sources as this defamatory article. Although frequently a critic of the behavior of states, especially from the perspective of international law and morality, I have never directed my criticism at the ethnicity or religious identity of any people, including of course, Jews. In this vein I have been critical of Israel for its state policies as I have been of many other governments, including my own. I have consistently affirmed my Jewish identity, and it is a nasty slur to suggest otherwise or to merge my criticisms of Israel with anti-Semitic attitudes. Those that do so never examine the reasonableness of arguments contending that Israel is guilty of serious violations of international humanitarian law.
The article in the Australia Jewish News also refers to my contention that Israel subjugates the Palestinian people in a manner that violates the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. This conclusion emerged in the course of a jointly authored contract academic study commissioned by the UN Economic and Social Council for West Asia (ESCWA). The study reached this conclusion on the basis of available evidence, but makes no claim of being legally authoritative. It was removed from the ESCWA website on instructions from the UN Secretary General after representatives of Israel and the United States demanded the repudiation of the report, and threatened dire consequences if this was not done. It is notable that the head of ESCWA at the time, Rima Khalaf, resigned in principle rather than follow the SG’s instruction. It seems relevant to note that the Report was never ‘repudiated’ by the UN and in fact received the endorsement of member governments of ESCWA.
Three additional allegations warrant a brief explanation. First, a 2007 article called ‘Slouching Toward a Holocaust in Palestine’ was a journalistic statement of concern about Israel’s practices toward the civilian population of Gaza, with particular reference to reliance on tactics that seemed fairly described as ‘collective punishment,’ which is unconditionally prohibited by an occupying power in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention covering ‘belligerent occupation,’ and a mainstay of international humanitarian law. The piece made an admittedly provocative reference to collective punishment of German Jews in Hitler’s Germany. It was meant to be a shocking reference, a wakeup call that sought to encourage a more humane and legally appropriate approach to the civilian population of Gaza, long denied basic rights. It was not meant as a comparison of Nazi and Israeli orientations, but I admit that it could be so interpreted, and was for that reason, perhaps, an inappropriate way to express my position.
Secondly, the posting of an anti-Semitic cartoon. Unlike the article, this was a complete mistake that was the result of an accidental oversight on my part. As implied in the article, the cartoon has nothing to do with Israel. It was concerned with the American opportunistic influence exerted over the International Criminal Court in The Hague, illustrated by its actions against Gaddafi in conjunction with the NATO operation in Libya in 2013. As I have explained many times, when posted I never noticed its anti-Semitic character because the image of the Jew was so small on the Google image page as to seem indecipherable and irrelevant. When this was brought to my attention the cartoon was immediately removed from the blog, and if the text of the post is read it makes no reference whatsoever to Jews or mentions Israel. The bad faith of critics such as the author of this derogatory article was demonstrated by completely ignoring my explanations, and even more so by widely disseminating a greatly enlarged version of the cartoon that tries to convey the impression that it was impossible for me not to have known of its anti-Semitic content when I posted the cartoon.
Thirdly, my comments at the time in reaction to the official coverage of the Boston Marathon terrorist event, which attracted some prominent criticism. Let me say that my point was simple and banal, and made by many others without evoking such angry reactions. I suggested that American foreign policy in the Middle East, with particular reference to Israel, was bound to have reverberations, including inducing extremists and disturbed persons to engage violently. I think this is a fact, borne out by experience of such sociopathic behavior. I denounced the terrorist violence of the Boston Marathon bombing at the time and never suggested that the U.S. change its policies in response. In this sense, my comments were torn from context to create effects never intended by me.
Finally, the article refers to several high-profile public officials, including the UN Secretary General at the time, who repeated such allegations, criticizing my views and behavior. As far as I know all of these allegations followed upon letter writing campaigns that repeated the insults, distortions, and defamatory remarks of this article, often organized by UN Watch, an NGO operating out of Geneva known for such tactics as ways of discrediting anyone voicing serious criticisms of Israeli state policy. When I inquired about the SG’s remarks to his chief assistant, he sheepishly acknowledged that ‘we didn’t do due diligence,’ which is UN-speak for admitting that my piece on which the denunciation was based was never read.
My professional life was mainly devoted to scholarship and teaching, the core of which was as a faculty member at Princeton University where I spent forty years as a professor of international law. I repeat in conclusion what I expressed at the outset. My entire career has been devoted to work for peace with justice at home and abroad, including in many settings apart from Israel/Palestine. To suggest otherwise is a clear example of character assassination.
We are Australians, some of Palestinian background, some Jewish, and all for universal and equal human rights, who support the Palestinian call for artists, sportspeople, and others to boycott Israel until indigenous Palestinians win back their equal human rights, rights denied them since 1948 when the new Israeli state used military force and terror to expel 700,000 Palestinians, and have denied them the right to return or redress ever since.
We see that you intend to perform two concerts in Binyamina in Israel in July. We ask you to reconsider this in the light of the increasingly well-known and well-supported boycott that began in 2005. A very long list of artists have done the right thing by Palestinian people, and given your well-established progressive credentials and lyrics, especially with regard to indigenous people worldwide, we strongly hope that you will do the same and place yourself on the right side of history and not perform in Israel.
The Israeli state has ignored repeated calls to adhere to international legal and human rights norms, steadfastly refusing to end its illegal 52-year occupation of the West Bank and its 11-year blockade of two million civilians in Gaza.
Prominent international musicians/acts who have endorsed the call from Palestinian civil society to boycott or who have cancelled concerts because of the boycott call include Stevie Wonder, Annie Lennox, Roger Waters, Wolf Alice, Tom Morello, Elvis Costello, Lauryn Hill, Brian Eno, Massive Attack, Faithless, Sinead O’Connor, Souad Massi and Lorde. There are many others.
Prominent Australians who supported the recent campaign to boycott Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv include musician Nick Seymour, comedian Tom Ballard, musician L-FRESH The LION, actor Colin Friels, artist and performer Candy Bowers, commentator Helen Razer, former face of SBS Mary Kostakidis, and contemporary Aboriginal artist Blak Douglas.
We are very happy to organise a briefing for you and your team at any time and via any medium. We will connect you with Palestinians living in Australia so you can hear from them about the awful apartheid situation for Palestinians and why peaceful boycott, divestment and sanctions is the best way to advance the cause of Palestinians’ equal human rights, just as it was for indigenous South Africans in the apartheid era that ended with free elections and a new constitution in 1994, culminating in Nelson Mandela becoming president.
There are many more facts we could add to elaborate, but will keep it to these: Since May last year the Israel army has shot and killed more than 200 Palestinian refugees inside Gaza. Another 1700 young Gazans are facing amputation, mainly of their legs, due to Israeli sniper attacks, among the 7000 indigenous Palestinians shot by Israeli snipers in the last year as they protest to end the blockade and to not be refugees forever.
We look forward to your engagement with this life and death human rights issue and otherwise wish you very well with your summer northern hemisphere tour.
In good faith and in support of universal equal human rights,
Palestinians have a right to resist the Israeli occupation, including the illegal and brutal 11-year blockade of Gaza. The living situation for the 2 million Palestinians in Gaza is terrible and getting worse.
We stand in solidarity with the Great March of Return protestors who every Friday assemble at the fence and demand equal human rights with the Israelis on the other side. These young people refuse to be trapped in the open air prison created by the Israeli government and abetted by the Egyptian dictatorship. They refuse to be refugees forever.
Rocket attacks against civilians are illegal and ineffective. There is no military solution for Palestinians. Israel – backed by massive funding from the USA – has overwhelming conventional dominance. Israeli civilians – like Palestinian civilians – must never be targeted. Despite this legal prohibition, civilians in Gaza have repeatedly been attacked by the Israeli army, with about 1,500 killed in Israel’s 7-week bombardment of Gaza in 2014.
The refusal of Palestinians to meekly play the part of the conquered, by protesting for equality and dignity, whether in Gaza, the West Bank or increasingly within Israel, is inevitable. Palestinians have never accepted the cruel deal imposed on them in 1947-48. They have always resisted the occupation and the stunting of their lives and those of their children.
Our solidarity through peaceful, targeted, determined BDS campaigning is removing the cloak of legitimacy that once allowed the Israeli state to promote the myth that Palestinians did not exist and that Israel was a normal society. Social media allows Palestinians at home and throughout the diaspora to speak for themselves and demand the right to return home.
With Israeli elections just weeks away it suits Netanyahu to be seen as a strongman. But whichever chauvinist wins the election the situation for Palestinians will remain desperate and international solidarity remains vital.
We urge people to join Land Day rallies on this Saturday 30 March to commemorate the first anniversary of the beginning of the Great March of Return actions in Gaza.
This website is maintained by BDS Australia, which is affiliated with the coalition of Palestinian organisations that leads and supports the BDS movement and by the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a BNC member organisation.