Parliament: Parliamentary Initiatives

Palestine Motion

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I would like to briefly add my position on this important motion, which will echo many of the sentiments that other members have already given. As we debate the clauses of this motion and any amendments that have been put forward calling on the council to petition the commonwealth to join with most of the rest of the international community to recognise the statehood of the long-suffering people of Palestine, I wish, as the member of the Dignity Party in this place, to make a heartfelt appeal to all members of this chamber, as others have done before me, to consider the just requirements of simple human dignity for all people.

At this point, can I also acknowledge the many submissions, emails and phone calls made to my office by people on all sides of this debate and make clear that, for me, supporting this motion is not about hating Israel nor about negating the rights of the Jewish people of Israel. I do not like hearing about any South Australian—or any person, for that matter—of any faith being targeted with angry, violent or hateful language or acts. I will not condone that, no matter what cause those acts are being perpetrated for. Whether you are of Christian, Muslim, Jewish or any other faith, or indeed of no faith, you should be able to go about your daily life—including peaceful, faith-based activities at places of worship—without fear or harassment from others.

However, since before 1948, the Asian indigenous people of Palestine have been disgraced in squalid refugee camps and periodically massacred by a settler society with a European history not unlike our own. As with the Australian first people, enough is enough. The international community has connived at this for too long and it is time to accept responsibility. It is time for remediation and it is time for recognition of the people of Palestine and a two-state solution.

Australia indeed has historical obligations in respect of the Palestine and Israeli conflict. This is the centenary year of the Battle of Beersheba where the Australian Light Horse Brigade participated in the British imperial conquest of Palestine. This is not a matter for military pride or futile breast-beating or shame: this is a matter of historical fact. From the facts flow our obligations. This is especially so because of Dr Evatt’s important role in the tragic 1947 partition plan that divided the country.

Like other speakers, I am not going to pretend that one side of the conflict has been perfect and the other not and I have no interest in dodging people based on their faith, ethnicity or culture, but I will judge people based on their actions and whether those actions are kind, fair or justified. I think it is fair to say that the actions in the Israeli-Palestine conflict have not been fair, kind or justified and it is time to find a peaceful way to a two-state solution.

In conclusion, I again emphasise that this is not about racism or anti-Semitism, but there are no arguments against having a moral duty to all people, including both Israelis and Palestinians, in this matter, and that has to be a two-state solution. It is sometimes mischievously suggested, I think, that the Palestinian people are entirely the authors of their own predicament. I believe such arguments are nothing but an attempt to shift responsibility. As members of the international community, it is up to all of us to take responsibility to look for a peaceful solution.

I do not believe that the recognition of Palestinian people must be conditional in the way that some people would suggest, and to prevent the rewarding of the treatment of the people of Palestine, such arguments are nothing less than an attempt, I believe, to rub salt in the wounds of people who are already hurt and offended and whose human rights have been serially abused already. We must find a way that is peaceful, a way that is without racism and a way that is without unnecessary blaming of the Israeli people as a whole.

Before I conclude, I might say why I am a member of the Australian Friends of Palestine Association (AFOPA): because I believe firmly in a peaceful two-state solution. Once I finish my remarks this evening, I am off to attend a dinner with the Friends of Israel Association to hear a guest speaker, because I believe in hearing all sides of this debate and that that has to be part of finding a peaceful solution. With those words, I again place on the record my plea for a peaceful solution and a peaceful approach by all sides to this conflict.