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Speech: I will not be silenced about justice for Palestinian people

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 1 Dec 2021

I rise to speak to the Autonomous Sanctions Amendment (Thematic Sanctions) Bill 2021. I would like to associate myself with the remarks made by my colleague Senator Janet Rice. Senator Rice eloquently expressed the position of the Greens. We support this bill, but Senator Rice will be moving amendments, hopefully, to make this bill stronger.

While we are talking about human rights and human rights abuses today I want to use this opportunity to highlight the hypocrisy on human rights in this chamber. Ever since I joined parliamentary life and, indeed, well before that I have been talking, perhaps non-stop, about human rights. My first speech in the New South Wales parliament way back in 2013 discussed the plight of girls in Pakistan. I have supported the human rights and self-determination of many marginalised and persecuted peoples around the world.

In this chamber many senators get up and speak about human rights violations and human rights abuses—indeed, as they are doing today—but definitely choices are made about whose human rights will get the nod in here and whose are taboo. I can tell you that there is one group of people whose human rights don't matter to those opposite me—the Palestinian people. Palestinians for decades have been amongst the most oppressed people in the world. They are subject to daily humiliation, brutality and violence by the Israeli government. Their human rights are being violated and abused every single day, but in here they are not considered human enough to have rights. Obviously, they are not equal and everyone is not equal in the eyes of many in this chamber.

Israeli authorities continue to persecute and oppress Palestinian people. Settlement and occupation continues. Violence continues. The Gaza blockade continues. Homes continue to be demolished. Palestinians are routinely subjected to dispossession, violence, forcible separation, persecution and humiliation. Yet as soon as you raise these injustices you are hounded and condemned. Shamefully and shamelessly they try to label you as anti-Semitic. It is all designed to shut you up, to silence you. I can tell you that your false accusations are not going to silence me. I will not be backing down in calling for an end to these injustices of settler colonialism, as I will not be backing down in talking about human rights abuses wherever they happen.

Just recently the Israeli government labelled six Palestinian civil society and human rights organisations as terrorist groups. This is another attempt to criminalise criticism of Israel. This is an appalling and alarming decision, and it must be condemned, but there is no condemnation from the Australian government—all while they stand up here today and talk about human rights abuses.

The former World Vision manager of operations in Gaza, Mohammed El Halabi, has been in detention in Israeli custody since 2016—that's five years ago. Israeli authorities allege that he diverted US$50 million donated to World Vision to armed groups for terrorism purposes, but comprehensive audits by World Vision and the Australian government found no evidence of funds being diverted. Yet he languishes in detention, his trial held behind closed doors in secret. So why aren't the so-called arbiters of human rights, who are sitting across the chamber, jumping up and down for a fair and transparent trial? Why has the Morrison government remained quiet about Mohammed's plight? They just don't care about Palestinian human rights and justice. In fact, they want to silence those who want justice for Palestinians. That's why Prime Minister Scott Morrison was so enthusiastic to adopt the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism, which has been used to silence critics of the Israeli government for its human rights abuses of Palestinian people.

It is clear that there is a very shallow understanding of human rights in this place. Human rights cannot be discarded when they become politically inconvenient. The reality is that many of those who are human rights converts when it comes to helping certain causes are just fairweather friends, because the ultimate taboo in Australian politics is to talk about the human rights of the Palestinian people. The hypocrisy on human rights in here can be seen by people out there. The reality is that change is not going to come from this chamber. It will come from out there, where people are rightly angry at the decades upon decades of injustices towards Palestinian people. They are tired of your silence. They are tired of being silenced. They are speaking up and they are standing up. I am one of those people who will not be silenced.


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