Parrales beteen Israeli Settlers and White Australia

by ray goodlass

December 29

Please read further into this post for my elaboration of today’s ‘Headline’, for as usual I’ll begin with my diary account of the day.

Today’s activity was a work visit shifting stones to build a dry-stonewall in the ancient pre-Roman village of Battir, notable for its ever flowing spring, which used to supply Bethlehem and Jerusalem by aqueduct, and today (I think I’ve got it right) provides water to the village and surrounding farmland for irrigation. After the 1948 Armistace the village was just inside the Palestinian side of the ‘Green Line’, separated from Israel by the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem railway line. Back then the villagers could cross the railay line to till their fields, which were in Israeli territory, but since 1967 that access has been completely denied them, with devastating economic and social consequences. 

Even puny little old me was able to shift a heap of stones.

This work visit was organised in conjunction with the Palestinian Landscape Museum, housed in a beautifully restored/renovated old building, where we were welcomed and shown a movie of the village’s (largel) political 20th century history.

Now for my thinking brought to the surface by today’s visit , tough these thoughts have been firmenting for quite some time. Observing, as I did today and as you do where ever you turn, the infamous Separation Wall and the ever sprouting Israeli Settlements made me think how we non-Aboriginal Australians are in a similar way ‘Settlers’, and as Australia certainly wasn’t ‘Terra Nullis’ (have  I got the spelling right?) we too have siezed the land illegally. 

My current reading, the previously mentioned ‘Peacebuilding and Reconciliation’ brought these thoughts into sharp focus, especially Chapter 6 about the Canadian practice of ‘stealing’ Indian children and attempting to get rid of their aboriginality by bringing them up in Residential Schools , and thereby in time ‘solving’ the ‘Indian problem’, which freely and to my mind accurately used the term ‘settler’ to describe non-indigenous Canadians.

So yes, I will freely acknowledge that we non-inigenous Australians are ‘settlers’, and furthermore, decisions and actions such as Land Rights, Mabo, Paul Keating’s Redfern speech,Kevin Rudd’s ‘Sorry’ speech, films, music, and mass media screenings such as ‘The Saphires’, ‘Living Black’,  ‘Yothu Yindi’ and the new indigenous TV station don’t alter the fact that we committed a dreadful wrong and continue to do so, day in, day out, because the mindset of almost all non-indinous Australians is still emphtically ‘colonialist’ – just winess the appallinly conceived and implemented ‘Intervention’ policy/program of sequestering payments to Aboriginal Australians if the don’t toe the establishment’s colonialst line. This really is blaming the indigenous people for a problem we white fellas caused in the first place.  

I’ll reflect more on this in future posts, including wrestling with what to do about a truly appalling situation. But acknowlidging that I am a settler and part of a society with an entrenched colonialst mindset is a start. My personal ‘next steps’ are also in place, i.e. active membership of The Greens, including being NSW rep to the Australian Greens Conflict Transformation Working Group (AGCTWG), my planned university Peace Studies courses, and my membership of peace and conflict resolution organisations such as the Sydney Peace Foundation.. But of course I can’t rest on these things, and won’t. I’ll begin whenIget home by trying my best to make the AGCTWG active because it seems to be moribund.

On a change of subject, though partly related, in some free time this afternoon I undertook my first independent activity since the Peace Work Camp started. The first bit is quite trivial, in that I headed into town to find a place to do much needed laundry, and after succeeding, went to the Peace Centre’s bookshop in Manger Square. What a wonderful treaure trove (and apparently the Educational Bookshop is even bigger and better), so I had to work hard to restrain my want to buy up big, and restricted myself to buying three books: ‘The Politics of Change in Palestine – State Buildin and Non-Violent Resistance’ by Michael Broning; ‘Our Way to Fight – Peace Work Under Siege in Israel-Palestine’ by Michael Riordan; and ‘The Case for Sanctions Against Israel’ edited by Audrea Lim. Though extravagant they weren’t particularly expensive, but I deliberately bought books about Peace rather than mateial on Pales. I think, seeing as the first leg of my Thai International return flight is in fact and disappointingly, flown by El Al I’ll read the latter book on the plane, just to be provocative – though I’d better not let the Israeli exit military police see it at the airport. Seriously though, I will become a BDS activist