Advocating for Palestine and more

by ray goodlass

A productive week just past. Attended an excellent integrated transport forum in Wagga on Thursday, with most participants advocating for public transport, cycling and pedestrians, and where cars were clearly the problem.

My column in the Daily Advertiser was on Palestine, particularly the EU mandating labelling for Israeli settlement made good, the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) adopting a Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) policy, and the Australian Greens recognising the State of Palestine. This weekend I’m in Sydney for a Greens for Palestine meeting.

In full my Daily Advertiser column read as follows:

Finally some welcome developments regarding Palestine

At times it seems that there will be no end to discord in the Middle East, including the outburst of violence in the Israeli occupied Palestinian Territories that began in October. In part it was fuelled by the seemingly never ending occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the growth of illegal Israeli government supported and protected ‘settlements’ in these areas.

So it has been encouraging to see several recent developments that could help the move towards a just peace for the Palestinians.

Last Wednesday, for example, the European Union published new guidelines mandating the labelling of products made in Israeli ‘settlements’ in the Palestinian West Bank. This means Israeli producers must explicitly label farm goods and other products that come from settlements built on land illegally occupied by Israel if they are sold in the European Union.

Not unsurprisingly the EU rule has triggered a fierce backlash from the Israeli government. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasting it as “hypocritical” and invoking memories of the Nazi holocaust, which has sadly become something of habit when Israeli illegal activity is challenged, for its inappropriate repetition weakens the horror of the historical reality.

The many Palestinians the EU ruling is a welcome development. PLO secretary-general Saeb Erekat said the labelling decision was a “significant move toward a total boycott of Israeli settlements.”

This is more fully known as a Boycotts, Sanctions and Divestments (BDS). It is similar to the movement that ended Apartheid era South Africa, and is increasingly gaining support throughout the world as a way of achieving a just peace

Here one of the most important bodies to back it is the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN), a national-level advocacy organisation representing a range of Palestine solidarity organisations, religious organisations, trade unions, peace groups and individuals, which at its 2015 AGM agreed to endorse and advocate a policy of BDS of Israeli and international institutions complicit in violations of human rights and international law in Israel and Palestine.

The recognition of Palestinian statehood is another point of contention, as it is something else denied Palestinians by the Israeli government. The 1993 Oslo Accords established the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) as a self-governing interim administration in the Palestinian Territories designed as a precursor to a fully independent Palestinian state, which has become known as the ‘Two State Solution’.

1993 was quite a while ago. The failure of the two-state solution due to Israel’s continuing intransigence create a volatile mix of frustration, despair and anger on the part of the Palestinians.

Recognition of this state of affairs prompted the 2015 National Conference of the Australian Greens to pass a policy which “seeks to further develop the current Australian Greens Palestine policy by formally recognising the State of Palestine”. It seeks a two-state solution based on the 4 June 1967 borders (immediately before the Six Day War), with Jerusalem as the shared capital and with both states living peacefully side by side.  

This is the first Australian political party to do so. The Coalition is silent on the matter, and the Labor Party’s attitude is a ‘Clayton’s’ policy (the policy you have when you are not having a policy), as it only commits a future ALP government to ‘discuss’ taking certain steps towards the recognition of the State of Palestine if ‘there is no progress in the next round of the peace process.’  Go figure.