Speech

Legislative Council

GREENS MOTION: Recognising the State of Palestine

August 9th, 2017

On the 9th of August, Mark supported Greens MLC Tammy Franks' motion on Palestine.

MOTION:

That this council—

1. acknowledges that Palestinians have suffered denial of their right to self-determination for a century;

2. recognises that Palestinians have been the victims of massive disposition for 70 years;

3. acknowledges that the Palestinians have suffered under an Israeli occupation for 50 years;

4. observes that awareness is growing internationally and, therefore, the greatest hope for change is international pressure on Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories;

5. is aware that the Australian government is committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict and that unless urgent measures are taken this option will vanish;

6. affirms that the continuation of settlement building is in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and various resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, the most recent being Resolution 2334 (2016), and constitutes a major obstacle to peace;

7. believes that the support for a two-state solution and for self-determination for both Israelis and Palestinians requires taking active measures by the international community; and

8. calls on the commonwealth government to recognise the State of Palestine as we have recognised the State of Israel.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I am also going to be fairly brief in my contribution. At the outset I want to put on the record my thanks to my colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks for putting this on the agenda. I want to make a few remarks about the broader issue of Palestine, the Middle East and the role of—let's be fair here—small, provincial parliaments like South Australia in these global debates.

The first thing I would say is that there are two books that have been quite influential in my life in thinking about this issue. The first one was a book that I read, I think as a 14 or 15 year old, and it was Leon Uris's book Exodus. That was written a year before I was born, so it was written in 1958. It topped the bestseller lists for month after month and sold millions of copies. As a teenager reading that, how could you not but be a wholehearted supporter of Israel? The Palestinians were the bad guys, Arabs were bad guys, people who were not Jewish were the bad guys, and that made sense to me as a 14 year old.

Fast-forward 40 years, and I have another book on my bookshelf: this time it was a book by South Australian barrister Paul Heywood-Smith QC called The Case for Palestine: The Perspective of an Australian Observer. I found Paul's book most interesting, because it did help answer one of the questions that I have had—and I posed it briefly before. What is the point of people on the other side of the world, who perhaps have never been to the Middle East—why should we be weighing into these issues?

I think Paul makes the point that the case of peace in the Middle East, the case of Palestine, the issue of the conflict that has existed for decades is in fact a litmus test for the whole of our society. It is a case study of the failure of the system of international law—the fact that the United Nations can pass resolution after resolution that appear to have no impact at all on the ground. So, I think it is actually incumbent on us, even though we are not in the Middle East, and many of us have never been and may never go, though we might know some people who are from there, to pay attention, because this issue is of significance globally.

It is not the only one. We can all think of issues of conflict that are unresolved, whether it is Uighurs in China or ethnic minorities in Burma. But in some ways similar to the apartheid debate in South Africa, the position taken by the international community can ultimately result in better outcomes than simply leaving it to local people to resolve, because it has not been resolved, and it is unlikely to be resolved without international input.

So, whilst no doubt people will say that in the South Australian parliament there are more important things we should be debating, I am happy that this has been put on the record, and I am happy that we get a position and to have our say. As the Hon. John Darley mentioned before, most of us, I think, agree that what we want is peace, we want respect for human rights and we want to stop bloodshed on all sides.

But having said that I think there is no doubt about the culpability of Israel in relation to the blockade of Gaza, in relation to the wall, in relation to the illegal settlements. That is not to say that people on the other side come with clean hands either, but ultimately there is a power imbalance, and the power is overwhelmingly on the side of Israel, and they have not exercised that power properly. The international community has condemned them on a number of occasions and I think needs to continue to do so. At the end of the day the objective has to be peace. It has to be the civil rights of all people who live in the region, and I think this motion is part of the international debate.

In terms of the three options before us, I was inclined to support the original motion unamended, but as I have a look at what the Minister for Employment has put forward, it does include most of the salient elements, so I think I am happy to support that as well. The Hon. Andrew McLachlan's motion is watered down a little bit further, and whilst I support the calls that are made in there, I think it does need to go further. So, if this matter does end up coming to a vote, I will be supporting the amendment moved by the Minister for Employment. But the main contribution I wanted to make was to say this is an important global issue, and we might be a long way away, but South Australia does need to take a stance in support of human rights.

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