Speech given by SSBDS at the ‘Stop Israeli crimes – hands off Palestinians’ rally, Sydney, July 2

I’m speaking here on behalf of Sydney Staff for BDS, a group at the University of Sydney set up to pressure the University to end its affiliations with the Israeli institutions that supply the educational infrastructure behind the occupation.

The events of the last few weeks underline how badly Palestinians need our solidarity.

The appropriate response to crime is justice – not the air to ground missiles, not the demolitions, not the mass round-ups, not the extra-judicial killings we’ve been seeing.

Who’s bringing back the five Palestinians killed by Israeli police during the manhunt, three of them minors? Where are the international messages of sympathy from Barack Obama and François Hollande for them? Or – to name just one of many possible examples – for the 160 Gazans killed in Operation Pillar of Defence in November 2012? Or the countless innocent Palestinians murdered by the Israeli state since 1948?

These Israeli crimes have a strong connection with our own squalid domestic politics. Brandis recently questioned the occupied status of East Jerusalem. That outrageous frolic of his own was just the kind of international support that materially reinforces the oppression of the Palestinian people.

We know that the construction of dwellings in colonies doubled between 2012 and 2013. Now Defence minister Moshe Ya’alon has proposed building a new settlement in the West Bank in memory of the murdered teenagers.

And what that means is all too clear – more dispossession, more violence, more fanatical hatred directed against Palestinians, who have all the weight of international law and, much more importantly, justice on their side.

Just a few months ago, in May, Israeli forces destroyed 1500 apple and apricot trees on Palestinian land below a settlement in Nahalin, just 20 minutes down the road from Kfar Ezion, where two of the abductees studied. The trees were just about to be harvested for their fruit.

Vicious and vindictive acts of destruction like these are what settlements mean – and with Brandis’ grotesque extravagance at the start of June the Australian government swung its support behind them in a way that no subsequent retractions can undo.

In this country the government is only too ready to proclaim its commitment to democracy as the rationale for its small-fry contribution to US military adventures in the Near East – but it’s apparently beyond it to offer basic political support to put an end to the kidnapping and occupation of an entire people. On Sunday we will have a perfect opportunity to tell Abbott, Brandis, Morrison and all the other out-of-control neoliberal buccaneers exactly what we think of them at the Bust the Budget rally.

The government’s stance imposes a particular responsibility on Australian society to declare, and declare unambiguously, whose side it’s on. The trend of public opinion in this country has been running against Israel since the 1980s. As usual, the public is to the left of the political classes, on this as on other issues.

It suits Brandis and his mob to pledge support for Israel, since contempt for the most elementary principles of justice is their stock-in-trade – look at the Northern Territory Intervention, look at their treatment of refugees: in the last 24 hours, there’ve been suggestions that the government may be handing over Tamil refugees to the Sri Lankan navy, in violation of every principle of decency and of refugee law.

We have to unequivocally condemn Israel’s acts and our own government’s support for them. Sydney Staff for BDS will continue to campaign for the university to end its privileged institutional arrangements with Israeli universities and exert pressure in our own small way in our local context to contribute to the advent of justice and peace in the Near East for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

Nick Riemer

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