Palestine Motion

August 9, 2017

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. T.A. Franks:

 

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.

to which the Minister for Employment moved to leave out all the words after 'That this council—' and insert the following:

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

  2. 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;

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

  4. calls on the commonwealth government to recognise the state of Palestine (as we have recognised the State of Israel) and announce the conditions and timelines to achieve such recognition.

and to which the Hon. A.L. McLachlan moved to leave out all words after 'That this Council—' and insert the following:

  1. notes that the Australian government is committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict;

  2. calls on both sides to resume direct negotiations in good faith; and

  3. calls on the commonwealth government to recognise the State of Palestine once the two sides have successfully negotiated a two-state solution, as required by international law as set out in the Oslo Accords.

(Continued from 2 August 2017)

 

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (17:32): I rise to give a short contribution to this matter and, in doing so, indicate that I will be supporting the Hon. Andrew McLachlan's amendment to the motion. I understand that, by doing so, people from both sides of the debate will be disappointed that the motion does not go far enough, but I think the most important thing to advocate for in this situation is peace.

 

I have sympathy for the Hon. Tammy Franks' original version and also for the Hon. Kyam Maher's amended version and was originally minded to support the amended motion. I want to make it clear that my support would have been in support of the people of Palestine because I am troubled supporting the Palestinian authorities. However, in speaking with stakeholders from all sides, I believe the Hon. Andrew McLachlan's amendment is much more measured. No matter who I speak to, the overwhelming desire is for peace in the region. There has been enough bloodshed and, for the sake of everyone in the region, I hope there is a resolution soon.

 

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL (17:33): 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.

 

The Hon. S.G. WADE (17:38): I want to talk very briefly on this motion. I consider that this council and this parliament should be cautious in engaging in foreign policy issues. Under our federation, foreign affairs and defence are matters for the commonwealth government and the commonwealth parliament. I understand that both the Prime Minister and the federal Leader of the Opposition support the existing Australian position on the Israel-Palestine conflict—that is, to withhold diplomatic recognition until a two-state solution is actually negotiated.

 

I welcome the fact that all three proposed forms of today's motion affirm the need for a two-state solution. Consistent with my cautious approach, I intend to support the amendment to the motion put forward by the Hon. Andrew McLachlan. I share concerns that the opportunity for a two-state solution may pass without real progress in the near future. I urge all parties not to act in a way which makes a two-state solution harder to achieve. In particular, I hope that Israel may step back from sediment building and other activity which is inflammatory to the Palestinian community.

 

I am also concerned about the respect for human rights and the rule of law in both Israel and Palestine. All these matters demonstrate the good faith that the Hon. Andrew McLachlan's amendment calls for. I indicate that I will support the amendment by the Hon. Andrew McLachlan.

 

The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD (17:40): I begin my contribution today by stating my preference that we not be dealing with this, as I believe the subject matter, as the Hon. Mr Wade said, 'falls outside the legitimate interests of a state parliament'. However, I understand there is great personal passion on these issues and can understand why individual members would be motivated to bring them to the parliament's attention, but I do believe it is more properly dealt with by the commonwealth. That said, as the matter is now before us, we will address it for the sake of putting our position on the record, and that is that the Australian Conservatives support the motion as amended by the Hon. Andrew McLachlan.

 

We support Israel's right to exist peacefully within its borders and we support the right of the people of Palestine to live in peace. I reflect on the comments made by the Hon. Mark Parnell and the Hon. John Darley that I thought were both thoughtful and balanced contributions. The Hon. Mark Parnell, in particular, mentioned a number of books that have influenced him. I also have done a good deal of reading on this topic over the years, and whilst there are strong arguments on both sides there is a book that shaped my thinking quite substantially. It is called The Case for Israel by a gentleman by the name of Alan Dershowitz, and it is quite compelling in parts and I recommend it to members as interesting reading.

 

The Israeli-Palestine conflict has been ongoing for over half a century. Numerous attempts to achieve long-term peace between the Israelis and Palestinians have failed, of course. In recent times, however, critics are quick to blame Israel for the lack of peace in the region, and they are not without blame. But it is unjust to blame them alone, of course, because it disregards the long history of hostility against Israel. Peace requires both the Palestinians and the Israelis to negotiate in good faith, as I believe the amended motion rightly requires. Palestine's governing bodies do not serve their people well. I have no doubt that the people of Palestine desire peace, and yet we see that the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Palestinian National Authority are each controlled by the political group Fatah.

 

In reality, however, although the PLO governs the West Bank, Gaza is governed by Hamas, an Islamist fundamentalist organisation. Both Fatah and Hamas have been, throughout history, openly hostile to Israel and even towards each other on occasions. This is in itself a significant barrier to peace. The lack of unison within the Palestinian representatives is a significant complication that hinders any meaningful negotiations with the Israelis. It is a matter of historical fact that in the first decades after its 1964 creation (that is the creation of the PLO not Israel) the PLO sought to destroy Israel and replace it with a Palestinian state. Fatah's founder, Yasser Arafat, employed military tactics towards this end, including a tax on Israeli civilians.

 

This finally changed in 1993 when the PLO accepted Israel's right to exist in exchange for Israel recognising it as a legitimate representative of Palestinians, and began peace negotiations with Israel, a welcome development. So, that is the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which has come to seek what I believe is a genuine peace, but on the other hand, Hamas from its very inception has resorted to appalling acts of violence and even terrorism in pursuit of totally wiping Israel from existence. The military wing of the same Hamas that governs the Gaza Strip is listed by many nations, including Australia, as a terrorist organisation.

 

Hamas agitates for a Palestinian state and has historically resisted a two-state solution, which I believe does not serve the Palestinian people well at all. To this end, Hamas has continuously launched attacks on Israel, including rocket attacks against Israel. Indeed, I was in Israel when a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip and landed less than a kilometre from where I was at that time, and I can assure members that it is a terrifying experience. It has included suicide bombings, kidnappings, killings of political rivals and several attempts to derail peace talks.

Hamas's very own charter has advocated for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews. This is in writing and not in dispute. The charter stated that through jihad Hamas will uproot Zionism, although Hamas's more recent charter, which thankfully was updated earlier this year, is less radical. Hamas is still unwilling to recognise Israel's right to exist. I do not believe peace can ever be achieved whilst they refuse to recognise Israel's right to exist.

 

After Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, instead of building the foundation for a viable state, Hamas turned the territory into a rocket launching territory for its offensives on Israel. It is estimated that since 2001 approximately—and this is a very precise approximation, but these are the best figures we have—18,928 rocket and mortar attacks have been launched from Gaza into Israel. That is over 1,000 attacks per year, on average, or, put another way, three missiles or mortars per day every day, on average. I am sure members would agree that that is absolutely no way to negotiate peace.

 

Only when the Palestinian leadership, and particularly Hamas, unequivocally renounces terrorism and condemns those who preach violence against Israel and hatred of the Jewish people can there be real hope for peace. Again, I have no doubt that that is exactly what the Palestinian people want, and the Australian Conservatives support them in that legitimate quest. However, they are being poorly led and, I believe, misled.

 

There is no shortcut to peace. Ending the conflict requires the Palestinian leadership to recognise Israel's right to exist as an absolute, fundamental requirement and to renounce violence and transform its destructive culture of intolerance—that in some cases actually glorifies terrorism and pays a pension to so-called martyrs who suicide bomb Israeli soldiers and civilians—into a constructive culture of understanding, peace and mutual respect as well as coexistence with Israel in order to put an end to the conflict. While the Palestinian authority merely accepts Israel's presence, it has yet to recognise Israel as the legitimate nation state of the Jewish people.

 

Israel is the one true democracy in the Middle East. Israel has a right to exist and to defend itself when necessary. It has a documented history of offering peace agreements and accords to the Palestinians, who have an equally well-documented history of rejecting them. Again, I blame the leadership, not the people.

 

In closing, the Australian Conservatives will be supporting the amended motion by the Hon. Andrew McLachlan, as I said. However, we will not partake in or contribute to attacks on Israel that do nothing to promote peace in the region. Both the Palestinians and Israelis—not just the Israelis—must make critical concessions and commit to ending all further claims for the sake of peace and to advance a two-state solution.

I am an optimist and I believe peace is possible in this region. I think there is a groundswell of movement within Palestine itself to impact on their leadership. I also believe that there is significant movement within Israel itself to do whatever it takes, within reason, as long as they are recognised and can live safely to reach a genuine peace accord with the Palestinians.

 

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT (17:47): I would like to briefly add my position on this important motion, which will echo many of the sentiments that other members have already given. As we debate the clauses of this motion and any amendments that have been put forward calling on the council to petition the commonwealth to join with most of the rest of the international community to recognise the statehood of the long-suffering people of Palestine, I wish, as the member of the Dignity Party in this place, to make a heartfelt appeal to all members of this chamber, as others have done before me, to consider the just requirements of simple human dignity for all people.

 

At this point, can I also acknowledge the many submissions, emails and phone calls made to my office by people on all sides of this debate and make clear that, for me, supporting this motion is not about hating Israel nor about negating the rights of the Jewish people of Israel. I do not like hearing about any South Australian—or any person, for that matter—of any faith being targeted with angry, violent or hateful language or acts. I will not condone that, no matter what cause those acts are being perpetrated for. Whether you are of Christian, Muslim, Jewish or any other faith, or indeed of no faith, you should be able to go about your daily life—including peaceful, faith-based activities at places of worship—without fear or harassment from others.

 

However, since before 1948, the Asian indigenous people of Palestine have been disgraced in squalid refugee camps and periodically massacred by a settler society with a European history not unlike our own. As with the Australian first people, enough is enough. The international community has connived at this for too long and it is time to accept responsibility. It is time for remediation and it is time for recognition of the people of Palestine and a two-state solution.

Australia indeed has historical obligations in respect of the Palestine and Israeli conflict. This is the centenary year of the Battle of Beersheba where the Australian Light Horse Brigade participated in the British imperial conquest of Palestine. This is not a matter for military pride or futile breast-beating or shame: this is a matter of historical fact. From the facts flow our obligations. This is especially so because of Dr Evatt's important role in the tragic 1947 partition plan that divided the country.

Like other speakers, I am not going to pretend that one side of the conflict has been perfect and the other not and I have no interest in dodging people based on their faith, ethnicity or culture, but I will judge people based on their actions and whether those actions are kind, fair or justified. I think it is fair to say that the actions in the Israeli-Palestine conflict have not been fair, kind or justified and it is time to find a peaceful way to a two-state solution.

 

In conclusion, I again emphasise that this is not about racism or anti-Semitism, but there are no arguments against having a moral duty to all people, including both Israelis and Palestinians, in this matter, and that has to be a two-state solution. It is sometimes mischievously suggested, I think, that the Palestinian people are entirely the authors of their own predicament. I believe such arguments are nothing but an attempt to shift responsibility. As members of the international community, it is up to all of us to take responsibility to look for a peaceful solution.

I do not believe that the recognition of Palestinian people must be conditional in the way that some people would suggest, and to prevent the rewarding of the treatment of the people of Palestine, such arguments are nothing less than an attempt, I believe, to rub salt in the wounds of people who are already hurt and offended and whose human rights have been serially abused already. We must find a way that is peaceful, a way that is without racism and a way that is without unnecessary blaming of the Israeli people as a whole.

 

Before I conclude, I might say why I am a member of the Australian Friends of Palestine Association (AFOPA): because I believe firmly in a peaceful two-state solution. Once I finish my remarks this evening, I am off to attend a dinner with the Friends of Israel Association to hear a guest speaker, because I believe in hearing all sides of this debate and that that has to be part of finding a peaceful solution. With those words, I again place on the record my plea for a peaceful solution and a peaceful approach by all sides to this conflict.

 

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (17:53): I will be supporting the particular amendments of my colleague the Hon. Andrew McLachlan. The reason I do so is that they propose that Australia supports the establishment of a Palestinian state arising out of a binding peace agreement between the Palestinians and Israel, which is what the two sides previously agreed to in the Oslo 1 and Oslo 2 accords in the 1990s and in the 2003 Roadmap. It is what international law and common sense requires and what the United Nations has called for.

 

I would also like to add to previous speakers' comments that I do not think that the South Australian parliament is necessarily the correct venue for these sorts of motions. I think it is really the purview of the commonwealth Parliament of Australia and that each parliament ought to, as much as possible, stick to their own areas of responsibility.

I understand that Israel is not opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state. It has entered into agreements with the Palestinians that provide for the establishment of a Palestinian state as an outcome of a comprehensive peace treaty between them. So the real issue is not whether there should or should not be a Palestinian state: the real issue is whether we should support the establishment of a Palestinian state in the absence of such a peace treaty.

 

Some assert that the absence of a peace treaty is all Israel's fault, because of the construction that has continued to occur with Israel settlements on the West Bank, which I think is an oversimplification. Support for establishing and recognising a Palestinian state should be an outcome of and made conditional upon the conclusion of a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians, which is something we all dearly wish to see.

We do not generally impose conditions on the recognition of already established states, especially those with which we have had long diplomatic relations. When new states emerge, especially when they emerge out of conflict, it is frequently the case that conditions are imposed on their recognition by other states. For example, in the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and the states that arose from them, the European Union and other countries imposed a string of conditions on the recognition of those new states. The main condition being that those new states would enter into legally binding commitments that the conflicts in which they had been involved were at an end and that they would cease all hostile activity, including hostile propaganda. The international community absolutely insisted that the recognition of the new states would mark the end of conflict and bloodshed and not the beginning of more.

 

Given their history of rejection of any kind of Jewish self-determination anywhere in the Holy Land, despite the internationally recognised connection of the Jewish people with that land over more than three millennia, the same kinds of conditions must be demanded in this situation. There must be a declaration of an end to the conflict and the calls for Israel's destruction must also end, including revoking and rewriting both from the PLO and Hamas charters. All UN resolutions must be accepted, rather than selective choosing of which resolutions are supported. Customary international law itself demands that a proposed new state must fulfil certain minimum criteria before it can qualify, and one of these is that it must have a government that is capable of enforcing law and order over the whole of its territories.

 

The two warring factions, that is, the Palestinian authority and Hamas, which control different parts of their claimed territory settlements, are indeed a core issue of the conflict, as the Israelis themselves have acknowledged, along with Jerusalem, refugees, borders and water rights, but it is false to suggest that the settlements themselves are the only issue. There were no settlements prior to 1967, yet many of Israel's neighbours went to war against seeking its annihilation in 1948 and 1967. With those comments, I conclude my remarks.

 

The Hon. T.J. STEPHENS (17:57): I will be brief. I agree with the Hon. Stephen Wade and the Hon. Dennis Hood in that, to me, this is an issue for the federal parliament: it is not an issue for the Legislative Council of the Parliament of South Australia. I think we should be dealing with issues that affect the lives of South Australian people, in particular jobs and the economy, which is always my focus. Having said that, I absolutely support the work the Hon. Andrew McLachlan has done on behalf of Liberal members. I fully support him and will be voting for his amendment.

 

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:58): Briefly, in summing-up, I would like to thank those members who have made a contribution, both previously in the debate and this evening: the Hon. Kyam Maher, the Hon. Andrew McLachlan, the Hon. John Darley, my colleague the Hon. Mark Parnell, the Hon. Dennis Hood, the Hon. Kelly Vincent, the Hon. Michelle Lensink, the Hon. Terry Stephens and the Hon. Stephen Wade.

 

It is my intention to support the amendment moved by the Hon. Kyam Maher, which is a reflection of the words passed in the other place. The member for Light initiated this motion in the other place and that motion, as amended and reflected in the words of the Hon. Kyam Maher, was then passed in the House of Assembly. I note that the Hon. Andrew McLachlan also has an amendment. I indicate that I will not be supporting that amendment. I think making recognition conditional is not in the spirit of the original amendment and puts the cart before the horse, if you like.

I think most members have put something on the record and we have an indication of where the numbers lie this evening, so I will not drag it out too much more, but I will say that I am heartened to see the change of heart and the change of policy from the members of the government benches, who are, of course, the Labor members, not only of this place but indeed who are the alternative government at a federal level. I note that in recognising Palestine, should Australia take that step, we will join not Hamas, as the Hon. Dennis Hood noted, but the137 nations across the world that already recognise the state of Palestine.

 

New South Wales Labor most recently in their state convention have moved to recognise the state of Palestine, and I note there the work particularly of former premier Bob Carr and the overwhelming support for that recognition at that recent decision-making body of the Labor Party of this country in New South Wales. I also note that the New South Wales branch joins the ACT, Tasmania and Queensland, as well as former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd in backing Palestinian statehood.

 

While I echo the words of many members tonight that of course we support peace, I would refute the idea that this should not be debated by members of a provincial parliament. We are elected to represent our communities, and those communities do care about jobs and the economy, but they also care if they were brought to this country by being a refugee, and we have Palestinian refugees in this country and in this state.

 

With those words, I indicate that I will be opposing the McLachlan amendment, supporting the Maher amendment, and that I welcome the change of position from the Labor government in this state, which is the alternative government at a federal level.

 

The Hon. K.J. Maher's amendment negatived; the Hon. A.L. McLachlan's amendment carried; motion as amended carried.

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