It was standing room only at the Canterbury-Bankstown Council meeting on September 29 when councillors unanimously supported a motion condemning “anti-Palestinianism”. The council comprises nine Labor councillors, five Liberal and one independent .
The Arab Australian Federation (AAF) statement, supported by more than 65 community groups, was drawn up in response to the incessant violations by Israel of the Palestinian people’s human, political, economic and national rights under international law, including their right to self-determination and nationhood.
According to the AAF, “anti-Palestinianism” refers to “language and practises that directs discrimination, racism, hatred or violence against the Palestinian people” including verbal — explicit or implied.
“At its worst, it denies the existence of the Palestinian people, an erasure that facilitates the perpetuation of violence against them and the denial of their right to self-determination.”
The AAF statement said decades of discrimination against the Palestinian people is reflected today in “Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian land, the containment of millions of Palestinians in refugee camps and the systemic attack on the lives and property of people under occupation”.
It highlighted the need for Palestinian refugees to have the right to return to their homes.
Canterbury-Bankstown Mayor Khal Asfour told the meeting he is proud of his Palestinian origins including that he and his family lived through the bitterness of wars and displacement.
He said the motion was part of his work for peace and justice in the entire region.
Afterwards, he said: “We have addressed a long-standing issue that has been a sore point for many in our community.
“It was imperative Council showed leadership and provided space for concerned residents to speak their mind on the rights of the Palestinian people.
“It was also about ensuring their rights under international law and their long-overdue aspirations for self-determination on their own land.”
Those speaking in support of the motion included Labor councillor Bilal Hayek, who emphasised the important role of the AAF in drafting the statement, AAF President Eddie Zananiri, Hassan Musa and Palestinian rights activist Bashir Sawalha.
The project is consistent with supporting the right of people to self-determination. Palestinians hope it will encourage provincial and municipal councils to support the Declaration, a first step towards Australia recognising the state of Palestine.
Australia was one of 11 country members that helped draft the United Nations’ Partition Resolution Number 181 on November 29, 1947, which established two states in Palestine, one Jewish and the other Arab.
Since then, Australia has backed many international resolutions supporting a two-state solution.