Let Palestinian freedom fighter Leila Khaled speak in Australia!

February 29, 2024
Leila Khaled and Nelson Mandela 2006
Leila Khaled exchanging gifts with Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg in 2006. Photo: Nelson Mandela Foundation

Veteran Palestinian freedom fighter Leila Khaled will be a keynote speaker at the Ecosocialism 2024 conference in Boorloo/Perth, June 28-30. However, major Zionist organisations, including the Australian Jewish Association and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, want to stop her addressing the conference in person, or even by video.

They claim that allowing Khaled to speak will be “inciting, promoting or advocating terrorism and to an Australian audience, to aggravate current social divisions and thus cause damage to social cohesion”.

The right-wing and corporate media, including The AustralianThe Daily TelegraphThe Sydney Morning Herald and SkyNews, have joined this censorship drive. Anthony Albanese’s Labor appears to have quickly folded to the pressure.

In response, Khaled, who is a member of the national committee of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a representative on the Palestine National Council, told Green Left that the Zionists’ outrage about terrorism is fake.

“The occupation of Palestine is the peak of terrorism,” she told GL on February 27.

“They have grabbed our country, they have stolen our properties, they are destroying Palestine and now they want to make us shut up because they know we are speaking the truth.”

Khaled added that a United Nations General Assembly resolution in 1975 had identified Zionism as a racist political movement and recognised that all peoples under occupation have a right to resist, including by armed struggle.

“This is a movement that depends on ethnic cleansing. I have read the book by [anti-Zionist Israeli historian] Ilan Pappé … about the ethnic cleansing and massacres by the Zionists in 1948…

“Now it is happening again,” she said.

“Those people don’t like to hear our voices, the Palestinian voices, and they don’t like any other people to hear our voices.”

Khaled recalled her 2006 meeting with South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela who was also once labeled a terrorist.

“Mandela said South Africa’s freedom is not complete until Palestine is free. Until this day, I remember every word of our conversation.”

Ecosocialism 2024 conference organiser Sam Wainwright said the attempt to silence Khaled is based on “fake outrage” about two airline hijackings Khaled participated in, which took place more than 50 years ago. The only fatality was one of the hijackers, who was shot dead by an air marshal.

Wainwright said he was contacted by various establishment media outlets and explained why Khaled is addressing the conference, but none of his responses have appeared in their articles.

“When the media underlings of the rich and powerful say they want peace in the world, let’s understand what they really mean. They want the oppressed and dispossessed to suffer or die unseen and unheard.”

Wainwright added that it was important for the Ecosocialism conference to hear Khaled because “war is always an environmental catastrophe, and this one is no exception”.

“Israel’s aerial bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza since October is estimated to have generated 281,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide in the first 60 days.”

“Within a month, Israel had dropped more than 25,000 tonnes of explosives, turning the Gaza Strip into rubble, with the help of the governments of the United States and Australia.

“Khaled enrages supporters of Israel in this country because she frames the events of October 7 within the moral and legal right of the Palestinians to resist Israeli occupation, including by force of arms.”

Khaled told GL that the October 7 attacks were not exclusively carried out by Hamas, and that not all those who participated aimed to target Israeli civilians. She said a number of different militias and unorganised groups of armed Gazans broke through the fence.

Furthermore, even though Hamas has a different ideology and practice to her own organisation, Khaled described it as an authentic part of the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation.

Green Left and Socialist Alliance are hosting the annual Ecosocialism conference in Boorloo/Perth in June.

Other confirmed guests are Salim Vally, South African Professor and Director of the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation at the University of Johannesburg, and Ammar Ali Jan, a Pakistani historian and academic who is also a member of the Council of Advisors of the Progressive International.

 [Find out more about Ecosocialism 2024 and book your ticket here.]

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