About 50 supporters of the “Max Brenner 19” — Melbourne Palestine solidarity activists being prosecuted in the wake of a protest in July last year — gathered outside the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on May 1 to show their support for the defendants at the beginning of their trial.
One of the defendants, Jerome Small, read out a statement on behalf of the accused. The statement appears below.
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Our first task is to acknowledge that where we are standing right now is stolen land, and that the Wurundjeri people and the Kulin nations have never surrendered this land, nor given up their sovereignty.
Our next task is to acknowledge the colossal, life and death struggle being waged as we speak by Palestinian prisoners inside the jails of Apartheid Israel.
This year has seen hunger strikes in Israel’s prisons. First Khader Adnan, then Hana Shalabi, then eight Palestinian prisoners, then on April 17 some 1600 prisoners and today, on May the First, there are perhaps 2000 or more men and women, Palestinian prisoners of the occupation, who are now choosing systematic starvation as the last weapon of humans against an inhuman regime.
They are protesting against a prison regime of solitary confinement, strip searches, and lack of education.
The Palestinian prisoners and their supporters are protesting against a legal regime that includes Military Order 101, still in force in the West Bank, that criminalises organising and participating in protests, waving flags and other political symbols, and printing and distributing political material.
And they are protesting against the system of “administrative detention” under which hundreds of Palestinians — including 21 members of Palestinian Legislative Council — are held, without charge or trial, for months or years on end.
Today, at least eight Palestinian hunger strikers lie in Israeli prison hospitals, including some in Ramleh prison hospital where, according to reports, hunger strikers lie chained to their hospital beds.
We here, now, today, of course, are not subject to Military Order 101. The obscenity of administrative detention, of course, can be found in Australia, in the chain of immigration detention centres that stretches from Broadmeadows through Villawood and Darwin to Christmas Island.
But the rest of us, we are told, have rights. Rights to a political voice and assembly, rights to protest injustice, rights to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in all parts of the globe, including Palestine.
Exactly what rights we have, their application and their limits, may be tested over the coming days.
In particular, in this court, what will be tested is the legality of actions taken on July 1 2011. On that evening, at one of a series of rallies against Apartheid Israel, Victoria police arrested 19 people. We are here defending charges including trespass in a public place, and besetting, an anti picketing charge.
In a bail variation hearing last year, Inspector Beattie testified that, “the protesters had their own way” for too long and there had been a “decision made to draw a line in the sand and make arrests”.
The legality of the actions that followed on July 1 last year, will be weighed and decided over the coming weeks inside this court.
What will not be tested in this court is a series of other actions, which form part of the story that leads us to be standing here today.
We will not be investigating the sickening list of atrocities of the Golani and Givati Brigades, stretching from the killing fields of Sabra and Shatilla refugee camp in southern Beirut in 1982 to the systematic murder of families during Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2008/2009.
Neither is the action of Max Brenner subject to legal examination, when they decided to boast about giving comfort and support to these war criminals of the Golani and Givati brigades with “pamper packs”, as they put it, to “sweeten their special moments”.
Nor will the actions of the rest of the Israeli state be tested.
And of course, there will be no accounting for Israel’s willing accomplice in all this, the Australian state that, across parties and across decades, has willingly supplied military and political support to this Apartheid state of Israel.
We note that today and in the days to follow, strikes and mass rallies are being called in Gaza, in the occupied West Bank, and within the borders of Apartheid Israel, in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners and against the occupation.
We quote the words of hunger striker Khader Adnan, now released: “The mass hunger strike is a signal to all oppressed and vulnerable people everywhere, not just Palestinians.
“It’s a message to everyone suffering from injustice, under the boot of oppression. This method will be successful, God willing, and will achieve the rights of the prisoners.”
So today, May Day, as workers gather and march in Melbourne and Manila, in Athens and across the globe, we should remember that the struggle of the Palestinian people, and today especially of the Palestinian prisoners, is the struggle of all of us. And it is in that court, the court of struggle, that justice for Palestine is being fought and will be won.
[First published at boycottisrael19.wordpress.com.]