This article is based on a speech given by comedian and actor Nazeem Hussain, from Fear of a Brown Planet and SBS's Legally Brown, to a rally for Palestine in Melbourne on July 26.
Indigenous people of Australia will no doubt relate far too well to Palestinians, for they are also a people whose country was stolen from them when the British invaded and created the idea of “Australia” on their country.
Australia is a colonial state, in the exact same way that Israel is a colonial settler state. Neither Australia, nor Israel has any legitimate sovereignty over the land it claims to govern.
This is a terrible time for the people of Palestine, since never in their history have they been so alone.
They are used to the West calling upon them: to recognise Israel’s right to exist, to moderate their demands for justice, and to renounce violence.
But never before in their history have they had a regime in Cairo cooperating with Israel in their destruction.
Never before have they had a government in Cairo that refuses to open the Rafah crossing so that the wounded and the homeless of Gaza can escape the largest open air prison in the world.
Never before has the Arab world been so divided by its sectarian quarrels that it can do no more than raise ineffectual and half-hearted protests over Israel’s massacres of Palestinians.
More than 857 people have died, most of whom are civilians because Israel has “defended itself” with what it calls “precision weaponry”.
Today, it is only ordinary people like us and the hundreds of thousands of ordinary people around the world in London, in Paris, in New York, in Chicago, in Chile, all across South America, across Asia, across the African continent, and the tens of thousands of Palestinians who are now risking their lives to protest in the West Bank, despite being shot at and killed.
Today, all of us across the world are willing to stand up and say: No to Israel, no to apartheid, no to ethnic cleansing, no to the murder of children playing on a beach, no to the massacre of entire families, no to Israel’s 66 year war against the indigenous people of Palestine, and no to our government’s complicity in this war.
I want to make it clear that I am not here to applaud Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel. I sincerely wish for a non-violent way for Palestine to resist and end Israel’s occupation.
Palestinians have always resisted non-violently. Let us not forget what happens when they do non-violently resist.
Let us not forget what happened when Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist, tried to stop a doctor’s house in Gaza from being demolished, and was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer.
Let us not forget what happened when Tom Hurndall, a British peace activist, tried to rescue some Palestinian children from an Israeli sniper a few weeks later and was shot through the head and killed.
Let us not forget what happened when a flotilla of international peace activists tried to take medicines, books and other humanitarian supplies into Gaza to break Israel’s blockade.
And let us never forget the brave and unarmed activists who were murdered by Israeli commandos enforcing the blockade.
Let us also not forget the thousands of Palestinians who have been beaten, tortured or murdered by Israeli soldiers and settlers for non-violently trying to resist the confiscation of their lands, for trying to get an education when Israel closed the schools, or for trying to organise the defence of their communities.
Let us not forget that none of the torturers and murderers who committed these crimes have ever been brought to justice.
Let us also not forget that it is only one side of this conflict that is granted the right of self-defence.
Listen to the speeches of [US President] Barack Obama, of [US Secretary of State] John Kerry, of [Prime Minister] Tony Abbott and [opposition leader] Bill Shorten and you’ll never hear them say that the Palestinians have a right to self-defence.
But what does it mean when these people say that a country that for the past 66 years has been killing and dispossessing and oppressing its indigenous population has a right to defend itself from the people it is occupying?
What does it mean when they reaffirm this right at a time when children are murdered for playing on a beach?
What does it mean when only Israel is granted the right of self-defence but the Palestinians are called upon to “renounce violence”?
I don’t know what it means. I don’t claim any specialised knowledge in international diplomacy.
But I do know this: that under international law it is the occupied and oppressed population that have a right to defend themselves, and it is the occupying power that should be called upon to renounce violence.
And I’m not just talking about the violence that we’re seeing today in Gaza. I’m talking about the violence of the blockade. I’m talking about the violence of settlements, of colonisation, of house demolitions, of stolen water, of checkpoints and road closures.
I’m talking about the violence of the last apartheid regime on Earth.
We are here today to say that we do not believe that this regime has any defence and that it is the structural violence of occupation and apartheid that must first be renounced before there can be any kind of peace in Israel and Palestine.
That is why we are here today.
Our hearts are one with the people of Palestine. Your suffering is our pain.
Let us continue to make our voices heard, and in the same way that apartheid in South Africa was disbanded because of the continued pressure from within and without South Africa, so too can we deconstruct Israeli apartheid with our collective voice.
One day Palestine will be free and we will know that we stood upon this Earth for truth, for justice, for the innocent children of Palestine who have already seen too much.