Palestine solidarity conference brings allies together

May 21, 2024
Palestine Solidarity Conference, Naarm/Melbourne, May 12
Palestine Solidarity Conference, Naarm/Melbourne, May 12. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

The second Palestine Solidarity Conference organised by the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network attracted more than 250 people over May 10–12.

Held in the Victorian Trades Hall Council in Naarm/Melbourne, the conference aimed to promote a Palestinian-led movement, build an expanded network of solidarity and increase political power.

The first panel discussion featured Mazin Qumsiyeh (who is on a speaking tour of Australia and New Zealand), Gazan-born educational consultant Ayman Qwaider and Lana Tatour.

Tatour, a lecturer in Development at the School of Social Sciences at the University of NSW, began a discussion about the need for the Palestinian leadership to be rebuilt to play a role like the African National Congress in South Africa’s liberation struggle and spoke about the need for a democratic one-state solution.

Solidarity between the Palestinian liberation movement and First Nations activists was a strong theme of the conference. Ali Kazak, a former Palestinian ambassador, gave a presentation including showing historical photos and documents of this solidarity stretching back decades.

Gary Foley, veteran Aboriginal activist and academic, on the same panel (and who featured in some of the photos) reinforced this message. The two were photographed again at the conference a day before Foley’s 74th birthday.

Younger generations of Palestinian and First Nations activists — represented by Crystal McKinnon and Samah Sabawi — are continuing that tradition today.

Support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against apartheid Israel was another conference theme.

Nazari Ismail from BDS Malaysia spoke about the successes of the BDS movement in a country with a majority Muslim population, where BDS has official, if inconsistent, support from the government.

This included the failed attempt by McDonalds Malaysia to sue the BDS movement. McDonalds withdrew the case without the BDS movement making any concessions.

The important role of Jewish allies with the Palestine struggle was welcomed. Associate Professor Peter Slezak spoke on the BDS panel and Jordy Silverstein from the Loud Jew Collective spoke at several sessions.

A session titled “Speaking to politicians about Palestine: What does effective lobbying look like?” included Greens MP Samantha Ratnam, retired Greens MP Janet Rice, Greens candidate Sophie McNeil and NSW Labor Legislative Council member Anthony D'Adam.

The final day opened with a plenary discussion about 76 years of ongoing Nakba featuring Silverstein, Palestinian activist Sarah Shaweesh, Blackfullas for Palestine creator Tarneen Onus Brown and Qwaider.

In addition to the plenaries, there were many in-depth sessions and campaigning workshops, although not the space to make decisions about national mass mobilisation possibilities.

Participants left with campaign tool-kits on lobbying councils, BDS campaigning and “kitchen table” conversations for Palestine.

Most conference participants also joined the huge Mother’s Day rally for Palestine on May 12, a boost for many activists residing in smaller cities.


Ayman Qwaider, Lana Tatour and Mazin Qumsiyeh at the opening panel
Ayman Qwaider, Lana Tatour and Mazin Qumsiyeh at the opening panel. Photo: Alex Bainbridge


Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) panel speakers
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) panel speakers. Photo: Alex Bainbridge


Ali Kazak and Gary Foley on First Nations/Palestine solidarity
Ali Kazak and Gary Foley on First Nations/Palestine solidarity. Photo: Alex Bainbridge


APAN people
APAN people. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

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