Soubhi Iskander is a Socialist Alliance Senate candidate for NSW in the 2010 federal elections. He was born in Sudan and has been a socialist for more than half a century. Despite being jailed and tortured, he remains a committed and active socialist and now is the editor of Green Left Weekly’s Arabic supplement, The Flame.
Iskander is furious but not surprised at the scapegoating of refugees and recent immigrants in the current federal election campaign.
Recently Iskander protested over leaflets issued in the name of the far right, anti-immigrant Australia First party. The leaflets portray African immigrants as monkeys and accuse them of being “gangsters and drug addled welfare parasites” who are allegedly “terrorising” western Sydney.
One of these leaflets, which Australia First subsequently disowned when confronted by an ABC online news reporter, attacked federal governments for having “opened Australia’s door to a massive influx of refugees from the Horn of Africa nations such as Sudan and Somalia”.
The racist leaflet continues: “These people on the most part have failed to assimilate into the wider Australian community — as it’s a well known fact the male sub-Saharan Africans are linked to low IQ’s (sic) and high testosterone levels.”
“Australia First thinks it can get away with this blatant racism”, Iskander told Green Left Weekly, “because both major parties are in a race to the right on their policies on asylum seekers”.
“When the capitalist system faces a crisis, it looks for a scapegoat to blame.
“In previous years, before the arrival of African refugees to Australia, the Lebanese community and Muslims were blamed and they still are.
“In the western suburbs, like in any other Sydney’s suburbs, there are good citizens as well as bad ones, from all ethnic backgrounds. You cannot charge the entire community for acts carried out by a small minority, any more than we can accuse all the Catholic clergy of raping children simply because some priests did so.
“Before blaming African refugees or our testosterone glands first ask PM Julia Gillard and Liberal opposition leader Tony Abbott if Labor and Liberal governments have provided western Sydney with efficient health services, education, housing, or even effective community policing?”
Iskander said it is sad that so much fear has been generated over just 23,000 refugees coming by boat over the past 35 years.
“We have never had more than about 5000 people a year arrive by boat without a visa in the last 200 years. The last time there were more than that number of ‘irregular boat people’ was when Australia was being ‘settled’ by Europeans.
“Today, Australia can afford to do a lot more for people being forced to flee their homelands as a result of political persecution, or war. The burden of housing and feeding refugees falls mainly on the poorer nations, such as Pakistan, Syria, Iran and Jordan, which border the war-afflicted countries these people are fleeing.
“And why are these wars happening? Because of the criminal decision of the US government and its allies, including Australia, to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq. If you want to do something to stop the creation of the refugee problem, then stop invading other countries.
“We see Gillard and Abbott on TV going to the funeral of the Australian soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan. But we should ask: Is it not better for Australian soldiers, if they have to die, to die in defence their homeland rather than to die in defense of the interests of American and multinational corporations?
“I have experienced life as a refugee and the Australian government should not try and run away from its obligations under the UN Refugee Convention, which it has signed. The fact that it is trying to avoid those obligations reveals that they are not taking people in for humanitarian reasons but are only interested in exploiting migrant labour.
“The Arabic-speaking communities in Australia have been very disappointed in the two major parties. After seeing the Australian position on the Israeli attack on a convoy of relief, which was the same as that from Washington, we now know for sure who runs the foreign policy of Australia and it cannot be said that Australia is now an independent country.
“When the ALP promised change, after the Howard Liberal government, it soon became clear it was only a change of the politicians, not the policies. There is no big difference between the policy of the ALP and the Liberals regarding the rights of workers or climate change.
“Enough that we were mocked a dozen times, the time has come to give our votes to those who truly represent our interests and not the interests of the capitalist monopolies of the ruling elite.”