The Palestinian catastrophe (Al-Nakba) and Australia’s responsibility

May 16, 2023
Palestinians commemorating Nakba Day at Damascus Gate, East Jerusalem, May 15, 2013. The Nakba, literally, the

Yesterday, 15th May marked the 75th anniversary of the mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homeland, known as “the Nakba” or “the Catastrophe.”

In 1948, the Jewish underground terrorist groups – the Hagannah, Stern Gang and Irgun ethnically cleansed more than 850,000 Palestinians from their homeland (70 percent of the Palestinian population) through terror and tens of massacres. They were dispossessed because they were not Jews in order to turn the non-Jewish majority in Palestine into a minority and the newly arrived European Jewish minority into a majority.

I was a few months old then. They denied our right to return back home, while any Jew from anywhere in the world can immigrate and claim citizenship on arrival under Israel’s racist “Law of Return.” They occupied all major Palestinian cities, and confiscated railway stations, ports, airports, and other public facilities as well as factories, farms, businesses, bank accounts and properties of the ethnically cleansed refugees.

On 15 May 1948, they declared the establishment of a Jewish state on 78 percent of Palestine renamed it Israel, and the three terrorist Jewish groups formed the Israeli army.

On 11 December 1948, the United Nations passed resolution 194, calling on Israel to permit “the refugees wishing to return to their homes … at the earliest possible date and that compensation should be paid for the property of those not choosing to return …” All countries, including Australia, supported the resolution. But Israel refused and refuses until today to comply with this and hundreds of other resolutions.

In 1967, Israel occupied the remaining 22 per cent, ethnically cleansed another half a million, and put millions of Palestinians under its brutal military occupation.

The Palestinian refugees represent the essence of the Palestine question, which is the core of the conflict in the Middle East, now number around five million, and are scattered in refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank and neighbouring countries; generation after generation struggling for their legitimate right of return.

Sir Percy Spender, Minister for External Affairs in Robert Menzies’s Government and President of the Security Council in 1956, acknowledged the centrality of the Palestinian refugees in an address to the UN, saying: “The tragic lot of the Arab refugees lay at the heart of the Middle East problem.”

In 1947 Australian foreign minister, Dr Herbert Evatt, played a crucial role in the United Nations to partition Palestine to facilitate the creation of a Jewish state in our country (UNGA Resolution 181). This resolution also declared Jerusalem a corpus separatum under a special international regime on behalf of the UN. At the time, Palestinians were two-thirds of the population and owned more than 94 per cent of the land; the other third were mostly recent Jewish immigrants, most of whom were illegal. Later, Evatt was instrumental in having Israel accepted as a member of the UN.

In his statement to the UN General Assembly on 11 May 1949, Evatt said, “… the territorial boundaries of Israel were fixed by the decisions of 1947, and these boundaries must remain until they are altered either by the General Assembly or by the agreement of Israel with the other states and peoples directly concerned”. Nevertheless, Israel did alter its boundaries unilaterally in defiance of the UN and the international community.

Yet, despite Israel’s violation of UN resolutions and international law, its occupation of approximately 50 per cent of the land allocated to the Palestinian state, the massacres and the ethnic cleansing, Australia recognised Israel unilaterally and never shouldered its historical, legal and moral obligations towards the Palestinian people nor recognised their state.

What are the borders of Israel that Australia recognised?

With Israel’s frenetic building of illegal Jewish colonies in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories, it is clear to the world that it is not interested in negotiation and the two-state solution.

Zionists and Israeli leaders, from the father of Zionism, Herzl, to Israel’s Prime Minister Ben Gurion and Netanyahu, never accepted the two-state solution. Their aim has always been to create what they call “Eretz Israel” (the Land of Israel) which includes all of historic Palestine and land from neighbouring Arab states.

Their claim of supporting a two-state solution is nothing but a bluff, as they did when they claimed in 1947 their support of UN partition of Palestine. Their acceptance of the partition was a tactical strategy to give them the legitimacy they were looking for, and to establish a base to build a strong army for expansion.

They are not shy from revealing their expansionist aim publicly. Israel’s history is the best proof.

In his diaries, Herzl, says the area of the Jewish state stretches: “From the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates”.

In a letter to his son, Ben-Gurion wrote, “Of course the partition of the country gives me no pleasure…But in this proposed partition we will get more than what we already have, …What we really want is not that the land remains whole and unified.

What we want is that the whole and unified land be Jewish.” And in 1938 he informed the Jewish Agency executive committee meeting:“[I am not] satisfied with part of the country, but on the bases of the assumption that after we build up a strong force following the establishment of the state – we will abolish the partition of the country and we will expand to the whole of land of Israel.”

Just recently, on 28 December 2022, Prime Minister Netanyahu tweeted in Hebrew, “These are the basic lines of the national government headed by me: The Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the Land of Israel. The government will promote and develop settlements in all parts of the Land of Israel – in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan, Judea and Samaria [the West Bank].”

The Jewish Nation State Law ratified recently by the Knesset and the Israeli Supreme Court institutionalise racism and racial discrimination stating, “The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people…The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people [alone]…The state will be open for Jewish immigration… The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”?

By defining sovereignty and democratic self-rule as belonging solely to the Jewish people – wherever they live around the world – Israel constitutionalised discrimination and Jewish supremacy over Christian and Moslem Palestinian citizens.

“The Land of Israel” Netanyahu speaks of is “Eretz Israel.” That is why they are building facts on the grounds of Jewish colonies in the West Bank and the Syrian Golan Heights. Israel is the only country that did not define its borders in order to expand every few years, as it has been doing since its creation. Last month, Bezalel Smotrich, Finance Minister and leader of the Religious Zionist Party, said, “There were no such thing as Palestinian people” in a speech he gave in Paris, showing a map of Jordan, mandatory Palestine, areas of Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia as part of Israel.

Palestine is recognised by 138 countries, the United Nations, the Arab League, the non-Allied movement, The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and other international bodies. It is not in Australia’s national interest to be isolated internationally.

The late Bob Hawke wrote in The Australian on 25 April 1998, “Those, like myself, who have supported Israel … through its times of danger are entitled to expect that it will now show the same courage in helping to give full effect to that November 1947 UN resolution upon which its existence is founded. The resolution envisages the creation of a Palestine State.”

And in the AFR on 14 February 2017 he wrote, “Australia was there at the very beginning. The least we can do now, in these most challenging of times, is to do what 137 other nations have already done – grant diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine.”

It is time for Australia to reform its outdated Middle East policy, shoulder its historical and moral responsibility towards the Palestinian people, be on the right side of history, join the 138 countries in recognising the state of Palestine, and exercise meaningful pressure on Israel to unconditionally stop building Jewish colonies, withdraw from the occupied territories and allow the Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland in accordance with UN resolutions and international law.

History proves that Australian and Western pro-Israeli policy and non-recognition of the state of Palestine encourage Jewish extremism and Israeli governments’ intransigence, racial discrimination, violations, aggression, and building of Jewish colonies to expand their illegal borders.

There is nothing to justify the Labor Government’s non recognition of the state of Palestine against the wishes of the majority of Labor party members and Australian people, as numerous public opinion surveys have shown in more than fifteen years. Australia and the Labor Government should not be taken hostage by pro-Israeli right-wing extremists who put Israel’s interests above Australia’s national interest.

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