We are silencing our young people

May 17, 2024
Labor Senator Fatima Payman during Question Time in the Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, May 16, 2024.

Western Australian Labor Senator Fatima Payman spoke for millions of Australians yesterday as she courageously and bravely broke the Federal Labor Parties code of silence and described in clear tones that Israel was committing genocide and that the Labor Party had to listen to the young of this country and take political action against Israel.

Born in Afghanistan and the daughter of Muslim migrants who struggled to educate their children she described herself in her maiden speech to Parliament in September 2022 as:

“ . . . a proud daughter of an immigrant and there are millions more like me. In fact, this great nation of ours was built on immigration. The service of my ancestors, the Afghan cameleers, allowed us to navigate the plains of this land. They were pioneers and I, too, will be a pioneer and walk in their footsteps to serve our nation as they did.”

Speaking out May 15, on the 75 anniversary of the Palestinian described Naqba or catastrophe, she was indeed a pioneer speaking of the horrific suffering of the people in Gaza as Israel continues its war describing it as a genocide. She called on the Prime Minister saying:

“We cannot be disconnected from the people of Australia, the young of this nation are telling us and we are silencing them. The future of this nation is speaking, and we are silencing them instead of advocating for justice.”

While Australia supported the United Nations General Assembly last week to take more progressive moves to recognise Palestine as a state, the Federal Government has yet to support many other nations including Israel’s immediate neighbours Egypt, Turkiye and Lebanon in South Africa’s Application to the ICJ of the Convention on the Prévention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip. There are many actions Australia could take against Israel including the list of actions called for by the ACTU:

• Using all influence, pressure, and diplomatic measures to achieve a permanent ceasefire.

• Ending all military trade with Israel

• Enacting targeted sanctions on Israeli officials who have called for the denial of aid, and military and civil servants denying essential food and materials to civilians of Gaza.

• Committing additional funding of $100 million in humanitarian assistance to Gaza and the West Bank

How can the Prime Minister continue to stay silent when such unspeakable, horrific, brutal torture of the people of Gaza is being carried out. At least 36,000 people killed and nearly 80,000 or more injured let alone the large numbers of people unaccounted for under the rubble. Most of the entire Gaza strip reduced to rubble by American made bombs. Over 200 aid workers killed, 254 UN workers and 122 journalists and media workers also killed. Now most hospitals are not working. For over a week no aid, that is basics fuel, water, flour, food and medicines, has been delivered, trucks stopped by the IDF and vicious uncontrolled settlers allowed to loot and burn aid trucks with the military standing by not taking any action to stop theses crimes. Around half a million terrified people have now left Rafah where they were told to go and shelter a couple of months ago by the IDF now having fled in terror they are cramped in the equally unsafe areas of al-Mawasi and Deir al-Balah.

Eman Mohamed is a maths teacher from Gaza described the situation in Deir al-Balah as abysmal and the crowding as unbearable with some people sleeping in the streets as there is no shelter and nowhere else to even make a tent. Waste water flows everywhere even between the tents and water that is available is polluted adding to the growing number of infections and people are dehydrated and starving. But the spirit of resilience is extraordinary even in such horrific conditions as he reported:

“The people in Gaza have endured endless cycles of hope and despair, and our hearts are weighed down by continual displacement and loss. Tears feel like a luxury we can’t afford, and the sense of helplessness is overwhelming as we struggle to survive in a world that seems indifferent to our suffering. Yet, amid the hardship, there is resilience. We cling to hope, knowing that each day brings us one step closer to relief and a ceasefire, even as our cities crumble around us:

Such courage and resilience is obvious in Senator Payman who in her maiden address to Parliament in September 2022 ended with a poem call in Dari ‘Bani Adam’ by Saadi Shirazi, which translates as ‘Children of Adam’.

It translates to:

  • Human beings are members of a whole
  • In creation of one essence and soul
  • If one member is afflicted with pain
  • Other members uneasy will remain
  • If you have no sympathy for human pain
  • The name of human you cannot retain

Are we uneasy? Have we no sympathy? Young people and millions of Australians taking to the streets weekly are uneasy and sympathetic, but when will the Australian Government find the unease and sympathy needed to take strong action against Israel, and rather than pathetic words that are sickening us all, act in the name of humanity?

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