Australia/Israel Review


The Last Word: Motion Sickness

Dec 16, 2022 | Jamie Hyams

South Australian MP Tony Piccolo (screenshot)
South Australian MP Tony Piccolo (screenshot)

On November 16, in honour of “Palestine Independence Day”, South Australian MP Tony Piccolo (ALP) moved the following motion in the South Australian Legislative Assembly:

That this house—

(a) notes…

(ii) that Israel’s occupation of Palestine has lasted over 50 years;

(iii) that Israel continues to build settlements on occupied territory which undermines a two-state solution; …

(b) supports the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in equality, peace and security within internationally recognised borders;

(c) endorses the principles 1 to 8 stated in the Sydney Statement on anti-Palestinianism; and

(d) calls on the Australian government to—

(i) acknowledge the right of Palestinians to self-determination as provided for by international law;

(ii) acknowledge the Palestinians’ right to statehood; …

An identical motion, moved by Piccolo’s ALP colleague Irene Pnevmatikos, was debated in the Legislative Council on Nov. 2 and Nov. 30. Sadly, both motions passed along party lines, with the ALP, Greens and SA Best parties in favour, and the Liberals and One Nation against (and three independents absent), despite their many manifest flaws.

For example, the woefully one-sided narrative ignores Palestinian terrorism and the intransigence that has prevented them getting a state. While 138 states have recognised Palestine, a point emphasised by speakers, only one is a Western democracy. 

Perhaps most troubling is the endorsement of the Sydney Statement on anti-Palestinianism, drafted by a shadowy body calling itself the Arab Australian Federation, run by a veteran PLO activist. Clearly intended as a counterpoint and negation of the authoritative International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism, it basically declares every denial of the Palestinians’ self-declared “rights” to be anti-Palestinian racism.

Principle Five declares, “Palestinians have the right, in accordance with international law, to engage in resistance against unlawful policies and practices of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.” Given resistance is code for terrorism, and Palestinians claim Israel’s presence anywhere in the West Bank and east Jerusalem is unlawful (and many Palestinian groups insist all of Israel is an illegal entity), this seems an assertion that international law allows terrorism against Israel.

Principle Six calls for the so-called “right of return” to Israel of more than five million descendants of Palestinian refugees, which is incompatible with the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state. And the SA Parliament endorsed these principles!

Speeches supporting the motion included appalling misinformation. For example, Piccolo implicitly denied Jewish indigeneity to Israel, claiming, “some similarities between what happened… with the colonisation of Australia” and the UN partition plan. He claimed repeatedly that Israel is the party not interested in a two-state peace, ignoring the many Israeli offers of statehood rebuffed by the PA. 

He also claimed, “according to information provided by the UN Special Coordinator, in this century 5,985 Palestinian people have been shot and killed by Israeli forces and 264 Israelis have been killed.” Strange, given more than 1,000 Israelis were killed in the 2000-2005 Second Intifada alone.

Pnevmatikos bafflingly claimed, “Blatant prejudice exists against Palestinians who pursue and engage in peace talks but are deemed to be terrorists.” Greens MLC Tammy Franks bemoaned “the Palestinian war, which culminated in the establishment of the state of Israel.” In fact, what those who accept Israel’s existence refer to as Israel’s War of Independence was mostly fought after the establishment of the state, when Israel’s Arab neighbours invaded from all sides.

In reality, the reason there is no peace is Palestinian intransigence, and commitment to a Palestinian state in place of, rather than alongside, Israel. Motions such as these aren’t just morally wrong, but counter-productive, because they encourage Palestinian leaders to believe their ongoing rejectionism is bearing fruit. 

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