Senator Doug Cameron Speech: Palestinian National Day Toast -12 November 2014







Council of Australian Palestinians – Palestinian National Day Toast

New South Wales Parliament House


I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet tonight and I pay my respects to their Elders both past and present.

I would also like to acknowledge the Council of Australian Palestinians and Albert Jubian for inviting me to address you on Palestine National Day. It is a great honour.

I acknowledge that Tony Issa MP is here representing the Premier.

I acknowledge the Leader of the State Opposition, John Robertson, fellow parliamentarians, distinguished guests.

Labor continues to support a two state solution.

I condemn the firing of rockets into Israel and the disproportionate response by the Israeli armed forces.

The continued violence in the Middle East is of grave concern and the plight of Palestinians in their homeland has created international concern. 

It has become a cause célèbre for terrorist groups such as ISIS.

The promotion of peace in the Middle East has never been more important.

It has been an extremely tough year for Palestinians.

It has also been extremely tough for Israelis who have lost loved ones as a result of rocket attacks.

Humanity and common-sense dictate that international efforts must be redoubled to reach a two-state solution.

We need a solution which delivers Palestinians their inviolable right to statehood and delivers Israel peace and security.

In 2008, the Israeli Defence Force Operation Cast Lead killed approximately 1400 Palestinians including 300 children.

Approximately 5000 Palestinians were injured, many damaged for life.

Massive property damage resulted from the 22 day military campaign.

This year, Operation Protective Edge killed more than 2200 Palestinians including 513 children.

Approximately 11,000 were injured.

UN estimates put the civilian casualties as between 69 and 75%.

520,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been displaced.

485,000 require emergency food assistance.

273,000 took shelter in UN-run schools.

The systematic destruction perpetrated by one of the most powerful and technologically advanced military forces in the world was sickening.

Is it any wonder that this scale of death and destruction breeds hatred and the desire for revenge?

The political and economic focus in Australia over the next couple of weeks will be the G20 meeting in Brisbane.

The G20 will be discussing what they describe as "the growth challenge."

The key themes will include:

  • promoting stronger economic growth
  • making the global economy more resilient to deal with future shocks
  • strengthening global institutions

We are told that the growth strategy will include:

  • increasing quality investment in infrastructure
  • reducing barriers to trade
  • promoting competition
  • lifting employment participation
  • strengthening development

Would it not be better for Israel to set an economic and social agenda in cooperation with Palestine to deliver on these themes and strategies with a Palestinian state?

Would this not improve the cause of peace in the Middle East and in the world?

Why should Palestinians be denied economic growth and resilience, strengthened institutions, increased investment in infrastructure, the capacity to trade and compete, increased employment and strengthened development?

The peace agenda must include a growth agenda.

The current situation where GDP growth in Palestine had declined significantly as a result of the deliberate actions of a democratic Israel beggars belief.

A presentation by the United Nations Trade Development Board to the recent UN conference on Trade and Development demonstrate that the restrictions imposed by the occupation of Palestine

  • reduces the tax base;
  • restricts the Palestinian Authorities capacity to raise revenue;
  • increases spending on social services and transfers; and
  • forces the Palestinian authority to act as an employer of last resort.

The UN Trade and Development Board identified the following constraints on the Palestinian economy:

  • the construction of the 709 kilometre separation wall;
  • mobility and access restrictions;
  • 540 internal checkpoints, roadblocks and other physical obstacles which impede Palestinian movement in the West Bank; and
  • inflated production costs that cripple competitiveness.

I do not have time in this speech to outline all of the impediments to creating a viable Palestinian state.

One issue that must be dealt with is the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. These settlements forcibly displace Palestinian civilians as a result of demolitions, and revocation of residency rights.

Israeli settlements are blocking peace and a Palestinian State.

As the Economist reported on August 2, 2014:

"If Israel continues to build settlements in the occupied territory, it will gobble up land that would belong to an independent Palestinian state, making peace harder to reach"

Reuters has reported Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel as foreseeing 50% more settlers in the West Bank by 2019.

"I think that in five years there will be 550,000 or 600,000 Jews in Judea and Samaria rather than 400,000 (now)"

Taking deliberate steps to stop the two-state solution is not in Israel's long-term interest.

As former Israeli PM Ehud Barak says:

"If and as long as between Jordan and the sea, there is only one political entity, named Israel, it will end up being either non-Jewish or nondemocratic …. If the Palestinians vote in elections, it is a binational state, and if they don’t, it is an apartheid state"

As former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert said:

"If the day comes when the two state solution collapses, and we face a South African style struggle for equal voting rights then, as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished"

In June 2014, John Kerry, the US Secretary of State said:

"A two state solution will be clearly underscored as the only alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state."

These warnings should be heeded as we see a major Dutch pension firm divest from Israeli banks over the settlements and we see the UK Foreign Office warn of the business risk for British investors in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The current situation is untenable and we must all redouble our efforts to promote peace, security and stability in the Middle East.

I would like to conclude by congratulating former Foreign Minister and Premier Bob Carr for his continued advocacy on behalf of peace and the inviolable rights of Palestinians to have a peaceful and economically sustainable State.

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