Written by Julie Nathan.
Around 200 people attended this year’s Al-Nakba protest in Sydney last night. Numbers were down on previous years and the crowd seemed tamer. The Hezbollah flags and neo-Nazis, conspicuously present in the previous two years, were gone.
But the rhetoric has changed little. Israel was defamed, misrepresented and demonised. Speaker after speaker asserted that the Palestinians, but not the Jews, are a distinct people entitled to national self-determination. The double standard did not phase one speaker. No antisemitism here, she insisted, irrelevantly citing her own Jewish background as “proof”.
Greens State MP, David Shoebridge, addressed the crowd and accused Israel of being “an apartheid state”. He claimed there was a “two-tiered structure in Israel” for Jews and Arabs. He called for “the end of apartheid roads in the West Bank which only Jews can go on”.
(Fact check: Shoebridge is wrong. There are no “Jewish-only” roads, only Israeli-only roads for Jewish and Arab Israelis alike).
Shoebridge also voiced his support for the so-called “right of return” of Palestinian refugees, but omitted to mention that the Palestinians claim that they define “refugees” to mean not only the Palestinians displaced during the 1948 War who are still living (currently estimated at around 30,000), but also all their descendants, ad inﬁnitum (currently estimated at 6 million people), who were born and have lived in other countries for their entire lives, including those who are citizens of those other countries. Thus, persons born and raised in Lebanon, Syria, the UK or Australia, who have never left or ﬂed from their homes, are considered to be Palestinian ‘refugees’ if they are descended from 1948 refugees. The notion of refugee status being inherited and passed down in perpetuity is without parallel in international law. It is not applied to, nor is it claimed, by any other people.
Most signiﬁcantly, a ‘right of return’ is sought not only into a future Palestinian state, but also into Israel itself. The clear underlying aim of the demand for a “right of return”, is to transform the demographic balance of the state of Israel by turning the Jewish majority into a highly vulnerable minority, so that Israel will cease to be the State of the Jewish people.
Shoebridge characterised the Arab-Israel conflict as
“one side having all the tanks and planes, while the other side has youth with rocks”,
conveniently ignoring the invasions by Arab armies and years of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.
This was not predominantly a Palestinian event. It was a show put on by an extreme-left local fringe. They were incapable of articulating their case in anything other than contemporary western, far-left terms. At times the speakers were reduced to appropriating other people’s cultural motifs. One of them declared that the whole country (including Israel) “always was and always will be Palestinian land”, a slogan copied directly from Australia’s indigenous people. (And never mind that the Jews were there first).
Most pathetic of all was the song which ended the evening. By singing it, the protesters were unwittingly affirming what they had earlier vehemently denied – that the Jews “always were and always will be” a nation. The song was entitled “Next Year in Jerusalem”, an attempt to appropriate to the cause of Palestinian nationalism the millennia-long yearning of the Jewish people to return to their homeland and its capital city, recited for centuries by Jewish families at the Passover dinner table.
Julie Nathan is the Research Officer for The Executive Council of Australian Jewry