Legislative Council: Wednesday, May 17, 2023


Nakba Day

The Hon. I. PNEVMATIKOS (15:50): On Monday, Palestinians and their supporters commemorated Al Nakba. Every year, 15 May is a day of mourning for Palestinians around the world. Al Nakba is the Arabic phrase for the catastrophe that resulted in the destruction of the Palestinian society and homeland and the permanent displacement of most of the Palestinian people in 1948. This year marks the 75th anniversary.

By way of background, at the start of the 20th century Palestine was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Britain took control of Palestine after defeating Turkey in the First World War and brought with it a commitment to build a home for the Jewish people in Palestine. British control enabled massive Jewish immigration into Palestine in the interwar years, spurred on by the rise of fascism in Europe. British control enabled massive Jewish immigration into Palestine in those interwar years.

When Britain gave up its control of Palestine, the problem was given to the United Nations, which recommended the partition into an Arab state and a Jewish state. The Arab population rejected the partition as unjust and unreasonable. Jewish settlers only made up one-third of the population and 6 per cent of land ownership, and yet they were allocated 50 per cent of the country in this plan. Despite this rejection, the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 saw the dispossession of half the Palestinian population and the loss of three-quarters of the territory of Palestine.

The Nakba was instrumental in carrying out the expulsion of the Palestinians and the seizure of their homes, businesses and agricultural lands. Israel now occupied 78 per cent of Palestine, extending beyond the area recommended for a Jewish state in the Partition Plan. Around 80 per cent of Palestinians living in the occupied areas, some 750,000 people, were driven out or fled in fear, with only 20 per cent remaining and eventually becoming Israeli citizens.

The refugees were not allowed to return and were never compensated for the loss of their homes and properties. The refugees lost everything. They fled on foot with what they could carry. They went to Gaza, to the West Bank, to Jordan, to Lebanon and Syria and to other parts of the Arab world, and even to Australia.

After the Nakba, the State of Israel demolished over 400 villages to prevent the return of the refugees. The seizure of Palestine and the dispossession of the Palestinians led to several wars between Israel and the Arab states. Israel's victory in the Six-Day War of 1967 saw it take control of the rest of Palestine, making a further 250,000 Palestinians refugees.

This catastrophe did not just occur on this day in 1948, it was a practice that both preceded and followed the establishment of the State of Israel. It is ongoing; it is intentional. Seventy-five years after the Nakba, Palestinians are still waiting for their country and their freedom: 75 years and Palestinians still do not have their own state, 75 years of insecurity and 75 years of the longest military occupation in modern history. This is 75 years marked by war, dispossession and now segregation, which some, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Harvard Law School and the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, have described as apartheid.

This is an occupation that has been in the international public eye for far too long. Israel continues to build illegal settlements and perpetuate human rights abuses. Attacks on Palestinian civilians, especially during special celebrations and commemorations for Palestinian society, is commonplace in both Israel and the occupied territories. In 2023 alone, more than 140,000 Palestinians have been killed already in increasingly violent clashes in the West Bank and Israeli air strikes on the blockaded Gaza Strip. We know, from ongoing polling, that most Australians support an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

I want to specifically acknowledge the work done in Australia by Australian Friends of Palestine Association, Australian Palestine Advocacy Network and Glimmer of Hope. All three organisations have played a significant role in informing the Australian community of the Palestinian right for justice, truth and liberation. Dhikra an-Nakba—in memory of the Palestinian catastrophe. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.

Time expired.