Sydney remembers Al Nakba

The 63rd year of the Palestinian Nakba, which saw two-thirds of the Palestinian population become refugees following the 1948 War and the establishment of the State of Israel, will take place on 15th May, 2011. Many in the Australian community now recognise the enormous significance of the Nakba for the Palestinian people, millions of whom remain refugees unable to return to their homes, while others live under Israel’s harsh military occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

We also acknowledge that the Nakba continues as Israel expands its settlements, persists with its colonisation of Palestinian land, further develops its apartheid policies which discriminate against its own Arab citizens as well as the residents of East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank. In the just the first 3 months of 2011, more than 300 people have been displaced due to home demolitions or evictions by the Israeli Occupation forces while thirty Palestinians were killed and almost 500 injured in conflict-related violence such as military incursions or attacks by settlers. (Source: The Monthly Humanitarian Monitor, March 2011, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)

As we remember the Nakba, Sydney hosts two visitors who will be speaking in a number of forums. They are Professor Ibrahim Aoude, Chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Hawaii and the key human rights advocate Ms Ghada Abu Ghalyoun from the International Office of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions. As guests of the Sydney Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine they are the keynote speakers at the conference titled TEMPERATURES RISING! Australian civil society & Palestinian freedom to be held at the University of Technology, Sydney over the weekend of the 14th and 15th May. This two day conference, initiated by the Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Center at the University of Technology, Sydney and the Coalition for Justice & Peace in Palestine, provides analysis of current political dynamics in the Middle East in order to help develop more effective strategies for Australian solidarity with Palestinian self-determination.

The focus on the core rights of Palestinians, rights to national freedom, equality, democracy, land and peace… and fundamentally, the right of the refugees to return to their homes will also allow us to reflect on the similarities and connections of indigenous struggle in Australia and Palestine.
The recent SBS documentary, Israel’s Mabo, inspired us to want to learn more about the connections of these two indigenous struggles and TEMPERATURES RISING! Australian civil society & Palestinian freedom provides that opportunity with a session focusing on “The colonial settler state and Indigenous resistance: From Australia to Palestine.” This session which explores the concept of the 'colonial settler state' as an analytical device for understanding the behaviour of the Israeli and Australian governments is chaired by Professor Heather Goodall. Professor Goodall will also discuss issues encountered when teaching a comparative history of colonialism incorporating Palestine and Southern Africa. N

Nicole Watson and Paddy Gibson from the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, with Kim Bullimore, a Murri woman from North Queensland, will take the Northern Territory Intervention as a starting point for an analysis of settler colonialism as a continuing process in Australia and Palestine.

Ms Bullimore who combines her work for Australian Indigenous Rights, with advocacy for Palestinian self-determination and human rights will also contribute to the session Visiting, volunteering and activism in the Occupied Territories. As a volunteer with the International Women’s Peace Service, the only all women international peace team working on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territories Kim has recently returned from working Palestine.

As a key human rights advocate, Ms Abu Ghalyoun will be able to give unionists and Australians in general first-hand explanations of the situations of workers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, whose economy has been largely destroyed. She is Deputy Secretary of the Women’s Department of the PGFTU, which is currently waging a campaign to raise the minimum wage, particularly for women workers. Before joining the PGFTU, Ms Abu Ghalyoun was active in women’s and youth groups in marginalized areas, building leadership skills in their communities and in human rights campaigns. The Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions, an affiliate of the International Trade Union Confederation led by former ACTU president Sharan Burrow, is the largest trade union federation in Palestine.

Professor Aoudé teaches courses on the Middle East, the Pacific, and Hawaii and he is the Editor of Arab Studies Quarterly. Dr Aoudé is the editor of Arab Studies Quarterly and his research interests include the Palestinian National Liberation movement, the Palestinian diaspora and the civil rights of Arab Americans. His articles and book reviews have appeared in such journals as Peace and Policy, Social Analysis and Asian Studies Review. Mr Aoudé has spoken previously at conferences in Australia organised by the Australasian Middle East Studies Association and the Council of Australian Palestinians. Ms Abu Ghlayoun and Dr Aoudé will also be the featured speakers at the formal Nakba Commemoration Lecture at NSW Parliament to commemorate the Nakba, remembering dispossession and expulsion of Palestinians from their land in 1948.

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