Just as Israel’s Independence Day and the Palestinian Nakba Day, in remembrance of deportation and deadly dispossession, have a bloody symbiosis, Australia Day or Invasion Day, on 26 January, is celebrated or mourned according to the victors or the vanquished.
The tragic past and near narratives of the suffering of unspeakable colonial atrocities against Indigenous Palestinians and Indigenous Australians bear close resemblance and are written in blood and great injustice.
Is it just me, or do you also see a thread of colonial superiority and racism binding Australia to Israel?
“Imperialism after all is an act of geographical violence”: Edward Said, Palestinian intellectual, author and activist.
Both Israeli and British colonists took the terra nullius doctrine i.e. ‘empty land’ approach to justify their brutal occupations and wholesale land theft of Palestine and Australia.
The Jewish settlers claimed they had a God-given right to Palestine, ‘a land without a people’ and boast they made the empty desert bloom though for centuries Palestine traded in olives, oil, quinces, pinenuts, figs, carob, cotton, dates, indigo, artichokes, citrus fruit, almonds, mint, sumac and abundantly more.
The island, named Australia by British invaders and colonists, was home to almost a million peoples of, at least, 200 nations that traced their ancestry back 120,000 years along spiritual songlines of the land to the Dreaming – to Creation and guardianship of country was/is a sacred trust. The Aborigines maintained their food supply with a sophisticated management of the land with fire.This genius was belatedly understood after the mega-bushfires of 2019-20 caused by non-Aboriginal negligent ignorance.
The British imperial genocidal wars and massacres (guns vs spears) such as those at Hawkesbury, Nepean Richmond Hill, Risdon Cove, Appin, Bathurst, Port Phillip, Swan River (Battle of Pinjarra), Gravesend, Vinegar Hill, Myall Creek, Kinroy, Rufus R, Long lagoon, Dawson River, Kalkadoon, Cape Grim, The Black war, McKinley River, West Kimberly, Tasmania resisted by Aboriginal warriors like Pemulwuy, Winradyne, Woureddy, Multuggerah, Yagan, Jandamarra, as well as starvation and western diseases decimated the dispossessed Aboriginal population to about 70,000 by 1920.
Since the state terrorism of the Jewish State of Israel beginning with the Nakba – the destruction of 675 Palestinian villages and towns that generated the forced exile of two thirds of Palestinians into foreign and internal camps – Palestinians have bravely maintained both armed and non-violent resistance as is their right guaranteed under United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/33/24 of 29 November 1978:
“2. Reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle;”
Occupation and apartheid
In Australia, violent genocide was replaced by the more covert cultural genocide ie the genocide of indigeneity through the government policy of assimilation intended to eradicate indigenous identity by cruelly and systematically destroying connections to family, the tribe and ancestral lands.
Australia’s apartheid policies marginalised the First Nation peoples onto reservations and missions, restricted entry into white towns, exploited unpaid slave labour, their indigenous languages and sacred rituals forbidden, and mixed blood children (The Stolen Generations) were forcibly kidnapped from their parents for resocialisation – ie to be made ‘white’.
Assimilation is where Australia differs from Israel. For Israel the assimilation of Palestinians is an anathema. The Zionist goal is racist; a pure Aryan-like Jewish state, rid of all Palestinians from the river to the sea. Ergo, Israel perpetrates a slow-motion brutal genocide and a relentless push of Palestinians over the exile cliff.
Until the 1967 Referendum, Aborigines were government property: “The right to choose a marriage partner, to be legally responsible for one’s own children, to move about the state and to socialise with non-Aboriginal Australians, were just some of the rights which Aboriginal people did not have.”
Sound familiar? Israel’s apartheid policies similarly impact on Palestinians. Israel has passed racist laws that impose severe movement restrictions dividing families, preventing family reunification and obstructing the marriage of couples who come from different zones.
At least a third of Gazans have relatives in Israel and the West Bank. The personal pain of such enforced separations which deny Palestinians the shared and cherished moments we enjoy freely is immeasurable…grandparents have never seen their grandchildren who may live 5 kilometres away… adult children are denied the right to be with a dying parent…births…weddings…funerals ..are overshadowed by painful absences.
Australia’s Native Title Act, 1993, finally acknowledged that some Indigenous Australians ‘have rights and interests to their land that come from their traditional laws and customs.’ But, as mining boomed on resource rich indigenous lands, corporate colonialism reared its rapacious head undermining this landmark act with the Northern Territory Intervention.
It was initiated by the Howard government in 2007 and maintained by successive governments including that of Kevin Rudd who made the historic apology to the Stolen Generations while indigenous communities were suffering the humiliation of apartheid welfare payments, now the Cashless Card, and struggle to survive in third world conditions.
As the Prawer Plan was debated in the Israeli Knesset, the sound of the Australian government salivating with envy must have been deafening while imagining the power to evict, from their ancestral lands, 40,000 pesky Bedouins hindering Israel’s land expansion or the power to simply bulldoze Palestinian villages and orchards to build settlements for Zionist colonists.
I hope that Australians who have fled the Australian-backed USA military imperialism from their homelands in Philippines, Bosnia, Vietnam Somalia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria have empathy for colonised Australians on Invasion Day which is saturated with flags boasting the British Union Jack that mocks Truth, freedom and the fair-go of oneness.
Colonial terrorism, disguised as civilised democracy, is not only perpetrated by the hollow men and women in authority. They are the monsters for whom you and I vote and without us they are powerless. Until our moral conscience, intelligence and compassion determines how we vote, we too are their accomplices.