In the federal Australian parliament on Monday 25 October 2021, I moved that this House:
(1) notes that 29 November 2021 is the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People as declared by the United Nations in 1977;
(2) recognises the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self determination and a future built on peace, dignity, justice and security;
(3) acknowledges the obstacles to the ongoing peace process, particularly the need for urgent action on issues such as settlements, Jerusalem, the Gaza blockade and the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories;
(4) further recognises that the ongoing humanitarian situation in Palestine is far-reaching, with many in the Australian community affected by this ongoing conflict; and
(5) calls on the Government to ensure Australia is working constructively to support security and human rights in Palestine, in advance of a just and enduring two-state solution in the Middle East.
As we approach 29 November, I take the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the Palestinian people and stand united in their struggle for self-determination. When the Oslo agreements were drafted in 1993, they were intended to give the Palestinian people autonomy. However, 28 years later the military occupation continues to control the lives of Palestinians and their access to the basic necessities of life, including the vital water supply.
Under the Oslo agreements, Israel retains exclusive control over almost all the water resources. The agreements allocate 80 per cent of the mountain aquifer water to Israeli use and 20 per cent to the Palestinians. Apart from the human rights implications that arise, it is quite concerning given that over the last 28 years the Palestinian population of the occupied West Bank has nearly doubled. Due to these restrictions, the Palestinian authority is forced to purchase significant water supply from Mekorot, Israel’s national water company.
This issue is further complicated by the very poor Palestinian water pipelines, which mean that about a third of the water supply, I am advised, is being lost to leakage. The water shortage in the West Bank is acute in summer and Mekorot restricts the water supplies for the higher demands of the Israeli settlements. As a result, the average water consumption for all Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza falls well behind the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum levels.
Access to necessities such as water is an inalienable human right and, unfortunately, these rights are not being realised due to military occupation. Clearly this is inhumane and unjust. We must work towards affording self-determination to the Palestinian people, including a future that’s based on peace, dignity, justice and security.
I acknowledge there are many obstacles in the ongoing peace process, particularly the need for urgent action in respect to settlements, Jerusalem, the Gaza blockade and the humanitarian situation in the occupied territories. I believe it falls to countries like Australia, who believe in the dignity of all people, to become more engaged in addressing the need for a tangible process towards the creation of the Palestinian state while ensuring respect and security for a Jewish homeland.
I genuinely accept the right of the Jewish state to exist and for it to be able to defend the rights and freedoms of its people. However, I firmly believe the future of the Jewish state and, indeed, the region depends on Israel’s ability to live in peace with its neighbours, including a Palestinian state.
On this note, I call on the government to ensure that Australia’s working constructively to support security and the human rights of Palestinians, including the unequivocal commitment to adjust an enduring two-state solution consistent with international law.
While slightly digressing, I’d also take this opportunity to reiterate my concerns about Mohammed El Halabi, the former director of World Vision Australia in Gaza and the West Bank. Mr El Halabi has been charged on allegations of funnelling $50 million of World Vision aid money to a terrorist group, Hamas. Although investigations have been conducted by the Department of Foreign Affairs, independent auditors as well as World Vision itself, they have all failed to show any evidence that money was actually diverted,
Mr El Halabi remains in prison. He’s been severely restricted in his legal defence throughout his four-year ordeal, depriving him of a fair trial, and has been forced to attend over 150 court appearances without any substantial evidence to support the allegations against him.
I have been in contact with Mr El Halabi’s distressed father on a number of occasions now regarding his son’s plight and, accordingly, I use this opportunity to renew any call for the international community to continue to place pressure on Israel to finalise Mr El Halabi’s trial without further delay. I look further to a future where Israel and Palestine can coexist in peace and harmony and I echo the views of Pope Benedict—let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream.