Are we going to let this happen to the Palestinians?

26 October 2023
Nick Everett

This is an edited version of a speech delivered by Friends of Palestine WA chairperson Nick Everett at a rally in Perth on 21 October.

Not far from where we stand is a memorial dedicated to the six million Jewish men, women and children who perished in the Holocaust. It calls out to us: “never let this happen again”.

But such crimes have happened again and again since 1945. Our rulers have a selective memory when it comes to genocide. They only use the term “genocide” when it suits them.

During the Vietnam War, the American government dropped 2.75 tonnes of ordnance on Cambodia—more than was dropped by the Allies in World War Two. During the Nixon administration, between 1970 and 1973, this frenzy of carpet bombing killed at least 150,000 people and contributed to famine and civil war, leading ultimately to the genocide of the Pol Pot regime.

Are we going to let this happen to the Palestinians?

Soon after the US exited Indochina, a new genocide began in East Timor, when Indonesia invaded on 7 December 1975. US President Gerald Ford met with Indonesia’s dictator General Suharto the day before, giving the green light to that invasion. Suharto had come to power a decade earlier in a military coup that resulted in the death of 1 million Indonesians, with the support of the US government.

During Indonesia’s 23-year occupation of East Timor, 250,000 Timorese—a third of the population—died. This genocide was made possible with American-supplied weapons and British Hawke aircraft.

Are we going to let this happen to the Palestinians?

For twelve years, beginning in 1991, Iraq suffered under a regime of UN sanctions imposed at the behest of Washington. Half a million Iraq children died, according to UNICEF, more than died in the bombing of Hiroshima.

When asked on national television about the death toll, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright replied: “We think, the price is worth it”.

The sanctions regime ended only when the US bombed and invaded its way into Iraq, laying waste to the country.

Are we going to let this happen to the Palestinians?

In 2016, Myanmar’s military junta launched a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya in Rakhine State. Tens of thousands were killed, accused of being foreigners and terrorist vermin. 750,000 were driven across the border into Bangladesh, where most continue to languish in refugee camps.

In the lead-up to the carnage, Western governments played down the military junta’s crimes, keen to get their hands on Myanmar’s vast natural resources. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, lauded in the West, helped facilitate this genocide, acting as the regime’s smiling face.

Are we going to let Palestinians suffer the same fate?

Of course, Palestinians have their own experience of ethnic cleansing. During the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948, 500 villages were depopulated and thousands were killed by Zionist militia. Just like the Rohingya, 750,000 were driven from their homes and forced into permanent exile from their homeland.

Now Israel wants to repeat the 1948 Nakba by destroying homes and forcing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into exile again.

A week ago, the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, compared Palestinians to the Nazis in a television interview. Just as Britain’s war on Nazi Germany led to 600,000 civilian deaths, Hotovely said, there is a moral equivalence in Palestinian civilians being killed by Israel.

Yet fascism was not defeated in 1945 by the bombing of German cities. It was defeated by resistance movements who refused to give up in the face of adversity.

One of the worst crimes committed by the Nazis was the incarceration of 400,000 Polish Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. Not unlike contemporary Gaza, the Ghetto was an open-air prison shut off from the outside world. Behind those prison walls a resistance developed that was determined to go down fighting and not be forgotten.

The last survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, Marek Edelman, who died in 2009, was a socialist who wanted nothing to do with Zionism. Edleman pledged his support for the rights of Palestinians.

“To be a Jew means always being with the oppressed, never with the oppressors”, he said.

Like Edelman, we must resist. We must stand on the side of the oppressed, the Palestinians. And we must never give up.

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