Aboriginal journalist Stan Grant told the ABC’s Recognition: Yes or No? program on 20 September: “I have been to Israel and I have seen the sense of Jewish belonging, whether you are an Ethiopian Jew or a Russian Jew or an American Jew, with a whole range of ethnicities and everything else around it that coalesce around a sense of belonging and kinship”.
Grant was attempting to highlight the resilience of Aboriginal identity in the aftermath of European colonisation. But this praise for Israel shockingly ignored the Palestinian people and the fact that, like Australia, Israel is a settler colonial society in which the indigenous population has endured invasion, colonisation and dispossession.
Israel, far from being a society that embraces all ethnicities, is an apartheid state.
It isn’t as if Grant isn’t aware of this, having reported on the Palestine-Israel conflict at different times during his career. And it isn’t as if he doesn’t understand what settler colonialism entails. In October last year, he eloquently spoke about the impact of settler colonialism on Aboriginal Australia, noting: “The Australian Dream is rooted in racism. It is the very foundation of the dream. It was there at the birth of the nation. It is there in terra nullius. An empty land. A land for the taking”.
The history of Israel is no different, its establishment being rooted in the racist dispossession of the Palestinian Arab population. Like Australia, Palestine was also deemed an “empty land” by the Zionists who founded Israel, proclaiming it to be “a land without people, for a people without land”.
The similarities between Australia and Israel should come as no surprise. Settler colonial societies are a distinct type of imperialist formation, which are premised on the racist elimination of the indigenous population through various means, including ethnic cleansing, genocide and/or assimilation.
All settler colonial states are characterised by massive inequalities that often are codified in law and built structurally into the economic, social and political system, ensuring that the settler population is legally, socially and politically privileged over the indigenous population.
In Australia, Indigenous people continue to be the most disadvantaged group in the country, including in health, education and employment. Indigenous people also have the highest rates of incarceration, making up one-quarter of the prison population, despite being less than 3 percent of the total population.
Palestinians similarly face structural racism, oppression and disadvantage. Four million Palestinians currently live under Israel’s brutal military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Five million live in exile due to Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948.
In addition, 1.5 million Palestinians living inside Israel, despite being citizens, face daily discrimination and apartheid. According to Adalah – the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – more than 50 discriminatory laws have been enacted since 1948 in relation to political participation, access to land, education, state budget resources, criminal procedures, employment, property and family matters, such as marriage and family reunification.
Grant’s whitewashing of Israeli apartheid, while shocking, is unsurprising. While he has often been an eloquent advocate for Aboriginal people, Grant has also promoted himself as a diplomat and pragmatist who seeks “equilibrium and balance” so that Australia can “come together”.
In doing so, he has repeatedly tried to find some sort of mythical common ground between Aboriginal people and their oppressors. Such diplomacy does not eradicate racism. It gives it comfort.
Similarly, by holding Israel up as a beacon of cohesion and inclusivity, Grant is giving comfort to an apartheid regime, deliberately whitewashing its settler colonial history and disappearing the Palestinians.
Rather than Indigenous people lauding Israel, as Grant wants us to do, we need to recognise that the Palestinian people’s history is our history and vice versa. By standing in solidarity with the Palestinians and recognising our commonalities, we will not only strengthen both our struggles. We will also take both our people one step closer to winning justice, human rights and self-determination.
“I’m exhausted”, declared West Australian Premier Mark McGowan when announcing his resignation at a press conference on 29 May. So too are the state’s 40,000 nurses, who, under McGowan’s government, have confronted daily staff shortages, declining real wages and attacks on their union.
Wildfires are tearing through the Canadian province of Alberta, the heart of Canada’s lucrative oil and gas industry. The images of orange and black skies from the thick smoke—which is now billowing across the US border, causing air quality warnings in several northern states—are dystopian yet familiar.
While most of us are being hit hard by the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation, Australia’s “big four” banks—Commonwealth, Westpac, ANZ and NAB—have had a record-breaking start to the financial year, posting a combined half-year profit of $17.1 billion. That’s a 19 percent increase from the equivalent period in 2021, and $1.3 billion more than the previous record of $15.8 billion in 2015.
“You’re just a performing fucking monkey”. A racist barb, and one of many pointed moments in Jacky, a Melbourne Theatre Company production currently playing at the Arts Centre. Jacky is about the politics of performing monkeys. It is about racism and exploitation, hypocrisy and resistance.
Academic workers at Rutgers University in New Jersey have achieved a stunning victory with a serious campaign of industrial action, centred on an open-ended strike. Their approach is a model for unionists in Australia.
NTEU Fightback, a rank-and-file union group of the National Tertiary Education Union at the University of Sydney, is calling on staff to vote No in the upcoming ballot on the proposed enterprise agreement. The campaign was launched at a forum on 25 May, attended by over 50 people. A members’ meeting on 13 June will consider the agreement. This week will probably be the first time that members are provided with a full list of proposed changes to our working conditions.