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Nadia Hijab on what we’re fighting for, against, and growing our power

On Saturday 27th January, Nadia Hijab, Executive Director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Netw..

On Saturday 27th January, Nadia Hijab, Executive Director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, joined PSC members at the Annual General Meeting. Below is the transcript of her talk.

It’s an honor to be speaking to the group that’s made it on to Israel’s top 20!

In my talk today I want to focus on three things:

1) How to get our framing right in terms of what we’re fighting against;

2) How to put forward a compelling vision of what we’re fighting for; and

3) How to stay strategic in growing all our sources of power so we can achieve our goals.

This may all sound pretty basic but there’s a lot of confusion both among Palestinians and among Palestine solidarity activists. And the reason for confusion is that we don’t have a fully representative leadership that is providing clear direction – and that’s putting it mildly.

So first, the question of what we’re fighting against. There’s a lot of debate, particularly in academic circles about the framework of analysis we should apply to the Palestinians. Is it settler colonialism? Or ethnic cleansing? Or racial discrimination? Or apartheid? In fact you could make a case for any one of those and more.

But what we need is a common framing to make it crystal clear not only what we are fighting against – but also what we are fighting for. And we need that framing so we can be clear about the strategies we need to succeed. My Al-Shabaka colleague Ingrid Jaradat and I reviewed all these frameworks in a recent policy paper. We identified apartheid as the most strategic framework – in other words, as the one most useful in our struggle.

For example, although the settler colonial framework is strategic in many ways it was not expressly prohibited by international law at the time Israel was established. That means it would only be applicable to Israel’s settler colonial enterprise in the OPT. Thus, it could not be used to address the rights of the refugees or equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel. In addition, although it was prohibited, it was not criminalized.

By contrast, apartheid has been treated as a serious violation under customary law at least since the end of the Second World War. It was prohibited and criminalized in the Anti-Apartheid Convention of 1973 and was incorporated into the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (2002) as one of the most serious crime against humanity after genocide.

In the case of Palestine, apartheid began when the Zionist settler colonial society transformed into the state of Israel. That’s when the ideology of Jewish superiority and policy of ethnic cleansing were incorporated into the laws and institutions of the state. So Israel bears legal responsibility for acts of apartheid against all Palestinians, including the refugees, the citizens of Israel, and those under occupation.

It should be noted that individual criminal responsibility also applies to those who carry out, aid, or abet the crime of apartheid. All states and the UN are responsible for ensuring that those who are guilty are brought to justice. And they have a legal obligation to cooperate and adopt measures, including sanctions, to bring apartheid to an end and ensure reparations. There is much more on this in the UN report by Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley that was withdrawn under pressure. There’s also more discussion in our Al-Shabaka paper.

Based on the above, if we can establish the apartheid framing as our common framing that would be a major source of power for our movement.

Now if that’s what we are fighting against, what are we fighting for? This is where the discussion often slips into an argument of 1-state vs 2-states. But let’s think about that for a moment. In terms of achieving Palestinian rights, what would a 1-state political outcome achieve that 2-states would not?

The vision of a secular democratic state in all of Palestine as set out by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1968, has always been more compelling for Palestinians than that of two states. Through a single state Palestinians would exercise their right to self-determination by returning to and living in the entirety of the land that had been Palestine, alongside the Jews living there, with equal rights for all.

As for the vision of 2 states, it’s important to distinguish between the one set out in 1988, when the Palestinian National Council adopted it, and the disaster that was the Oslo accords. When it was adopted in 1988, the 2-state solution was seen as a pragmatic, doable recognition of reality. Palestinians would exercise the right to self-determination through a sovereign state that would secure the equal rights of its citizens.

Such a state would enable Palestine to join the community of nations. Further, the 1988 PNC resolution upheld the UN resolutions regarding the rights of the Palestinian refugees. And the struggle for two states does not mean foresaking the vital struggle for equality of the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Oslo doomed a rights-based state project from the start. The Palestinian leadership was willing to sacrifice refugee rights. As for the Israelis, even the so-called great peace-maker Yitzhak Rabin made it clear that Palestinians would have an entity that was “less than a state” with Israel’s security border located in the Jordan Valley.

Yet, had we built up enough power to ensure that the 2-state solution stayed faithful to its original framing, then it could have fulfilled Palestinian rights to self-determination and return, just as the 1-state would have done. In fact an end to apartheid does not necessarily mean a “one-state solution” in the entire territory that is controlled by an apartheid system. It can be a two-state solution. In Namibia, the people achieved self-determination through independence with their struggle against the South African apartheid regime.

I would argue that either state outcome could be made to achieve Palestinian rights – ifwe have the power to do so. Plus – and this is very important – fulfilling Palestinian rights needs some of the sources of power that are associated with the state system.

For example, the fact that Israeli sovereignty is not recognized in either occupied East Jerusalem – or indeed in West Jerusalem – under international law is a source of power we should not give up easily. The fact that the settlements are considered illegal under the law and by the vast majority of states is a source of power we should not give up until we achieve our goals.

Imagine the different situation today if the PLO had – back in 2004 – “activated” the International Court of Justice ruling on Israel’s illegal wall. Although it was an advisory opinion, it made a clear call on all states not to “recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall” and not to provide any aid that could maintain that situation. The PLO could have used this to ensure that rules-conscious European countries acted much more decisively to make sure that their relations with Israel did not support the illegal Israeli settlements. The PLO did not do so.

These and others are important sources of power if we use them – if we really push for them through our movement and if we push the Palestinian leadership to push for them.

The reality is that today the Palestinian people have very little power to achieve either 1 state or 2 in the foreseeable future or to impose Palestinians right on Israel or on the international community. No one is going to give us anything so why let go of any of our sources of power? If we are determined to end apartheid we must not let go of any of our sources of power.

One can work for 1-state or 2-state outcomes so long as each fulfills Palestinian rights. This was the smart, strategic approach by the founders of the BDS movement. Given the disarray of the national movement and the lack of consensus around political goals, they focused instead on rights. The BDS call is for the realization of self-determination through freedom from occupation, equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and justice for the Palestinian refugees in fulfilling their right of return. Freedom, justice and equality. This is how they reached the broadest spectrum of Palestinian society & international solidarity activists – and built a considerable source of power. And these rights can be achieved in 1 state or 2.

Now there is one source of power we have not yet tapped: That of the narrative. Israel continues to dominate the narrative in the West despite the inroads we have made. And we must tap this source of power soon – we are facing a time of great danger and of fiercer attacks both within Palestine and against all efforts at real solidarity.

We badly need a positive, forward-looking narrative of what we are for, a narrative that unifies us and communicates the power of our vision. A narrative that provides a direction for the movement until the time comes for a political outcome. A narrative that overcomes the barriers that Israel’s physical fragmentation of the Palestinian people has created. A narrative that challenges Israel and prevents it from being able to paint us as anti-everything.

That unifying Palestinian narrative already exists: It’s Freedom. It’s Justice. It’s Equality. These are the goals identified by the BDS movement. They are also goals all human beings can aspire to and they speak to the reality of each segment of the Palestinian people, under occupation, in Israel and in refugee camps and exile.

We have that narrative, but we don’t use it. We say that we are anti-apartheid and that we support BDS against Israel. What we must make very clear is that we support BDS because we want to achieve freedom, justice, and equality. We are against apartheid because we want to achieve freedom, justice, and equality.

These goals need to be placed front and center of our movement as soon as possible: They are an uplifting and positive vision that can quickly occupy the high ground. And they can be achieved in 1-state or 2.

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Removal of artwork showing names of murdered women, children draws anger

An artwork depicting names of Australian women and children lost to male violence has been removed from a museum, amid claims it was considered “inappropriate” and “uncomfortable”.

The Lost Petition artwork, listing almost 1000 women and children who have died since 2008, was hung in the Her Place Women’s Museum Australia in East Melbourne for only a week when it was taken down on Wednesday.

Femicide researcher Sherele Moody, who collaborated with artist Dans Bain on the artwork, said the museum had asked to exhibit it.

But when the 30m artwork was hung along the ceiling featuring the names of the murder victims, it drew a reaction.

“While Dans was hanging it, someone came up and said it was really confronting and inappropriate and shouldn’t be there,” Ms Moody said.

“She just brushed it off.

“But then yesterday the museum contacted her and said they were taking it down because it wasn’t appropriate to have it alongside the Emily’s List exhibition there at the moment.”

Ms Moody, a News Corp journalist and founder of the Red Heart Campaign, which aims to end domestic and family violence, said the decision to take it down was “infuriating”.

“Literally what they’re saying, from my perspective, is the stories of women and children lost to violence are not worthy of being seen or heard,” she said.

“These women and children are an inconvenience and inappropriate.

“The murder of women and children is too uncomfortable for them.”

Ms Moody said a museum dedicated to women was the perfect place to display the work.

But the organisation based on celebrating women had now taken down an artwork detailing the greatest social issue facing them.

Families of the victims depicted were “extremely upset” at its removal, as it was a tribute to their memory and highlighted the impact of domestic violence, Ms Moody said.

Her Place museum said the Emily’s List exhibition organisers requested the artist remove the petition from the space, where a new exhibition marking the 25th anniversary of Emily’s List – a network for progressive Labor women in politics – was installed.

“Due to the size and scale of the Lost Petition, there was no alternative space at Her Place Museum to exhibit the artwork,” the museum said.

The Her Place board would reinstall the artwork later in the year, in a move it said the artist agreed on as part of the Her Voice program of Australian Women’s activism.

“The exhibiting of The Lost Petition was at the invitation of Her Place Museum Australia. It is a powerful artwork and that power is reflected in the feedback we have received,” the museum said.

Artist Dans Bain said the decision to remove her artwork made her “uneasy”.

“The fact that this work has been censored speaks to the stigma of male violence against women and children. It is an uncomfortable reality,” she posted on Facebook on Thursday.

“This work lists almost 1000 women and children, every woman and child on the Lost Petition is a loved one and has families that love them. They are not an inconvenience.”

Emily’s List Australia said it had a long term booking at the museum, which as a new facility had competing demands for space.

“Difficult decisions need to be made about how to display significant material in a small public space, during limited run exhibits,” the organisation said.

“The removal of The Lost Petition was temporary to enable installation in a more permanent way … and to ensure other women’s history exhibits move seamlessly in and around it.

“It’s a big, bold piece of art and it deserves showcasing.”

The organisation added protecting women from gendered violence was far from complete and “we are all dedicated to this work”.


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Senator Claire Chandler unable to answer question on who is calling for ban of trans women in single sex sports

A Tasmanian senator pushing for transgender people to be excluded from women’s sport has been unable to name a single sporting organisation in the state who has called for the change.

Under a proposal introduced to parliament earlier this month, senator Claire Chandler wants the Sex Discrimination Act to be amended so it would not be unlawful for a sporting club to ban a person from a team based on their biological sex.

In a sensational grilling on ABC Radio Hobart, Senator Chandler was repeatedly asked to clarify who in particular is calling for the change.

“I’m not going to get into specifics,” she said.

When asked a further three times by host Leon Compton, the senator stood firm.

“What I will say is that I’ve been contacted by parents of girls who have realised how despondent their girls have become competing in sport, in situations where they’re competing against males and feeling like they’re not good enough to be in the game.”

“Is it possible, Claire Chandler, that this isn’t an issue at all; the fact that you can’t name a single group,” Mr Compton quipped back.

“Leon, like I said, I’m not going to get into specifics with you,” she responded.

She added she had been contacted by “sporting administrators” who have been concerned about the legal action that could be taken against them if they do exclude a transgender person from a single-sex sport.

“You look at what is happening with Leah Thomas in the United States, where this trans woman, I should say, swimmer, who’s beating her female counterparts by seven seconds in the pool. That is just madness,” Senator Chandler said.

Senator Chandler’s bill came back into the spotlight after Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed he had encouraged her to pursue it.

“I support it, as Claire knows. I think it’s a terrific Bill and I’ve given her great encouragement,” Mr Morrison told reporters on the hustings in Tasmania.

“Claire is a champion for women’s sport and I think she’s been right to raise these issues in the way that she has. Well done, Claire.”

But it remains to be seen if Mr Morrison’s backing will translate into broader support.

To have the bill introduced to the upper house, Senator Chandler had to do so as a private members bill, meaning she did not have support of the wider cabinet to put it on the agenda.

“If it was such a great bill, why isn‘t it endorsed by the cabinet?” Mr Compton pressed repeatedly.

“I’ve had a number of conversations with the Prime Minister obviously and with my colleagues about this issue. And look, if it’s something that the cabinet wants to consider, then that is obviously a matter for them,” Senator Chandler retorted.

With only three days left in the parliamentary sitting calendar, it is unlikely the Bill will pass, or even make it to the lower house, before the election.


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Liberal MP Bridget Archer told Scott Morrison would decide if she could attend Grace Tame speech

Child sex abuse survivor and Liberal MP Bridget Archer was told the decision on whether or not she could attend a speech by Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins was “up to the Prime Minister.”

The confusion was blamed last night on a communication breakdown between the Whip’s office and the Prime Minister’s office.

The PMO insists it instructed the whips this morning to seek pairs from Labor for those Government MPs wanting to attend Wednesday’s National Press Club address.

That didn’t happen with Ms Archer told at 3pm it was “up to the PM” before she was finally told she could go after 7pm when contacted the PMO.

In a major speech to be delivered at the national press club on Wednesday, the former Australian of the Year will speak out on tackling child sex abuse in Australia.

Tasmanian MP Bridget Archer secured a last-minute ticket to the sold out event on Tuesday, but her request to attend the event was not immediately granted.

Liberal colleagues claim she was told by party whip Bert Van Manem that it was “up to the PM.”

Despite Labor’s offer to allow her to leave Parliament despite the tight numbers on the floor of the House of Representatives, confusion reigned about whether she could attend.

After contacted the Prime Minister’s office at 7:05 pm on Tuesday night, Ms Archer’s office then got a call 5 minutes later confirming she was cleared to attend.

The outspoken MP earlier declared she planned to cross the floor and vote against the Morrison Government’s religious freedom laws because they were in breach of Tasmanian anti-discrimination laws.

She told Parliament she was “horrified” that proposed amendments excluded children that identified as transgender.

“After so much progress how did we get back to a place where we ignore the harm we place on children when we tell them they are ‘other’, ‘less than’ and do not deserve rights and protections afforded to others – I fear it may risk lives,” Ms Archer said.

Labor’s manager of government business Tony Burke took to Twitter on Tuesday to insist there was no barrier from Labor MPs on Ms Archer or other MPs attending.

“If requests come in for the Press Club we will accommodate the same as we did for March4Justice,’’ he said.

“The government’s claim that we are meant to offer pairs that they haven’t requested is weird. And wrong.”

Last year, Ms Archer told she burst into tears after she was taken to the Prime Minister’s office to discuss her decision to cross the floor on another matter despite repeatedly telling his staff she wanted to delay the discussion.

While Scott Morrison described the talks as “friendly”, Ms Archer said she was ambushed by the meeting and had earlier asked to delay it.

“I didn’t feel like I was being marched to the principal’s office. I just felt a little disappointed that it happened when I had expressed to the Prime Minister’s office that I would have preferred, that my preference was not at that time,” she told

“And I had said in the text messages to the Prime Minister’s office that I didn’t want to have the meeting, before the meeting.

“They sent me a message saying he wanted to see me at 12.15pm. I said I am not ready. I need a break.

“It was a big thing. It was just the emotion of the moment.”

Ms Archer is a child sexual assault survivor who voted with independent MP Helen Haines to suspend standing orders to establish an anti-corruption commission.

“I have found this year incredibly difficult, personally because of my own history as a child sexual abuse survivor,” she said.

“It has been difficult for me to sit with discipline in unity with all this going on around me and it has hurt me. It has hurt me.

“But I am not weak. I’m telling you that I don’t think that some of these things are the right way forward.

“That language being used yesterday about drones and warm bodies. That’s what I said to him. That I am not a drone.”


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