An open letter to Senator Seselja (Australian Capital Territory)

You fall into the trap of mentioning women’s rights and gay rights in Israel…let me tell you being gay is not some super power that allows Palestinians to fly over checkpoints and walk through apartheid walls.

Senator, you used your privilege to speak in the Senate on March 18, 2014 to call for the condemnation of what you alleged were anti-Semitic incidents on Australian university campuses. You are absolutely right that Australians should be concerned wherever there is racism and hate and that our society needs to stand firm against all forms of incitement against any people of any colour, religion or ethnicity. This is why I write you this open letter.

It may surprise you that we are in fact in agreement about one thing and that is it is not acceptable to single out and attack members of the Jewish community. I would add it is also not acceptable to single out or attack any Israeli individual. This is why the Boycotts Divestments and Sanctions movement only targets businesses and institutions that are funded by the state of Israel [or that benefit from Israel’s occupation], because we know the importance of separating individuals from policies and we know that at the end we will have to live together Palestinians and Israelis in peace and as equals.

Sir, it is not acceptable for a Senator in Australia to display this level of ignorance of a global movement, and to spread harmful rhetoric and deliberately regurgitate false information about what it is and what it stands for. What you have referred to as thevile and detestable Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Movement’ is a non-violent legitimate movement that sees Jews and Palestinians as brothers and sisters who can and will one day live at peace together in an environment that is built on equality justice and freedom. Your attempt at linking a couple of minor incidents of disagreement in Australian University campuses is a cheap opportunistic attempt which only serve those who you thank at the end of your speech.

You name in your speech Seacret, L’Oreal and Jericho, as well as Caterpillar, these are companies that profit from Israel’s occupation some of them are present inside Israel’s illegally occupied areas and the Caterpillar bulldozers you mentioned have destroyed thousands of Palestinian homes leaving the families out in the street. You wouldn’t have stood for this if it was your home being demolished, your land being stolen and your livelihood being destroyed, but because it is the Palestinians who suffer and not you, you don’t seem to mind.  I am certain this is exactly the kind of racism we should all be appalled by.

No businesses and institutions should ever be above scrutiny when it comes to their practices, and if they infringe on the human rights of others, they should be boycotted. Boycotting these businesses you named is not as you claim‘harassment and victimization of Jewish people’, in fact boycotts are supported by a growing number of Jewish and Palestinian peace activists who unlike you, would like to see an end to the conflict and a new era for a peace with justice.

Sir, you also fall into the trap of mentioning women’s rights and gay rights in Israel. You ignore the countless women under Israeli occupation who are forced to have their babies at checkpoints, you turn a blind eye to the thousands of children who are arrested, some as young as five, by Israeli soldiers and tried in military courts, you ignore the dearth of human rights abuses committed by Israel every single day, and let me tell you being gay is not some super power that allows Palestinians to fly over checkpoints and walk through apartheid walls. When an entire population is held captive inside bantustans denied basic human rights your words about the state that imprisons them being a bastion of rights are nothing but a white wash of reality.

You criticize Australian politicians who support the BDS movement and you note that you find it ‘interesting that those who actively push for human rights and equality in parts of the left are some of the strongest backers of this movement’ yet you still don’t get it. Doesn’t that tell you something?

Your statement can only be described as hateful incitement against those of us who work hard to end racism and discrimination and who insist that there be full equality between Palestinians and Jews and as such it is exactly what Australians should condemn in the strongest way possible.

Sir, your rhetoric inflames the conflict by protecting Israel’s system of oppression and discrimination and you should know that if history has taught us anything, it is that there was never peace where injustice prevailed.  There will be justice equality and peace in Palestine but it will not be with thanks to politicians like you.

I will leave you with this old quote from President Kennedy “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”.

Samah Sabawi


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