Israel & Palestine: Complexities in the debate

Israel & Palestine: Complexities in the debate

I hope that in future interfaith dialogue between Christians and Jews, if Israel is discussed, then Palestinians and Palestinian perspectives are there.

Zionist, those who want Palestine to be Israel, a Jewish state, have done quite a good job in co-opting Judaism, the religious belief system, to its own purposes. Somehow we have to distinguish between the two. When modern-day Israel is discussed, Palestinian perspectives must be included.

I remember in the early days of going to Pitt St. Uniting Church, a Palestinian speaker was invited. I remember his words very well, “You Australians should understand about Palestine-Israel, and colonisation; you live on colonised land, yourself.” This is something we should remember. Palestinian people, and their lives, matter. Their land should not be stolen, and we must say so, just as we say that Indigenous land here must not be stolen, by colonisers. People who are Zionists will often say how ‘complicated’ the situation is. There are complexities, but the salient features are clear: Palestinian land is being occupied and stolen.

As well as Palestinian people, we would do well to listen to Israelis such as Gideon Levy, who is in Australia as I write, who want to live in a just society with human rights and with a real appreciation of history that is not propaganda. That is what many of us want, here, as well.

Recently I have been in touch with relations in Canada, and I think we could take a leaf out of the Canadian book, with an Australian version of Canada’s Commission of Truth and Reconciliation. Then, perhaps, the voices of Indigenous people here would not be so easily disregarded. We need to know the truth, as far as Indigenous people here can help us understand it. We also need a human rights act and a human rights culture that would make the keeping of hostages on Manus and Nauru (‘an indescribable disgrace’, as Noam Chomsky described it in a recent personal communication), impossible.

Not long ago I applied for a replacement of my New Zealand (Aotearoa) birth certificate. I was more than moved to find it was written in Te Reo (Maori) as well as English. It seemed to me that the land of my birth was no longer a colonial outpost, but to some extent at peace with itself, and integrated in the region. How different from here! We really have a lot of work to do.


Stephen Langford


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