Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Doing the Donkey* in the NSW Knesset 10

On the speech of The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane, Labor Party, in the NSW Legislative Council, arising out of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel (PFoI) "study Mission" 'debate' of March 14:

Although Labor's Shaoquette Moselmane did not acquit himself particularly well in the NSW Legislative Council's 'debate' on BDS in September 2011,* I'm pleased to say that this time around he passed the Palestine test - the litmus for intellectual and moral courage in our time - with flying colours. In fact, I would hazard a guess that Moselmane's speech, though not without its problems, is the most forthright and wide-ranging defence of the Palestinian cause heard in an Australian parliament in recent years.

It certainly provoked the anger of the usual suspects, with The Australian Jewish News of March 22 referring to it as a "stinging diatribe," and quoting Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff (present at the delivery) describing it as "outrageous slurs and baseless comments."**

It is surely indicative of the extraordinary state of affairs that now pertains in Baruch O'Farrell's NSW Knesset that even the Israeli ambassador, Yuval Rotem, saw fit to intervene. Clearly accustomed to seeing Labor politicians dancing as one to Israel's tune, he whined: "It is immensely troubling to see a member of the NSW Labor Party, in an official capacity, using such a contemptible tone and terminology. It was also very disappointing to see that only one member of the NSW Labor Party, Mr Walt Secord, stood up and spoke against these unacceptable, highly defamatory statements."**

Given the impact of Moselmane's speech , therefore, I'm reproducing it in full, with my own comments in square brackets:

The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane: All people have a right to a homeland - all people, including Jews [A bad start admittedly. Jews are a faith community, not a 'people' and have no right to anyone else's homeland, including that of the Palestinian people.], Kurds, Armenians and Palestinians. All people have a right to exist and receive protections under international law and live in peace and security. Since the 1948 [sic: 1947] United Nations resolution to divide Palestine between Jews and Arabs, the Palestinian people have been left to suffer the trauma and indignity of a people dispossessed. I am not surprised that there is no mention in the motion of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian land, Palestinian suffering and Palestinian rights as a people deprived of their land, persecuted, imprisoned, killed, traumatised and dehumanised. I wonder whether the members on their study mission [ever] considered the Palestinian people; I wonder whether the human rights of the Palestinian people [ever] crossed their minds. I hope it did cross their minds and that they pondered a little the human rights of others now being dispossessed of their land, their dreams, their aspirations and their future as a people. Ever since 1948 the Zionist plan has been to... expand the borders of the Jewish colonial state. Zionist ideology demanded--

The Hon. Walt Secord: Point of order: My point of order is on relevance. The member is not speaking to the motion and, as the Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel I disassociate myself from his remarks. [This is particularly rich coming from a man whose speech, which touched on just about every human rights issue in the Middle East (and beyond - Holocaust, Armenia) bar one, was heard uninterrupted. (See my 19/3/13 post Doing the Donkey* in the NSW Knesset 4 19/3/13.) The AJN had this to say of Secord's interruptions in its March 22 editorial: "When Labor MLC Shaoquett Moselmane claimed last week in NSW's Upper House that Israel had torture camps in southern Lebanon and that Gaza is the world's largest open-air prison, it would have been easy to sit quietly in the corner. It would have been easy to call a journalist after the session or make a generic statement about how he, and Labor, still had a love of Israel, despite those comments. But Secord did neither. Instead, he stood up in the NSW Parliament and in a moment that put his political career on the line, he objected to the speech being made by a member of his own party. Having described it as an 'anti-Israel rant', according to political insiders, he has suffered a backlash behind closed doors." (A true friend) Put his political career on the line? Have you ever heard such balderdash?]

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: To the point of order: This is a fairly broad-ranging motion. While the member's speech is not directly relevant to the wording of the motion, it would be unfair if he were not allowed to continue to speak, considering the breadth of the topic that has been debated in relation to this motion.

Deputy-President (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane may resume his speech. He is within the latitude of the general purpose of the motion.

The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane: After the UN allocated 56% of Palestine to a Jewish state, 80% [sic:78%] was seized by force. Christians and Muslims made up two-thirds of the population. Jews, who owned only 6% of the land took 85% [sic:82%] of Palestine's land. The 800,000 [Palestinians] who were initially dispossessed, expelled from their land - now 5 million - [constitute] a diaspora. There was nothing fair or legitimate about the UN's offer. It was carried out over the objections of the majority. But even this corruption of justice was not enough to satisfy [Israel's] craving for other people's land. Arab voices were ignored. Not a single Arab was consulted on the plan. Now 5 million Palestinians are scattered across the globe and those still living in their homeland are living in two non-contiguous territories - Gaza and the West Bank - which make up less than 20% [NB: 22% in 1967] of the territory they originally had in 1967. I believe it is more like 14% of the former Palestine that they now live in. Members will see from this plan [sic: map] the former territory of Palestine and the land the Palestinians now own - just spots of land scattered all over.

The Hon. Walt Secord: Point of Order: The member is using props. The use of props is out of order.

Deputy-President (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! The member would be well aware that the protocol of the House is that members should not use props to support their arguments.

The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane: The Palestinians' right to return to their homeland is a fundamental right of all people. It is a fundamental right that is at the heart of the Palestinian struggle. This must be addressed and resolved fairly. In all of the speeches made in the House today, we have not heard about the Israeli assaults on Arab territories in 1956, 1967, 1982, 2006 and 2009. In the 2009 assault on Gaza, one thousand residents were killed [sic: 1,387], over 300 of them children, and 5,000 were wounded. As was described by a member earlier today, Gaza is the world's largest open-air prison camp, containing 1.5 million people in a very small parcel of land. The Israeli assault continues on Gaza. According to the Al-Mezan Center for Human rights, some 90,000 Gazans were forced to flee their homes. Residents of Gaza City and those to its north had no water or electricity; they were trapped, traumatised and terrorised. Nothing was said in this debate about the rights of those Palestinians who were effectively murdered by this military machine. They did not have hospitals. The Israeli military machine effectively erased government buildings, apartment buildings and mosques. It struck UN schools, the UNRWA compound, ambulances and hospitals. Their actions can be seen as a violation of international humanitarian law. The ICRC accused Israel of breaches of humanitarian conventions for failing to bring assistance to wounded and starving civilians and preventing ambulance access for 4 days. B'Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights and other Israeli human rights groups have described civilians being fired on in doorways by Israeli soldiers, attacks on ambulance crews and aid workers, and schools being used as civilian refuges. Human Rights Watch accused Israel of using white phosphorus munitions over densely populated areas of Gaza in violation of international humanitarian law. The UN Human Rights Council has condemned the Israeli offensive for 'massive violations of human rights'. Amnesty International says that Israeli shelling of residential areas is 'prima facie evidence of war crimes'. The organisation has also accused Israeli soldiers of using Palestinians as human shields: 'It's standard practice for Israeli soldiers to go into a house, lock up the family in a room on the ground floor and use the rest of the house as a military base.' Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories and Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, says that Israel is in breach of the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, international law and international humanitarian law. Falk says: 'If there were the political will there could be an ad hoc tribunal established to hear allegations of war crimes. This could be done by the General Assembly acting under Article 22 of the UN Charter which gives them the authority to establish subsidiary bodies.' But they did not do so. A Human Rights Watch investigation found that Israel had repeatedly and indiscriminately fired white phosphorus over crowded areas of Gaza, killing and injuring civilians-

The Hon. Walt Secord: Point of order: My point of order relates to relevance. I remind the honourable member that the motion states: That this House notes that: (a) The NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel under the auspices of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies hosted a delegation of NSW Parliamentarians on a study mission to Israel from 6 January 2013 to 10 January 2013-

The Hon. Lynda Voltz: You cannot read the whole motion.

The Hon. Walt Secord: I am just reminding the member of the motion.

The Hon. Lynda Voltz: Get to your point of order.

The Hon. Walt Secord: It was relevance.

The Hon. Lynda Voltz: Relevance has already been raised.

The Hon. Walt Secord: This speech is simply an anti-Israel rant.

The Hon. Lynda Voltz: You are trying to stop democratic debate in the Chamber.

The Hon. Walt Secord: This is simply an anti-Israel rant and he is not speaking to the motion.

The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane: That is rubbish, and you know it.

Deputy-President (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! The Hon. Walt Secord is correct. Members have the motion in front of them, or have access to the motion. While I have been generous in general about speeches, the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane needs to stay within the purview of the motion and not give a lengthy history.

The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane: If ever there were a group in need of international protection from war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing it is the Palestinians, and yet the Palestinians receive little outside help.

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: They received billions from the UN. [Notice how one little yappie can set off another?]

The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane: In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon.

The Hon. Peter Phelps: Billions.

The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane: Deputy-President, I did not interrupt other speakers. I let them make their speeches without interruption. Previous speakers had the opportunity to speak without interruption and I ask that the same courtesy be shown to me. I have only 4 minutes left to speak. I have the right to inject some balance into this debate. I am glad that I am a member of this House and have the opportunity to speak and inject balance and humanity into this debate. I have that right and I have 4 minutes to do so.

The Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox: Point of order: Could the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane retire while I take my point of order?

Deputy-President (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane will retire to his seat while a point of order is taken, as per the protocols of the House.

The Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox: I have listened with tolerance to the member. I take a point of order based on relevance. This is a motion about a study mission to Israel and members have noted the facts in relation to that study mission. The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane did not even go on the study mission. He is having a little rant about personal issues. The motion is about a study mission to Israel, nothing more, nothing less. The House has been more than tolerant in listening to some of the garbage he has been talking about. [Now we've got 3 little yappies!]

The Hon. Trevor Khan: To the point of order. Whilst I agree with the Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox with regard to the words of the motion, speakers have raised a very broad range of matters. It is my argument that having allowed broad discretion in the debate so far and, to be frank, having allowed a scab to be picked, the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane is entitled to have his say. He has only a few minutes left in which to speak.

Deputy-President (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! I ask the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane to address his remarks to the motion. Mr David Shoebridge was given an opportunity to speak on a range of matters and I will extend the same latitude to the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane.

The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane: As I stated, all people have a right to a peaceful existence and so do the Palestinian people. I want this House to know that and I want that comment recorded. They, as well as the Jewish people have a right to peaceful existence and to a homeland. [There he goes again. Vic Alhadaff, who has a homeland - Australia - has a right to another homeland in Palestine?] We have heard comments about how peaceful and democratic the Israeli government is. I remind the House that in 1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon and then occupied it for 18 years, they imprisoned people. People in southern Lebanon were tortured. I visited the camps and I saw the prisons. I invite members to go to these torture camps that the Israelis set up in southern Lebanon and see for themselves. They occupied Lebanon for 18 years. I resent members here accusing the resistance of being terrorist groups. I salute the resistance. If the resistance in Lebanon had not forced the Israelis out of Lebanon, I would not have been able to go to my grandparents' home in south Lebanon and visit the land I was born in. I salute them for their resistance. It is the right of people to do so. Imagine what the response would have been in 1941 or 1942 if we had condemned resistance against Nazi Germany. In Lebanon the resistance was able to force the Israelis out. In 2006, towards the end of the Israeli war on Lebanon, they dropped 3 million cluster bombs on little south Lebanon. Those bombs are buried in the ground. A child walking there will be blown up or lose a limb. An animal walking there will die. Three million cluster bombs will exist there for hundreds of years and people will continue to suffer. In conclusion-[Time expired.]

Next in the Doing the Donkey* in the NSW Knesset series: Lynda Voltz MLC. Stay tuned.

[*See my 2/3/13 post Doing the Donkey.]

[*See my 7/12/11 post Witches Brew 10; **Secord champions Israel in Parliament.]

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