The NSW Parliament will consider a motion relating to the ongoing conflict in Gaza introduced today by Greens NSW MP and co-convenor of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Palestine, David Shoebridge.

The Nakba commemoration in NSW Parliament House in May 2012

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne has given notice of an identical motion in the Senate. Full wording of the motion and broader context below.

Media comment:

“Australia and the international community are failing in their humanitarian obligations to Palestinians living in Gaza,” Mr Shoebridge said.

“Violence on all sides needs to stop, but portraying the conflict as one between equals is like saying that locking a lion and a lamb in the same room is a fair fight.

“Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza, assisted by Egypt, has resulted in the severe deterioration of economic conditions in Gaza and the impoverishment of hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom are refugees.

“The Greens continue to call for an end to all aggression, including the end to the blockade of Gaza and the withdrawal of the Israeli military from the occupied Palestinian territories,” Mr Shoebridge said.

 Full wording of the motion:

1. That this house notes:

a) As of 19 November 2012 the tragic loss over 100 Palestinian lives and three Israeli lives in the latest conflict in Gaza;

b) The disproportionate Israeli response in Gaza and that the parties to the conflict are not equivalent, as Israel is the world’s fifth largest military power and Palestine has a weakened and constricted economy and is subject to restrictions on freedom of movement and goods in breach of international law;

c) Rather than women and children being used as human shields in Gaza, the small physical area of Gaza means there is nowhere for women and children to go to be safe from bombings.

2. That this house calls on:

 a) The parties to the conflict in Israel and Palestine to immediately cease all armed attacks in order to protect civilians

b) The Australian government to:

i. Strongly advocate for an immediate ceasefire and for Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza;
ii. Use its new-found influence as a member of the Security Council to urge the implementation of the recommendations of the Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict in 2009, (the operation known by the Israeli Defence Force as Operation Cast Lead) to ensure the atrocities of that conflict are not repeated; and
iii. Reiterate Australia’s commitment to a two-state solution.

 Context:

The modern-day conflict between Israel and Palestine extends to the creation of Israel in 1948, when many Palestinians were forced from their homes. From 1967, both the West Bank and Gaza were under military occupation by Israel, which was accompanied by the building of illegal settlements for only Jewish Israelis.

Israel withdrew its settlements from Gaza in 2005, but this did not result in the cessation of violence against civilians in the Gaza strip. The West Bank to this day remains under occupation, in contravention of international law.

Israel continues to control Gaza’s land, sea and air borders meaning Gaza is effectively the world’s largest open air prison, with over 1.5 million people living under total blockade by the governments of Egypt and Israel. Around 1.1 million of Gaza’s residents are Palestinian refugees from 1948, 1967 and other conflicts.

The Palestinian political party Hamas won the 2006 parliamentary elections in Gaza and the West Bank, but the win was not recognised by Israel or other international bodies, who have declared Hamas to be a terrorist organisation. After a brief conflict with political rivals Fatah, Hamas took government control of Gaza in 2007.

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA):

“For the last decade, the socio-economic situation in Gaza has been in steady decline. Years of conflict and closure have left 80 per cent of the population dependent on international assistance.

“The tightened blockade, imposed following the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007, has decimated lives and livelihoods, resulting in the impoverishment and de-development of a highly skilled and well-educated society.

“Despite adjustments made to the blockade by the government of Israel in June 2010, restrictions on imports and exports continue to severely hamper recovery and reconstruction.”

According to the CIA Fact Book:

 “Israeli-imposed border closures, which became more restrictive after HAMAS seized control of the territory in June 2007, have resulted in high unemployment, elevated poverty rates, and the near collapse of the private sector that had relied on export markets.”

The Israel Defense Forces maintain a 1km “buffer zone” inside Gaza’s land borders. Even during agreed ceasefires many Palestinians, including children, have reportedly been shot within this buffer zone by the IDF.

As of 1 January 2012, UNRWA were overseeing 8 refugee camps within Gaza and 242 schools for 218,048 pupils.

On 29 October 2012, in response to Israeli airstrikes over Gaza, Hamas fired 26 rockets into Israel. Over the next two weeks intermittent fighting resulted in injuries to Israeli soldiers and the death of almost ten Palestinians, including a mentally unfit man and a 13 year old boy. A tentative truce took hold on 13 November, with both sides signalling they would hold their fire unless attacked.

On 14 November the IDF killed Hamas military commander Ahmad Al-Jabari, after which the conflict escalated dramatically.

Israeli forces have now bombed Gaza for six days from the air and sea in what the IDF are calling Operation Pillar of Defense. There has been talk of the commencement of a ground assault. Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.

As of 20 November 2012, the BBC has reported that over 100 Palestinians have been killed in the crisis, including a high proportion of women, children and other civilians. Three Israelis were reported killed last week. Each and every death is a tragedy.

The governments of the United States, United Kingdom and Australia have all condemned Hamas and defended the right of Israel to defend itself, without condemning the Israeli government or acknowledging the right of Palestinians to defend themselves.

Rarely has the Western World been so blind to the realities of power and the plight of an oppressed people as it has in this decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Read the Australian Greens resolution on Israel and Palestine.