By Nicole Erlich
In my role as executive member of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) I joined a delegation in the last week of November to speak to Federal politicians about the dire and volatile situation in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories.
Over two days, we conversed with 35 MPs from major and minor parties who varied in their understanding and perspectives on the best way forward. Our discussions included briefings on the recent escalation of violence in Jerusalem, rapidly expanding settlements, and the desperate need of people in Gaza. We also discussed our fears of the implementation of the recently announced Jewish nation-state bill, which would erode Israel’s claim as a democracy by denying non-Jewish minorities in Israel any collective rights.
Our delegation further urged politicians to show public support for the recognition of a Palestinian State, following in the footsteps of the recent votes in the UK, Sweden and Spain. A gratifying outcome of this request was to see a motion tabled in parliament shortly after our trip with politicians from both major parties calling for the recognition of Palestine as an independent state.
All the discussions during our visit were thoughtful and productive. The politicians with whom we met showed genuine interest in learning about the region and listening to our personal stories. As a diaspora Jew, I tried to convey the idea that supporting the status quo in Israel not only had a devastating impact on Palestinians, but increased feelings of fear and isolation in Jews not only living in Israel, but as far away as Australia. I described the increasing security measures employed by Jewish institutions, including the primary school I had attended replacing its friendly gates with a tall brick fortress, fortified by security guards and CCTV cameras. I feared that this self-imposed isolation only fuels hatred and distrust of “the other”, and can only take us further away from any truly safe and equitable solution.
Overall, I found the visit was positive and empowering. I was proud to be a part of a diverse delegation that included Palestinians, Church delegates, unionists and academics.
By Nicole Erlich