Blow by Blow
A bitter debate erupted in the NSW Parliament following remarks made by Labor Councillor Shaoquett Moselmane who called Gaza “an open air”prison camp and said that Israel’s plan was “to expand the borders of the Jewish colonial state”.
The debate was on the recent trip to Israel by a group of NSW politicians organised by the The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies.
The following is the blow by blow account of what transpired…
The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE [10.48 a.m.]: All people have a right to a homeland—all people, including Jews, Kurds, Armenians and Palestinians. All people have a right to exist and receive the protections under international law and live in peace and security. Since the 1948 United Nations resolution to divide Palestine between the Jews and Arabs, the Palestinian people have been left to suffer the indignity and trauma of people dispossessed. I am not surprised that there is no mention in the motion of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian land, the Palestinian suffering, the Palestinian rights as people deprived of their land, persecuted, imprisoned, killed, traumatised and dehumanised. I wonder whether the members on their study mission considered the Palestinian people; I wonder whether the human rights of the Palestinian people crossed their minds. I hope it did cross their minds and that they pondered a little about 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 Israeli Zionist plan has been acquiring territory 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.
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 the member were not allowed to continue to speak, considering the breadth of 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 United Nations allocated 56 per cent of the Palestinian territory to a Jewish State, 80 per cent was seized by force. Christians and Muslims made up two-thirds of the population. Jews, who owned only 6 per cent of the land, have now taken 85 per cent of the former Palestine land. The 800,000 who were initially dispossessed, expelled from their land—now five million—live in diaspora. There was nothing fair or legitimate about the United Nations’ offer. It was carried out over the objections of the majority, but even this corruption of justice was not enough to satisfy the craving to take over people’s land.
Arab voices were ignored. Not a single Arab was consulted on the plan. Now five 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 makes up less than 20 per cent of the territory they originally had after 1967. I believe it is more like 14 per cent of the former Palestine that they now live in.
Members will see from this plan the former Palestine territory and the land that 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 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 1,000 residents were killed, 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 to the north had no water and no 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, and it struck United Nations schools, as well as the compound of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, ambulances and hospitals.
Their actions can be seen as violation of international humanitarian law. The International Committee of the Red Cross accused Israel of breaches of humanitarian conventions for failing to bring assistance to wounded and starving civilians and preventing ambulance access for four 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. The Human Rights Watch accused Israel of using white phosphorous munitions over densely populated areas of Gaza in violation of international humanitarian law. The United Nations 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 United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories and Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, says that Israel is in breach of the United Nations 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 New South Wales 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 that.
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 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.
The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon.
The Hon. Dr 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 to be shown to me. I have only four 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 four 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 that he has been talking about. <10>
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 to be recorded. They as well as the Jewish people have a right to peaceful existence and to a homeland. 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 Lebanon 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 southern 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. Guns would have been blazing at us for not resisting 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 dumped three million cluster bombs in little southern Lebanon. Those three million bombs are buried in the ground. A child walking on the ground will be blown up or lose a limb. An animal walking around will die. Three million cluster bombs will exist for hundreds of years and people will continue to suffer. In conclusion— [Time expired.]
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive officer Vic Alhadeff, who was in the gallery for the three-hour duration of the debate, tweeted that some of the remarks were “outrageous slurs”, but it was “reassuring to see some MPs standing on principle”. He specifically cited the Labor Party’s Walt Secord, deputy chair of NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel, who, in an unprecedented move, called three points of order against a fellow party member; and Liberal Party whip Peter Phelps.
Alhadeff said: “While it was very disappointing to hear such extreme and baseless comments in the Parliament, they came from a marginal group and were quickly and appropriately condemned by both Labor and Liberal MPs,” Alhadeff said.
NSW Labor frontbencher and NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel deputy chair, Mr Walt Secord told J-Wire: “Everyone knows that I am a life-long supporter of Israel and the Jewish community. And I completely disagree from the statements. I took the unusual step of doing so publicly in the NSW Parliament. I completely dissociated myself from the views. I make no apologies for taking a stand.”
Jeremy Jones AM, AIJAC’s Director of Community Affairs, told J-Wire: “When a member of an Australian parliament crossed the line from vigorous criticism of Israel to what the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights describes as antisemitic discourse – making a direct analogy between Israel and Nazi Germany – it would have been hoped the entire Parliament would have been outraged”
“Walt Secord can hold his head high. Further, those who have criticised Mr Secord due to being blinded by their hatred for Israel, or obsessed with misguided party solidarity – even when that dictates defending bigotry – will deservedly earn contempt of all genuine antiracists”,