Posted on January 10, 2024

Radical Indigenous Leaders to Embrace Palestinian Cause on ‘Invasion Day’

Joanna Panagopoulos, The Australian, January 9, 2024

Hardline Aboriginal activists will demand “freedom for Palestine” and call on the Albanese government to cut all ties with Israel at their annual anti-Australia Day rallies, causing one Aboriginal leader to warn they will alienate longstanding Jewish supporters of reconciliation.

Leading left-wing figures Lidia Thorpe and Tasmanian Indigenous leader Michael Mansell say Palestine will form a key part of their Invasion Day messages, as they look to drive the wider Indigenous movement in a more radical direction post-referendum.

But Yes campaign leaders Sean Gordon and Mark Leibler said tying the two movements to each other would “alienate” the Jewish community from Indigenous gatherings and deprive the Aboriginal rights movement of much needed allies.

The event page for Sydney’s Invasion Day Rally, organised by The Blak Caucus, features a list of nine demands, including ending the “war on black kids”, ceasing forced removal of children, shutting down youth prisons and prosecuting officials over black deaths in custody.

The seventh demand from the “First Nations organising collective” urges the government to “cut ties with and impose sanctions on colonial, apartheid Israel until Palestine is free”. Independent Senator Thorpe said Palestine would form a key part of her ­Invasion Day message and urged people to join her on January 26 in “extending our solidarity to the people of Palestine”.

“Palestinians know what the trauma of invasion, of dispossession, state violence and occupation is like. Just as First Peoples in this country do,” she told The Australian.

“This year on Invasion Day I’ll be inviting people to join me in extending our solidarity to the people of Palestine – to the innocent people struggling under brutal Israeli government violence in Gaza and the West Bank.

“We share a reality of ongoing genocide and are both yet to ­experience liberation and the ­acknowledgment of our sovereignty. Our struggle under settler-colonialism is one struggle. Together we’re fighting for our humanity, for freedom, for land back and for lasting peace.”

More than 100 people have so far responded to an event called the “Palestinian Contingent to the Invasion Day Rally”, also held at Belmore Park in Sydney, in which “the Palestinian community joins First Nations in demanding the abolishing of … ‘Australia Day’ ”.

“From Gadigal to Gaza: Colonisation, occupation and land theft is a crime. Our collective liberations are intrinsically linked,” information for an event hosted by The Blak Caucus and Palestine Justice Movement Sydney, reads.

Mr Gordon, the former longtime Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO, said binding the issues of Indigenous justice with Palestinian advocacy alienated Jewish people who had stood “side by side” with Indigenous communities for years on constitutional recognition.

“The Jewish community worked very hard to support Indigenous people through the referendum. People like Julian Leeser, Mark Leibler, Damien Freeman, those people worked tirelessly to support Indigenous people being recognised in the Constitution,” Mr Gordon, managing director and owner of Gidgee Group, said. “I don’t know where the Palestinian community stood in regards to our plight. I can tell you, through all the work I did, I wasn’t aware of any Palestinian communities out there advocating for Indigenous constitutional recognition. I was well aware the Jewish community were, because I was standing side by side with them. Damien Freeman and Julian Leeser, I was working with them for more than 10 years on Indigenous recognition.

“Absolutely (it could alienate Jewish people). I have no doubt about that whatsoever. Indigenous people, as we’ve seen from the referendum, need allies, but allies who will stand with us during those difficult times.

“Israel and Palestine are a hell of a long way from us. There are challenges in our own community, we need to resolve.”

Mr Gordon said he didn’t support moving the date of Australia Day because “you can’t take days away that are contentious”. “It’s the only day Indigenous people have to promote and advance the issues Indigenous people face in this country,” he said.

Mr Leibler, a pre-eminent corporate lawyer and national chair of The ­Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, said people should not treat all Indigenous leaders and groups as being the same over the anti-Israel stance of some figures.

He referred to an op-ed by distinguished Indigenous leader Marcia Langton in this publication, where she condemned the “Blak sovereignty” movement’s proposition that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians feel solidarity with Palestinians as “simply untrue”, saying there is very little that is comparable in the two peoples’ situations. “There are some who’ve tried to draw analogies between what the Palestinians have been arguing, or some Palestinians have been arguing, and Indigenous Australians, but frankly, if you want to look for an analogy I would rather make the analogy between Israel (and) the Jewish people and Indigenous people because just as Aboriginal Australians are indigenous to Australia, the Jewish people have been indigenous to … Israel for something like 3000 years,” he said.

Last year’s Australia Day rallies were characterised by division over the voice.

Thousands of protesters in the capital cities – led by then Greens Senator Thorpe in Melbourne – chanted against the voice, as speakers at the rallies accused Indigenous leaders, including Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney and Cape York leader Noel Pearson, of siding with “colonisers”.

Indigenous lawyer and activist Mr Mansell, who campaigned for the No vote, said: “One cannot turn a blind eye to the slaughter of 22,000 people and say, ‘well, our issue is changing the date’, which is a moral issue. There’s more than a moral issue going on in Palestine. So we would be accused of being hypocrites ourselves if we didn’t make a stand on it one way or the other.

“I’m not surprised that many of the rallies for January 26 will raise the … human rights of the people of Palestine, who are in exactly the same situation as us. It’s ironic that had the referendum been successful, which (Anthony) Albanese saw as a major Aboriginal platform, we would have an advisory body to our invaders. Could you believe if Palestinians were advisers to Israel?”

Ahmed Abadla, from the Palestine Justice Movement Sydney, said the purpose of the Palestinian contingent was to “highlight the huge similarities between the two” movements.