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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3225


Mr CAMPBELL(9.41) —Tonight I wish to grieve for what I consider to be one of the most oppressed groups of people in the world, people being driven from pillar to post, people with no homeland. I speak of course of the people of Palestine. I was in Lebanon in September 1982, not long after the Israelis arrived there. I spoke to people in the camps at Shatila and Sabra. I visited the camp at Sidon of Ainel Helwesi and saw just how utterly destroyed it was. I have in my electorate some Aboriginal people who live in absolutely deplorable conditions but nowhere have I seen people living in the conditions under which some of those Palestinians are living in those camps. It was a scene of total and unbelievable devastation. While I was visiting one of the camps at Shatila I spoke to people who were involved in providing medical services there- Australians, New Zealanders, British people and Danish people who stopped there right throughout all the trouble. The views by those people made a lasting impression on me.

I was visiting one of the hospitals run by the Amal people, the Shi'ite Humanitarian Organisation. I noticed a young lad of about seven. He would have been about the same age as my children. I noticed that his fingers were all missing, very neatly missing. It seemed to me that he had been involved in a very strange explosion. I have had something to do with explosives. I thought that it must have been a very strange accident. I asked the doctor how this had occurred. He said: 'Why don't you ask him?' So I put the question to this lad and he said that he was in a camp when the soldiers came. He said that the soldiers did not kill him because he was a Lebanese and not a Palestinian. I said: 'What happened?' He said: 'The soldiers cut my fingers off'. When I asked him why he said: 'They did not want me to carry guns'.

That too made a lasting impression on me of man's inhumanity to man. I asked myself: How did this invasion occur? Why did Israel invade the Lebanon? It is my belief that Israel invaded Lebanon in search of territorial aggrandisement and quite probably for water. Israel has been mining its water resources. The water level has been dropping. Bores have to be sunk deeper and deeper. Its alternative source of water comes from the Jordan or perhaps the Litani or the Awali Rivers. Jordan is politically unacceptable at the moment. Israel cannot go there so its best option is to restore its own water supply from the Litani. I put this proposition to a colonel to whom I spoke in Sidon who was in charge of the garrison there. He said to me: 'That is an absurd notion. If we want their water we will buy it'. I then put to him the proposition: What would the Israelis do if Jordan did not want to sell it? One of his officers answered that question by patting his submachine gun and saying: 'They will sell to us all right'.

This situation has been greatly misunderstood by the world. But what did happen to the Palestinians? In my opinion, and certainly in the opinion of the Palestinian people, the Palestine Liberation Organisation is the true representative of these people. That organisation was not beaten by the Israeli army. It withdrew before overwhelming superiority. But once members of that organisation had dug in in Beirut they were unbeatable. The Israelis were reduced to pounding that city to rubble with their artillery and aircraft. They used weapons for which the Palestinians had no answer. But the people who were being killed, maimed and made homeless were the ordinary Lebanese people. They were not the PLO fighters; they were dug in at the bottom. When the PLO agreed to withdraw from Lebanon it withdrew unbeaten. Man for man, infantry soldier for infantry soldier, it was equal in every way to the much vaunted Israeli soldiers .

What has happened since? Syria, another country with territorial aggrandisement ideas, a country that has long held views of a greater Syria, sees the Lebanon as an extension of Syria. This country is now trying to finish the work that the Israelis started. I spoke at length with people in the PLO. I noticed that quite a lot of the senior officers were Arafat sycophants, if you like. I can sympathise to a certain extent with Abu Musa. I guess that he did feel a little annoyed about this. Perhaps he felt that Arafat was too wily and would ultimately do some sort of a deal with Israel-a view that has some substance and one which I believe would have been in everyone's interest. But what did he do? His answer was to throw in his lot with the Syrians. The Syrians are using Abu Musa. This is known by the Palestinian people. For this reason the people of the West Bank and Gaza will have no part of it.

My attention was drawn to a public opinion poll which was conducted some time last year by Time magazine. It commissioned a well known Israeli public relations firm to do the survey. It showed that 98.2 per cent of the people surveyed-this is Palestinians-wanted an independent Palestinian homeland. It showed that 50 per cent of those people supported Arafat. There was 25 per cent support for other people. Significantly, 25 per cent of Palestinians wanted nothing to do with any of the established Palestinian political leaders of that time. But beyond doubt these people had a regard and a desire for an independent homeland.

Who gains by this destruction of the PLO? If we accept that the PLO is the representative of the Palestinian people then Israel has everything to gain by having the PLO destroyed. It will then have no one with whom to negotiate and, of course, it can never come to any conclusion. Mr Deputy Speaker, I suggest to you that we see an unholy alliance today between Israel and Syria, backed by the United States of America, to destroy the Palestinian people. The Syrians, with their overwhelming forces, have driven the forces of the PLO loyal to Arafat into a very narrow enclave adjacent to the coast. Israeli patrol boats make it impossible for them to be reinforced or evacuated from that direction. They are trapped. The Israeli Government is ensuring, by its connivance with Syria, that the PLO is either destroyed or reduced to a level of total inability to a force of no substance whatsoever.

If we accept that the PLO represents the Palestinian people and that those people need someone to negotiate when they are talking to Israel, what does Israel have to fear if Israel genuinely wants security behind its guaranteed borders? Surely it must be able to negotiate. It is to its advantage. What could an independent Palestinian state offer against the overwhelming might of Israel? It would offer no threat. In reality it would probably offer Israel greater security. But while the Israelis are prepared to extend their territorial area, to colonise the West Bank, there can be no lasting peace. I think it is to the eternal shame of the people of the Western world, nations that speak out so strongly for civil rights, that more is not done to bring these facts home to people.

I believe that this country, which has shown a great compassion in bringing into Australia refugees from Vietnam should extend that same compassion to the people of Palestine. They are equally qualified. They are driven from their homeland. They have nowhere to turn to. They are today under a much more direct threat of extinction than are those people of Vietnam. I hope that the Government of which I am a member will give some consideration to extending its compassionate grounds for bringing refugees to this country to allow Palestinians to settle in this land.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.