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Monday, 24 March 2014
Page: 2915


Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (10:42): Reports of abuse of Palestinian people, including the elderly, women and children by Israeli soldiers should be of concern to all fair-minded people. I accept that there are always two sides to every story. However, the constant stream of allegations of aggression and oppression of the Palestinian people cannot all be dismissed as lies, fabrications or exaggerations. Much of the conflict and suffering appears to be directly associated with the encroachment of Israeli settlements into Palestine. As expected, the reports are rejected by Israeli spokespersons, and the propaganda war between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian voices continues on a daily basis, with each side blaming the other and citing facts to support their claims.

One set of facts that has emerged in the public relations war is indeed interesting, because it comes via an email from pro-Israeli commentator, Peter Wertheim, who, in an effort to rebut comments by US President Obama, refers to an article by Evelyn Gordon which outlines the number of new Israeli settlements in Palestine. The article confirms the extent of Israeli settlement in Palestine in recent years. According to the figures, 38,000 new homes have been built since 1995 with around 16,000 in the last decade. Palestinians claim that these homes have been built on land forcefully taken away from them, depriving them not only of their home but also of their land, which provides them with a livelihood and their water.

Defence of the encroachment by pro-Israeli voices is unconvincing and any resistance by Palestinians to having their homes forcefully taken from them is completely understandable. As US President Obama stated:

Put yourself in their shoes. Look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own, living their entire lives with a presence of a foreign army that controls the movements, not just of those young people but their parents, their grandparents every single day ... It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student's ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home.

Other reports—including the night-time arrest of children, property searches, restrictions on movement and even water supplies—simply cannot all be dismissed as justifiable actions by Israeli authorities. Last month Amnesty International reported that in 2013: 22 Palestinian civilians, of whom at least four were children, were killed in the West Bank and in the last three years at least 261 Palestinians, including 67 children, have been seriously injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli forces in the West Bank. A separate report said two teenage Palestinian soccer players were allegedly shot in the feet to prevent them from ever playing soccer again.

I understand that Alon Liel, former Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has warned of Israel standing at the edge of an apartheid cliff in Palestine. We cannot claim to be a just society if we do not speak out against injustice wherever it occurs. (Time expired)