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01 May 2024  •  Student News

We are one in struggle:
Climate and Land Justice Under Occupation

By Layla Burtt (she/her)
We are one in struggle:  Climate and Land Justice Under Occupation

‘From our Nakba to your Invasion Day, we are one in struggle’. These words are painted alongside the Palestinian and Aboriginal flags in the Shatilla Palestine Refugee Camp in Beirut. They were also, fittingly, the opening image for the on-campus Climate and Land Justice Under Occupation seminar at UTS last Wednesday. This phrase is a pledge of solidarity. An unmasking of a plain, yet strategically ignored fact: Australia is not isolated from the conflict in Palestine. 

The cold and unforgiving grasp of colonisation has held Palestine tightly for 150 years. Israel has sought to devastate Palestine’s cultural heritage through the demolition of libraries, the destruction of cultural artifacts and the replacement of historical facts with fabricated ‘truths’ – and this is just the beginning of the genocide taking place. Palestinians and First Nations people both value cultural and ecological diversity and have for centuries been resisting the displacement imposed onto them by their respective settler-colonialists who are in favour of monolithic societies. This process of ethnic cleansing through the colonisation and militarisation of native lands was put simply by Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh in the seminar when he said: 

“…they want the land, they don’t want the people that come with the land”. 

Jacqui Katona, leader of the highly celebrated campaign against the Jabiluka uranium mine, spoke on the conflict as a Djork woman. She defines genocide as an issue of power: its abuse by colonisers and the subsequent resistance from natives. During the seminar, Katona brought to light our Constitution’s failure to protect our First Nations peoples from genocidal acts, yet its ability to protect the state in its forceful removal of First Nations children from their families (which is an act of genocide in itself). We gasp when we hear about police brutality, displacement and children dying in out-of-home situations on social media; we share the headlines and nestle back into the comfort of feeling severed from the conflict, yet we could not be closer to it. 

This is not a concept belonging to foreign lands; genocide looks Australia right between the eyes with an unfaltering stare. And while we often choose to gaze through it, to avoid its eye and continue to hold our country high as a supposedly Western, progressive and democratic nation, we cannot separate ourselves from the conflict. At a time when real action is needed more than ever, Australia’s eroded concepts of human rights have led to a nation of consumers, blissfully ignorant towards the genocide taking place in our own backyard. The colonisation transpiring in Palestine has been happening in Australia for generations. This is the message that Qumsiyeh and Katona are speaking about, and it is the driving force behind their sharing of experiences and knowledge. “The connections are real, and the impacts are realer”, Katona said during the seminar.

So, what is our call to action? 

Awareness, Jacqui says. We must remain aware of vicious colonial intentions to ensure that we do not lose the capacity in our society to resist the abuse of power. To be involved, exercise civic engagement by attending protests such as the ‘Hands off Rafa!’ rally happening in Hyde Park on May 5th and join UTS groups like the Brennan Justice program who is hosting a seminar on ‘Palestine and International Justice’ on May 7th. Through this type of action we can develop a discourse for communication and understanding – only together can we create influence. Jacqui concluded the seminar with a statement that rang out over the room for minutes after she’d said it: 

“We owe it to our future generations”. 


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