info@qmi.org.au

RE: LEGAL IMPLICATIONS OF SENATE MOTION MESSAGE

RE: LEGAL IMPLICATIONS OF SENATE MOTION MESSAGE

OPEN LETTER TO AUSTRALIAN SENATORS 17 May 2024

 RE: L E G A L I MP L IC A T IO N S O F S E N A T E MO T IO N M E S S A G E

 The Australian Muslim Advocacy Network (AMAN) works to secure the psychological and physical safety of Australian Muslims from the harms of racism and Islamophobia. It has brought a successful legal complaint against former Senator Fraser Anning and has ongoing legal matters in relation to X and Meta.

This letter puts you on notice of legal risk should you continue to impute inhuman and hateful intent on the part of Palestinian Australians seeking to protest occupation, apartheid and genocide.

CAUTION REGARDING LEGAL RISK

 

If not for parliamentary privilege, the Senate Motion passed yesterday condemning the phrase ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ could expose supporting Senators to legal complaints under federal and state racial vilification laws.

The Senate motion, passed by a vote of 56 to 12, states: “the slogan ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ opposes Israel’s right to exist and is frequently used by those who seek to intimidate Jewish Australians via acts of antisemitism.”

The motion infringes on the right to freedom of expression by Palestinian Australians and their allies in criticising Israel during an unfolding genocide, denying them equal worth and dignity under the law.

The motion’s lack of context vilifies Palestinian people by suggesting they and their supporters are inhuman, violent, and genocidal. It erroneously associates the slogan with violence, intimidation, and hatred against Jewish Australians—a claim unsupported by hate incident statistics.

Without the protection of Parliamentary privilege, the Senate motion would likely violate section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and various state vilification laws, including those in Victoria that prohibit encouraging, assisting, or inducing vilification.

Those who supported the motion have adopted the pro-Israel lobby’s racially biased

perspective on Palestinian Australians and their allies.

The pro-Israel lobby interprets the slogan as violent and oppressive, reflecting their own chant, “from the river to the sea, the [Israeli flag] is all you’ll see.” Likud, Israel’s long-time ruling party, openly advocates annexing all Palestinian territories to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state. Their efforts to project such a meaning on the Palestinian freedom chant are made in bad faith and are a particularly egregious form of gaslighting the victims of Israel’s crimes. In genocide prevention studies, the technique is known as ‘accusation in the mirror’1 and has been used throughout historical genocides– accusing victims of genocide of genocidal tendencies to help pave the way for public acceptance of violence against them.

“From the River to the Sea” is a call for freedom from Palestinians and their allies, fundamentally different from the annexation and colonisation promoted by Likud under the same phrase.

As Nasser Mashni, President of the Australian Palestine Advocacy Network, states,

“Palestinians don’t deny Jewish indigeneity. We just don’t think it’s superior to ours. Jewish connection and the Zionist enterprise of the state of Israel today are two separate connections. The desire for a Jewish homeland, I get it. I’ve got 100 years of trauma and not hundreds, but if a Jewish homeland, is predicated firstly on my dispossession and then my continued oppression then that is unacceptable to me and it should be unacceptable to anyone.”

There is abundant evidence from Israeli and international human rights organisations that Israel is an apartheid state, and the United Nations acknowledges it is violating numerous laws with its ongoing occupation.

While there are always genuine incidents of Antisemitism, the effort to conflate the advocacy of victims of genocide, apartheid and occupation as hateful and threatening to Jewish people is (a) unreasonable, (b) immoderate, (c) bad faith and (d) a form of further psychological violence on and oppression of Palestinians, by denying them equal worth and dignity and public empathy at this critical time where their people’s survival in Gaza rests on the ability to mobilise public opinion.

FEAR-MONGERING AND THE SAFETY OF AUSTRALIAN JEWS

 

Hate incidents based on race or religion, as defined in hate crime law, have no place in Australia. Both Australian Jews and Australian Muslims should never be stereotyped, dehumanised or targeted as sharing some political view or lacking the ability for independent thought.

Leader Maynard, Jonathan and Benesch, Susan (2016) “Dangerous Speech and Dangerous Ideology: An Integrated Model for Monitoring and Prevention,” Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal: Vol. 9: Iss. 3: 70-95.

However, the idea that all Jews feel unsafe due to Palestinian protests in encampments and on the streets is not true, as evidenced by the continual statements of Jewish organisations in Australia and the strong participation of Australian Jews in those protest movements. Equally, there are strong cohorts of Jewish Australians that do not consider it antisemitic at all to oppose apartheid and occupation. As such, if the Senate Motion is made outside Parliament, it could expose such politicians to racial vilification complaints from Jewish Australians. Their concerns also reflect the danger that the Zionist movement is putting their community in by essentialising their community’s political opinions concerning Israel.

Sarah Schwartz, Executive Director of the Jewish Council of Australia, writes

[I]t really doesn’t help these fears and it doesn’t help the fight against antisemitism to make false claims about it.

We think it is really important to make that distinction between the safety of Jewish people and criticism of Israel.

Rhetoric from domestic and world leaders seems to be reinforcing these fears rather than attempting to reduce social tensions. For example, President Biden has said that no Jew would be safe if it weren’t for Israel. That is really dangerous language.

Over the past few months, we’ve also seen almost every act that is critical of Israel, from calling for a ceasefire to highlighting Palestinian suffering, being framed as antisemitic.

No government is immune from criticism and accountability. These accusations are made cynically to shut down genuine criticism of Israel, and it is difficult to think of another context where we would say the criticism of a government, or a state is racist.

There is nothing antisemitic about calling for an end to Israel slaughtering children in Gaza. And there is nothing antisemitic about supporting freedom, equality and human rights for Palestinians.

The claims that these things are antisemitic are really damaging. They undermine the Palestinian freedom movement, and they dehumanise Palestinians in their struggle.2

INTEGRITY OF PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS TO GOVERN WITHIN LAW

 

AMAN notes that the Zionist, pro-Israel lobby continues to use institutions such as parliament, media and universities to clamp down on anti-Israel speech as Antisemitic because such claims would not succeed in court from a legal or factual perspective.

Unlawful hate speech or vilification is directed at a group based on their race or religion. Speech against a government or military, especially during a time of serial international crimes by that government and military, can never be hate speech. Health and human rights advocacy is critical to maintaining Palestinian human rights and survival. There is a duty on parliamentarians in a liberal democracy to engage in human rights advocacy, especially where undemocratic forces are at play to silence that advocacy.

NOT A DISTANT CONFLICT

 

This is not just a distant tragic war but a shameful stain on our nation for not ending its military connections with the aggressor. If you trust the statements made by Minister Marles, then inquire whether there will be provisions in the Future Made in Australia legislation to prevent public funding for local production of weapons destined for countries accused of serious crimes under international law. Ask why the government hasn’t introduced legislation like the Modern Slavery Act to monitor supply chains for genocide risk. The continuous increase in defence contracts with the US and Germany and funding for Israeli weapons companies directly contradicts what should be done at this time. There’s contradictory rhetoric about respecting international law while aggressively expanding Australia’s defence exports and positioning Australia as the largest US weapons manufacturer outside the US. 3 According to Australia’s Defence Export Strategy, the goal by 2028 is to be a top ten exporter in the world, and Israel is identified as a key market due to its advanced defence technologies, developed through years of testing on Palestinians.

SUPPORT FOR SENATOR FATIMA PAYMAN

 

Many Australians have written to Senator Payman online to express their full support and admiration for her brave stance in condemning Israel’s genocide actions against the Palestinian people, resulting in thousands of innocent women, children and aged people being massacred. Her courage in speaking out in the face of criticism and opposition is truly commendable, and we want to thank her for standing up during this critical point of history where further genocide can be prevented.

It is disheartening to see the Labor Party’s disloyalty to her, a lone, truth-seeking brave woman from a minority community, for speaking out on this important issue. Senator Payman was not afraid to speak truth to power and uphold the values of justice and dignity for all people, regardless of their background.

Yours faithfully,

 
   

Australian Muslim Advocacy Network Ltd

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