On the evening of July 14, former Minister of Foreign Aff airs, the Hon. Bob Carr lectured at the ANU on the topic of “Palestine and Middle East Peace”. The event, which was jointly held by Australians for Justice and Peace in Palestine (AJPP), Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and co-sponsored by the ANU Centre for Arabic and Islamic Studies (CAIS), was almost fi lled to capacity in MCCT1 by students, academics, diplomats, and members of the public.
Mr. Carr spoke of the obstructions to Palestinian statehood and the dynamic this issue creates within Australian politics. Speaking on the importance of the Palestine issue in Australia, Carr told Woroni that “Australia has voted in the UN, and a vocal call for Palestine needs to be made. We have not voted for a Palestinian state and this is shameful.”
Carr began by relating the grassroots experiences of Palestinians to the audience, choosing to dedicate his statements to the “grace of the Palestinians and their suffering.” In particular, he spoke of abuses committed against children and peaceful activists – such as the harassment of students as they made their way to school – that were beginning to transform into a permanent situation. As for the causes, Carr located them in Israel, whose policy is run by “ethno-religious chauvinists”, governing the “last colonial situation in the world.”
He followed by clarifying the dynamics of the Palestine issue in domestic Australian politics, as well as the influence of pro-Israeli lobby groups. With a majoritarian call by Australians for the creation of Palestinian state being ignored by policymakers, as claimed by Carr, he was accordingly disappointed by the “objectionable control over Australian policy” the pro-Israel lobby exerted.
At the conclusion of his lecture, Carr answered several challenging questions posed by the audience; the topics ranged from the attitudes of Israeli citizens and Jewish communities worldwide, to alternatives to the traditional two-state solution to the conflict. The comprehensive and intellectual discussion produced critiques and elaborations of critical areas in Carr’s talk.
His Excellency Izzat Abdulhadi, The Head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia, was in attendance and said that he was encouraged by the audience’s intellectual nature and deep understanding of the issue. “We appreciate the comments of Bob Carr who is a close friend of Palestine and the two- state solution…and we appreciate his help and words,” he said.
The event was moderated by Dr. Kevin Bray, chair of AJPP. When asked about the rationale behind the talk, Dr. Bray told Woroni that they knew of Carr’s favourable positions towards Palestinian statehood, and “were aware of the Australian Labor Party’s National Conference coming up late in July, at which the Palestinian question was expected to be considered, so [AJPP] wanted [their] event to precede the National Conference.” He said that ANU was a “suitable, centrally located venue, where public events on topical, but controversial subjects academics and concerned students.
Miguel Galsim is a member of AJPP and SJP, and was involved in the organisation of this event.