By Susan Price

Jews Against the Occupation '48: The denial of a visa to Leila Khaled, Palestinian leader, representative on the Palestine National Council and former resistance fighter, by the Albanese-Wong government was entirely predictable but no less reprehensible for that. She is invited as Keynote Speaker to the Ecosocialism 24 conference in Perth in June. The context for her presentation will be the search for better ways to live on this planet and share its resources in the face of climate emergency.

The chorus of protest from the pro-Israel claque and the usual suspects in the right-wing media at the possibility that Ms Khaled might share her views and experiences with Australians was equally predictable. This denial is one more attack on free speech and human rights in Australia. It is another attack on the right of Palestinians to tell their story.

Ms Khaled is now nearly 80 years of age. The plane hijackings which she committed with her comrades are now long behind her. They caused no death and just one injury. Compare this with the current genocidal onslaught on Gaza. Who are the terrorists?

Ms Khaled has no regrets for the militant action that brought her to the attention of the world, but these many years later, she now works in different ways adapted to the current context and times. She holds fast to the cause of the liberation of her homeland, Palestine.

She is labelled a ‘terrorist’ by those who would deny her right to speak. But the term ‘terrorist’ has been emptied of meaning. Its original meaning was killing of civilians to terrorise a particular population into submission. The term is routinely used as a verbal club to block any honest consideration of the issues behind a conflict. It is used to ban organisations opposed to current vested interests. Aren't Israel and the US terrorist states? Isn't Australia complicit in such state terrorism?

Australians should have the opportunity to meet and hear this remarkable woman and hear her reflections on her experiences and actions and the current situation in Palestine. She is no security risk to Australians and she should be allowed entry to this country. Denial of a visa to this Palestinian leader is an attack on our values and freedom of thought and speech and a barrier to peace in Palestine/Israel.

Jews against the occupation 48