By Susan Price

Mark Gillespie, City of Sydney for Palestine: I write as a member of the group City of Sydney for Palestine, one of several broad-based community groups that make up the Palestine Action Group which organises the protests in Sydney. Yesterday I marched alongside a Jewish Australian family who came up from Melbourne for the rally. Nachshon Amir, an ex-Israeli Defence Force officer with his brave wife and three daughters have campaigned with a similar group in Melbourne known as Free Palestine Melbourne.

Nachshon, who grew up in Israel, told me, never had he seen such a brutal and relentless attack on Palestinians on this scale as we are currently witnessing in Gaza. He explained the way programming and propaganda allows Israelis to grow up denying the humanity of Palestinians. His public support for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians and the need for peace with justice and a reimagining of a future Palestine is inspirational.

Leila Khaled should not be silenced. Nachshon Amir’s views are in stark contrast to the advice from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and the Jewish Board of Deputies in NSW to the Ministers Wong, Dreyfus, Giles and Gallagher to deny Leila Khaled, the 79-year-old member of the long-standing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a visa to attend a conference in Perth in June this year. Alex Ryvchin of the ECAJ and supported by mainstream Australian media is quick to brand her as a terrorist and deny her a right to speak her truth. This is because as a very young woman in 1969 she helped highjack a TWA flight from Rome to Tel Aviv.

When the plane landed in Damascus no one was killed or injured and the plane itself, though damaged, was later put back into service by the airline. She served jail time and was released after a prisoner exchange.

Leila has always claimed the right to resist the occupation and always maintained that no civilians should be harmed in the act of resisting, something borne out in her handling of the passengers on the TWA

airliner. She famously apologised to the passengers for the inconvenience caused. She now lives in Jordan and is regularly invited to conferences around the world. 

Now in her late 70’s she speaks hopefully of a better future for all the peoples in Palestine and Israel. In an interview last year, she was asked: how do you imagine a free Palestine? She stated: The key for liberation is the land and the return of refugees.

We want to establish a democracy where all have the same rights and duties. We want to do this with the people who are there – with Israelis. This is a humane and democratic solution, and it can be established. Alex Ryvchin, of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), has warned the Government that such a woman who has been “convicted of hijacking a plane is a terrorist and should not be allowed to fly into our country”.

Alex states this without any hint of self- awareness of the terror currently reigning down on the people of Gaza and the fear that has spread across the West Bank. The scale of death and destruction is conveniently ignored. However, the world is not “eyeless in Gaza” anymore. We are aware that governments can become “terror states”.

Where do Australia’s interests lie? With important Jewish and Palestinian and Arab diasporic populations, we have a potentially powerful role to play of bringing people together. 

I call on all members of the Federal Parliament not to turn your faces away from the inhumanity we are witnessing. I say to Minister Katy Gallagher who said of Leila Khaled: “Anyone with this history will not be allowed into Australia” to rethink your position. Argue in Cabinet that we as a country stand for dialogue and understanding. This is the best way towards peace.

Let Leila Khaled speak