By Susan Price

Professor John Tully, historian and writer: The Australian government must resist pressure to deny a visa to the veteran Palestinian activist Leila Khaled. She is a member of the Palestinian National Council and has been able to enter other countries, including Sweden, the UK, and South Africa. She has even been permitted by the Israeli occupation authorities to enter the West Bank in the past.

So why the hue and cry now?

It is no coincidence that the campaign to deny Khaled a visa comes at a time when the Palestinian population of the Gaza enclave is suffering collective punishment amounting to genocide. Given the vast scale of the destruction, it is difficult to see how the enclave can be made habitable, and perhaps that is the aim of the Israeli government.

The Palestinian population cannot be conflated with Hamas, but that is precisely what Netanyahu’s far right coalition government is doing. Even Merav Ben-Ari, a supposed “liberal centrist” Knesset Member, said recently that “The children in Gaza have brought it [i.e. mass death and destruction] on themselves.”

With mass famine looming, the situation will only worsen unless governments such as Australia’s stand up to Benjamin Netanyahu’s far right coalition government. The Albanese government must demand an immediate ceasefire and restart the humanitarian aid programme halted at Benjamin Netanyahu’s behest.

Leila Khaled is herself a victim of the Nakba, forced into permanent exile in 1948 as a child along with 750,000 other Palestinians. In 1969, frustrated by the obstinate refusal of world governments to recognise the suffering of her people, young Leila participated in the hijacking of a TWA flight from Rome to Tel Aviv. She repeated this the following year in an attempted hijack of an El Al flight. No crew members or passengers were killed in either incident and she apologised for the distress caused.

Whatever one thinks of the tactic and of actions taken over half a century ago, these pale into utter insignificance beside the 76 years of oppression inflicted by the Israeli state and its backers on the Palestinian people. It is not anti-Semitism to demand an end to this endless cycle of violent injustice.

The closure of the Green Left Facebook page, for posting an interview with Leila Khaled, is an outrageous attack on freedom of speech and cannot be allowed to stand.

Leila Khaled’s voice must be heard.

John Tully