Intertwined Struggles: The Shared Fight for Justice Among Palestinians and Indigenous Australians

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The struggles for Palestinian justice and recognition, as well as the movement for indigenous Australian reconciliation, might seem disparate at first glance, but they are deeply interconnected through their shared themes of colonialism, dispossession, and the fight for human rights. 

By examining these two movements side by side, we can gain a deeper understanding of the universal fight against oppression and the pursuit of justice for marginalised peoples.

Before we begin this important piece, we remind our readers that at Muslim Women Australia, we acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional owners of the land on which we stand, and pay our respect to Elders past, present and emerging. We recognise the rich cultural heritage of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and the importance of preserving their connection to the land. 

We also recognise the indigenous people of Palestine. The history and struggles of the Palestinian people are deeply rooted, and we acknowledge their enduring connection to their land, as well as their ongoing pursuit of justice and self-determination.

In recognising both the traditional custodians of this land, Australia, and the indigenous people of Palestine, we acknowledge the importance of understanding and respecting the histories, cultures, and rights of all indigenous communities. It is a reminder that we should strive for a world where diversity is celebrated, and the rights of all indigenous peoples are upheld.

The Significance of Reconciliation Week

As Reconciliation Week approaches, from May 27th to June 3rd, it provides a timely opportunity to reflect on the ongoing efforts for justice and recognition for indigenous Australians.

Reconciliation Week is a period dedicated to fostering understanding and building stronger relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider Australian community. This week also serves as a reminder of the broader global context of indigenous struggles, including the Palestinian fight for justice.

Historical Contexts: Colonialism and Dispossession

Palestinian Struggle

The Palestinian struggle for justice and recognition is rooted in the historical context of colonialism and displacement. 

The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 led to the Nakba, or catastrophe, where over 700,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes.

This event marked the beginning of a protracted conflict over land, identity, and sovereignty, which continues to this day. Palestinians face ongoing challenges including military occupation, settlement expansion, and a lack of political representation.

Indigenous Australians’ Struggle

Similarly, the history of indigenous Australians is marked by dispossession and colonial violence. 

British colonisation in 1788 led to the systematic displacement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from their lands, a process accompanied by violence, the introduction of foreign diseases, and policies of assimilation.

Indigenous Australians were subjected to practices such as the Stolen Generations, where children were forcibly removed from their families in an attempt to erase their cultural identity.

Shared Themes of Dispossession and Resistance

Land as a Core Issue

For both Palestinians and indigenous Australians, land is not just a physical space but a core part of their cultural and spiritual identity. 

The dispossession of land has had devastating impacts on their communities, livelihoods, and social structures. 

Both groups have engaged in long-standing resistance against these injustices, striving to reclaim their land and assert their rights.

Cultural Survival and Identity

The struggle for cultural survival is another critical aspect linking these two movements. 

Both Palestinians and indigenous Australians have faced attempts to erase their cultures through policies of assimilation and cultural suppression. 

Despite these efforts, both groups have maintained resilient cultural identities, which they continue to celebrate and preserve. Their cultural revival is an act of resistance against historical and ongoing oppression.

International Solidarity and Human Rights

Parallels in Struggles

The parallels between the Palestinian struggle and the fight for indigenous Australian rights have fostered a sense of international solidarity.

 Both movements emphasise the importance of self-determination and human rights. They call for recognition of historical injustices and seek reparations and restorative justice. 

This solidarity is seen in mutual support and shared advocacy, with activists from both sides drawing attention to their common struggles in global forums.

Role of International Law

International law plays a crucial role in both movements. For Palestinians, United Nations resolutions affirm their right to self-determination and condemn illegal settlements. 

Similarly, indigenous Australians have gained support from international human rights instruments such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which recognises their right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social, and cultural institutions.

Contemporary Challenges and Advocacy

Palestinian Advocacy

The Palestinian advocacy movement continues to face significant challenges, including political fragmentation, economic hardships, and international geopolitical dynamics. 

Despite these obstacles, Palestinian civil society and international allies continue to push for a just peace that recognises Palestinian rights and addresses the root causes of the conflict.

Indigenous Australian Advocacy

In Australia, the movement for reconciliation and justice for indigenous peoples has made significant strides but still faces substantial challenges. Issues such as systemic racism, socio-economic disparities, and the need for constitutional recognition remain at the forefront of the advocacy agenda. 

The Uluru Statement from the Heart, issued in 2017 and which the MWA was proud to support, called for a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution and a Makarrata Commission to oversee a process of truth-telling and treaty-making.

Intersectional Solidarity and Future Directions

Intersectional Approaches

Both the Palestinian and indigenous Australian movements increasingly adopt intersectional approaches, recognising that their struggles are part of broader fights against systemic injustice. Intersectionality highlights how different forms of oppression—such as racism, colonialism, and economic inequality—intersect and compound the marginalisation of these groups. This perspective fosters broader coalitions and alliances, strengthening the movements.

Learning from Each Other

The Palestinian and indigenous Australian movements have much to learn from each other.

Indigenous Australians can draw inspiration from the Palestinian commitment to international solidarity and the use of international law to assert their rights. 

Conversely, Palestinians can learn from the indigenous Australian experience with reconciliation processes, such as truth-telling and treaty negotiations, which could offer models for addressing historical grievances and fostering lasting peace.

Indeed, this spirit of mutual understanding and learning has been manifest in the protest movement that has taken place in Australia since the events of October 2023. There, every week, indigenous and Palestinian activists walk side by side, campaigning against the oppression which they feel and know has joint roots. 

Justice for one: Justice for all!

The struggles for Palestinian justice and recognition and for a better future for indigenous Australians are deeply intertwined through their shared experiences of colonialism, dispossession, and the ongoing fight for human rights. 

By understanding these connections, we can better appreciate the universal nature of the fight against oppression and the importance of international solidarity. 

As both movements continue to advocate for justice, they offer powerful lessons in resilience, resistance, and the pursuit of a just and equitable future for all marginalised peoples.

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