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Aboriginal-Palestinian solidarity firm in the face of recent Peris comments

Dechlan Brennan -

Recent pro-Israel commentary from former Olympian and Senator Nova Peris has sparked renewed Indigenous expressions of solidarity with the Palestinian people.


Thousands of Indigenous people have spoken out and/ or marched in solidarity with the Palestinians, while Ms Peris and other prominent figures have taken the opposing view.


Ms Peris clashed with critics online after returning from a trip to Israel this month, later clarifying that she was not referring to Australian aid worker Zomi Frankcom - who was killed alongside several colleagues by an Israeli airstrike - when she used the phrase "lowlife terrorist sympathiser" during an argument. 


Earlier
 this year, Ms Peris argued the Aboriginal flag had been ‘misappropriated’ by Palestine protesters, and questioned the historical knowledge of Palestine supporters arguing they "relied too heavily" on information she alleged was from Tik Tok.

Indigenous academic Marica Langton had also claimed in an opinion piece for The Australian that it was false to suggest most Indigenous Australians feel solidarity with Palestinians, and former NSW Liberal candidate Nyunggai Warren Mundine told Sky News he rejected the view that Israelis were colonisers.

Indigenous human rights lawyer Dr Hannah McGlade said that while she understood Ms Peris’ attachment to the Aboriginal flag, the symbol belongs to the Aboriginal community and Aboriginal people had the right to use it how they see fit. 

“She [Ms Peris] is claiming there’s a misappropriation of the flag, and saying, ‘where is the free, prior and informed consent [FPIC],’ is actually distorting the really important human rights standard around FPIC in regards to exploitation of Indigenous peoples,” Dr McGlade told National Indigenous Times. 

“It’s trivialising the law to be saying ‘who gave you permission?’”

The Noongar law academic and human rights expert said the solidarity with Palestine by Indigenous people in Australia had “only grown stronger” during the current conflict.

“Obviously Aboriginal people have been feeling very strongly - for good reason - about what's happening and are using the flag to march in solidarity with the Palestinians,” Dr McGlade said. 

Al Jazeera reports that more than 33,000 people, including almost 14,000 children, have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since the latest escalation in hostilities began on October 7 last year, when 695 Israeli civilians and around 400 Israeli soldiers were killed during Hamas' attacks.
The Euro Med Human Rights organisation estimates Palestinian deaths in Gaza have surpassed 40,000 since 7 October.

 

On 26 January, the International Court of Justice ordered that Israel take all measures within its power to prevent committing any acts that constitute genocide against Palestinians.

 

Malyangapa Barkindji journalist Jennetta Quinn-Bates, part of the Blak Sovereignty Movement, which openly supports the Free Palestine Movement, told National Indigenous Times Ms Langton and Ms Peris were no longer respected voices amongst many Indigenous people with whom she works and associates.

 

“I understand from an outside point of view, it can look like they're the big legacy,” she said. 

"A lot of the time they are selling out or stepping on the hard work of other Black activists.” 

 

The Blak Sovereignty movement - which was the leading “progressive no” voice during the referendum - was criticised by Ms Langton in her article in The Australian, arguing there’s little that is comparable between the situations of the Palestinians and the Indigenous people of Australia. 

“I think it's really unfortunate the way people such as Marcia and Nova, who have these great big platforms, are actually using them, " Ms Quinn-Bates said. 

She said the movement had been supporting the Palestinian people, "because we are both fighting colonisation".

"To this day, in this country, [we are] still fighting Colonisation every day," Ms Quinn-Bates said.

"They're still committing genocide here. They may not be dropping bombs, but they're still removing our children. They're still incarcerating our people and they're still allowing discrepancies in the mental health, in so many departments, that contributes to the high suicide rates in our communities."

Mununjali and South Sea Island professor Chelsea Watego told National Indigenous Times she recommended those “critiquing Blackfulla-Palestinian solidarities" to read and study literature on settler-colonialism by Indigenous authors.

“This solidarity is not new” Dr Watego said.

“Black and Indigenous solidarity with Palestine has a long tradition which seems to have been erased in the current claims being made by Peris and a few other commentators whose voices have been strangely amplified over the many thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are speaking out, organising and theorising in this moment.

“I am also disgusted by the demands being put to Palestinian people here… in having to answer to those 'tiny few' as a genocide plays out right before our very eyes.” 

Dr Watego highlighted the “Blackfulla-Palestinian solidarity” on January 26, noting it was “undeniably strong".

Other Indigenous groups, including both the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT have expressed their solidarity with the Palestinian cause in recent months and several Palestinian speakers spoke at the January 26 rally in Naarm.

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