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Palestinians return the favour at Invasion Day rallies

Kat Wong -

A keffiyeh around her neck and an Arabic "land back" banner in her hands, Rand Khatib will march at the Invasion Day rally adorned with symbols of her people's resistance.

"In Palestine I'm Indigenous, but here I'm a settler," Ms Khatib said.

"That means I have a duty to be active in the process of bringing about justice, land rights and liberation for First Nations peoples."

Palestinians turning up to January 26 protests are returning a favour, Rand Khatib said. (HANDOUT/AUSTRALIA PALESTINE ADVOCACY NETWORK)

But Friday's protests will be slightly different.

Four months ago, Hamas - designated a terrorist group by the Australian government - attacked Israel, killing 1200 people and taking hundreds hostage.

Since then the Israeli government has bombed, blockaded and invaded the Gaza Strip killing more than 25,000 Palestinians, starving millions and leaving the vast majority without homes, according to the UN and the local health ministry.

Calls for a ceasefire have resonated through Australia's capitals with thousands of protesters showing up at regular pro-Palestinian rallies, including First Nations people.

To Ms Khatib, their visible and proud presence feels like a "warm hug", so attending the January 26 rallies is an obvious next step for many Palestinians.

"It's really more or less returning that favour in some way and showing up for colonial justice," she said.

But this relationship began long before October 2023.

Many protests across the nation will invite Palestinians to the stage. (Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)

About the time of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Gary Foley, Gumbaynggirr co-founder of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, and his mentor, Wiradjuri activist Bruce McGuinness, got into a fight.

Professor Foley and Dr McGuinness saw a group of Zionist students harassing a Palestinian man while they were raising funds for Israel at the Monash University student union.

But the pair intervened and pulled the man to safety, making him one of their first touchpoints to the Palestinian community.

This connection strengthened a few years later when Prof Foley met with activist Ali Kazak, who would later become the Palestinian Liberation Organisation's representative to Australia.

In 1979 when Mr Kazak launched the first Palestinian-run newspaper in Australia, he featured stories about Prof Foley's activism.

And when he curated the first Australian exhibition of Palestinian resistance two years later, Prof Foley opened the show.

The creation of the state of Israel in 1948 is often seen as Palestinians' Invasion Day. (HANDOUT/AUSTRALIA PALESTINE ADVOCACY NETWORK)

Crystal McKinnon, a Amangu Yamatji academic and associate professor in history, law and justice at the University of Melbourne, says this was a recognition of shared experiences.

Land dispossession, brutal oppression under an occupying force, disproportionate incarceration rates and high numbers of deaths in custody are just some of the issues that have loomed over Palestinian and First Nations histories, she says.

The creation of the state of Israel in 1948, known as "the catastrophe" in Arabic, is often seen as Palestinians' Invasion Day.

Distinguished professor and Goenpul feminist Aileen Moreton-Robinson has long been outspoken about Palestinians' oppression, while Australian Palestine Advocacy Network president Nasser Mashni has attended Invasion Day rallies for the past 20 years.

Many of these figures have gone on to mentor other members of their communities, Prof McKinnon says, passing their connections to future generations.

Crystal McKinnon said showing links between events in Australia and Gaza strengthens the fight. (Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS)

Of course, not all Indigenous Australians feel this way.

Professor Marcia Langton and former Liberal politician Nyunggai Warren Mundine - who stood on opposite sides of the Indigenous voice referendum - believe there are little to no similarities between Palestinians and First Nations people.

Mr Mundine also notes Jews lived in Israel before 1948, however, he maintains all the deaths in Israel and Palestine are tragic.

"War is a bastard," he told AAP.

Sydney Invasion Day organiser and Blak Caucus member Ethan Lyons says the 2024 rally will demand an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories while calling on the government to implement the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, protect Aboriginal land, and more.

Many protests across the nation will also invite Palestinians to the stage, which Prof McKinnon says will not take away from either struggle.

"Showing the connections between what is happening here, there and elsewhere helps strengthen the messaging and the fight."

Kat Wong - AAP

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