Australia is failing community on Palestine 

Australia is failing community on Palestine 

As the humanitarian crisis in Gaza grows by the hour, elected representatives at all levels of government in Australia are being asked to take a stand, and the City of Melbourne will debate this very issue on February 20.

Politicians are being asked to use federal, state or local chambers to take symbolic and practical steps to contribute to global efforts to establish peace. Only one of these levels of government is charged with managing foreign affairs. 

Why then, in October, did the Victorian Legislative Assembly resolve on the motion of the Premier, seconded by the Leader of the Opposition, that the State Parliament “stands with Israel”? 

Why too, in October, was Melbourne Town Hall lit up in white and blue, in solidarity with Israel? Various councils have since passed motions in solidarity with affected communities in Israel, Palestine and in their municipal communities. 

The answer is straightforward: politicians seek to give voice to the communities they represent. The outrage and outpouring of grief in response to the horrific attacks by Hamas on Israelis on October 7 were felt everywhere, and all levels of government stood up to be counted. Not because of a misunderstanding of jurisdictional responsibilities but because, in the best judgment of the elected representatives, that was what their constituents expected. 

In my constituency, the City of Melbourne, community members have ties with all parts of the world. We claim our greatest strength to be our multicultural diversity.

The council has an International Engagement Strategy, a trade office in Tianjin, China, five sister cities, plans to attract and support international students and tourists, and an elaborate network of international exchanges between Melbourne’s creative and cultural institutions across all parts of the globe.

These programs exist to enrich and benefit Melbourne and its people, and all of them require an understanding of what is happening in the world. Put simply, we are a global city and that requires a global outlook. 

When Victoria’s former Liberal Leader Matthew Guy was asked to comment on the City of Melbourne’s suspension of its sister city relationship with St Petersburg in March 2022, Mr Guy said the council did not go far enough. 

Melbourne City Council later took up Matthew Guy’s position and terminated the sister city relationship completely, in May 2023. As my colleagues argued in the chamber on the night, it is an obligation on us that we do everything we can – symbolic or otherwise – to aid in ending the atrocities being committed and to make it clear to Russia that we condemn their behaviour.  



I agreed with those sentiments in the context of Ukraine, and I think we should apply the same standard in the context of Palestine. 

The numbers present a dire situation. Four months since the conflict began, more than 100,000 people have been killed, injured or are missing under the rubble. More than 14,000 Palestinian children, at least 340 medical staff, 158 UN staff and 127 journalists and media workers have been killed by the ongoing assault by Israel. More than 24,000 Palestinian children have lost one or both parents.

In fact, more than 10 Palestinian children each day are losing one or both legs due to Israeli attacks.


UNICEF spokesperson James Elder has dubbed this “a war on children”.  

More than 70 per cent of Gaza is now decimated – more than 70,000 homes have been completely destroyed while the UN has documented attacks on at least 392 educational facilities, 199 heritage sites, 187 places of worship, 123 ambulances and even the Belgian development agency.

Most recently, Hind, a five-year-old girl, was killed along with the ambulance crew on track to save her, as she waited in a car with her murdered family, despite “safe” passage being negotiated by the red cross.   

Despite the International Court of Justice making provisional orders for Israel to allow adequate humanitarian aid into Gaza, Israel still refuses to allow it, forcing Palestinians into acute levels of starvation. While Melbourne rallies to stop bombs, illegal Israeli settlers rally to stop aid, camping at the border and stopping the entry of countless aid trucks. 

Right now, Israel is bombing Rafah, where more than 1.4 million civilians have taken refuge in the Gaza strip. A supposed safe zone. The last safe zone. This is now the most densely populated area on earth, with nowhere to go. It’s no coincidence that proponents of illegal settlements like Daniella Weiss, an Israeli settler leader have triumphantly proclaimed on Israeli television “No Arabs will remain in Gaza”. 

In the face of all of this, many in our community are aggrieved. They are tired. They want and demand that their voices are heard as they bear witness to the horrendous atrocities by our supposed “friends”.

The federal government – the level of government formally charged with managing foreign affairs – is letting them down, and so they come to the level of government closest to the people. Why else would grassroots campaigns be springing up across the country and choosing councils as their vehicle? 

It is not good enough that state and local governments could express support for Israeli victims in October 2023 but resist doing the same for Palestinian victims after four months of catastrophic and disproportionate response.  

My motion to council on Tuesday seeks to overcome this hypocrisy and give voice to those whose governments at all levels are letting them down. While there is no guarantee the motion will pass – my colleagues may have different views about what our constituents expect of us and that is how our representative democracy works – that is no reason to suppress the expression of the views of a critical mass of Melburnians: 

An immediate ceasefire. Return of all hostages. Unimpeded aid. The right to self-determination. And above all, a just and sustainable peace. 


Jamal Hakim is a councillor at the City of Melbourne

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