Statement from YWCA Australia
Today, International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, YWCA Australia supports and stands alongside Palestinian peoples and their pursuit of peace and justice. We believe that human rights are everyone’s, and that advocacy and diplomacy to achieve these include the right to self-determination (UN Resolution 242 and 338) and the Palestinian people’s right to return (UN Resolution 194) and build peace.
During ongoing crisis and conflict, women, children and young people shoulder the ongoing costs of war and it is now more than ever, we affirm the role of women in peace-building and the work of organisations like YWCA Palestine. YWCA Palestine empowers and champions the voices of women and young people in communities across Palestine to engage in conflict resolution and demand for human rights. YWCA Palestine’s dedication to peaceful change is inspiring and gives us hope of a safer future were all rights are enjoyed and people can prosper.
During COVID-19, situations in Palestine have significantly worsened. YWCA Palestine have shared a video summarising their COVID response in Jalazone Refugee Camp.
The following article has been written by Sara Saleh:
Recent years have seen attack after attack on Palestinian sovereignty. We have witnessed the annexation policy that has formalised the systemic theft of Palestinian lands and homes, the US and Australian Governments’ defunding of UNRWA (a UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees), the continuing Israeli blockade on Gaza and the resulting collapse of its health system amidst a global pandemic.
As we mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people on the 29th of November, a day to focus our attention to the fact that Palestinian people have not yet attained inalienable rights and sovereignty – I would like to draw your attention to 3 things.
1. Uplifting Palestinian Women
Given that November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, I must pay homage to the Palestinian women who historically have been at the forefront of our global movement for justice, playing a meaningful role in our struggles. From running events in our local neighborhoods and leading marches, to being on the pages of books on our shelves and on our TV screens, Palestinian women have immersed us in stories and shared the rich histories of our Palestinian identity.
Whilst Palestinian women represent different geographies (between and within Diaspora and Palestine), and our contexts vary widely, the racism of Israeli occupation and the dominant patriarchal structures of society present us with a double bind.
Headlines are missing stories like that of the recent imprisonment of Khitam Saafin, a prominent women’s rights defender and president of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. Along with countless other Palestinian women activists, Saafin is being held under Israel’s system of administrative detention (where secret evidence is used to hold prisoners without charge or trial) to silence her voice and stop her activism.
Women’s rights thus cannot be dealt with in isolation. We must end all forms of gender-based violence, exclusion, and inequality wherever we are. We must also reject orientalist and Islamophobic appropriation of our women’s rights movements and discourse and we must continue to uplift the participation of women locally and globally against gender-based violence and colonialism.
2. Building on Bla(c)k-Palestinian Solidarity
The inaugural Black Palestinian Solidarity Conference 2019 as well as the Black Palestinian forum that took place in August this year have both been critical in forging connections, a manifestation of years of community organising across both communities. Palestinians in Australia understand more than ever the importance of teaching history from Indigenous perspectives so we may challenge flawed mainstream narratives and reaffirm our own commitment to joint struggle with Indigenous peoples in Australia, and across the world.
As I write this on unceded Gadigal land, I think of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as they continue to resist the exploitation of their lands, fight the increasing surveillance and policing of their peoples, stop deaths in custody, and hold those responsible to account. Palestinians must centre Indigenous communities and amplify their voices and demands for autonomy and self-determination as we continue in our shared struggles.
3. Supporting Palestinian Artists and Activists
I consider myself fortunate to be following and building on the vision of so many before me. I would like us to stop and take a second to celebrate Palestinian joy – as we honour our many forms of resistance and the people that have been leading it for so long, as well as those who will continue to do so for generations to come.
I salute these activists and artists, whose collective efforts connect our yesterdays to our tomorrows, who reflect our complex humanities without victimising us or being reductive in their portrayals, individuals who all have in common an unwavering commitment to justice for all and who are invested in the liberation of our homeland.
A fierce social justice advocate who facilitates conversations around how to stop bullying and hate. She has just kicked off her podcast, PaliTalks, bringing you authentic and unheard stories of Palestinians.
Zahra Al Hilaly
A poet, social justice advocate who sits on the YWCA Young Women’s Council, and the proud daughter of refugees and immigrants from Iraq and Palestine.
Solidarity with Palestinians must transcend the symbolic and superficial – ultimately it must be about ending the ongoing occupation and human rights abuses, and ensuring respect for international law.
Solidarity means an unconditional and unapologetic affirmation of the right to Palestinian “self-determination”.
In a global context of a pandemic, environmental degradation, mass incarceration, repression of Indigenous resistance, and the imperialist interference with communities abroad – our liberation is bound up together, to quote Lilla Watson.
We won’t find our freedom in rigid structures or institutions that have been complicit in injustices, we will find it in the collectives, in the power of people.
About Sara Saleh
Sara Saleh is an Arab-Australian human rights activist, community organiser, writer, and poet living on Gadigal Land (Sydney). A longtime campaigner for refugee rights and racial justice, Sara has spent the last decade working with grassroots community and international organisations in Australia and across the Middle East.
Sara’s poems have been published in English and Arabic in SBS Voices, Australian Poetry Journal, Meanjin, Cordite Poetry Review, Bankstown Poetry Collections and global anthologies A Blade of Grass, Making Mirrors, and Solid Air, an Australian and New Zealand spoken word anthology. She has performed nationally and internationally, from New Zealand to New York, and her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, SBS, and the ABC.
She is co-editor of the recently released anthology, Arab-Australian-Other: Stories on Race and Identity (Picador 2019), a seminal collection of creative essays, memoirs, and poems which brings together 23 writers of Arab-Australian backgrounds.
Sara also sits on the board of Australia’s largest advocacy organisation GetUp! and is a proud Bankstown Poetry Slam ‘Slambassador’.