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Palestine remains embroiled in the quagmire of politics and legitimacy

  • 14 May 2021
The Australian Labor Party’s (ALP) symbolic recognition of the State of Palestine last March attracted attention, and constituted a sharp distinction from the more common Australian political rhetoric that builds upon ‘shared values’ with Israel. Amid the cautious approval from Palestinians, and Israeli opposition to the change in the party’s policy, the implications of such a move still remain murky in terms of whether it will be adopted under a possible future Labor government and, if it is adopted, how far can Australia, along with other states that recognise Palestine, challenge the associated symbolism.

Using the term ‘colonisation’ in regard to Israel and its relationship to Palestine and its settlements in the West Bank is contested, with some claiming that the situation is not a perfect parallel to other colonial contexts throughout history. But under the circumstances, I would argue there are reasons to use it.

The 1947 Partition Plan, which Australia directly backed through its diplomat at the UN Herbert Vere Evatt, can be considered the foundation for decades of Israeli occupation, land dispossession and unequal treatment of Palestinians. That process has taken place under the veneer of a two-state paradigm, but that paradigm has been rendered obsolete by Israel’s ongoing settlement expansion and its de-facto annexation of the occupied West Bank. The relationship between Israel and Palestine is one of coloniser and colonised not a relationship between two states.

While the specific recognition of a Palestinian state by the Labor Party was covered broadly by the media, the legitimisation of the two-state paradigm remains.

Little seems to have changed since 2018, when the ALP’s national conference supported ‘the recognition and right of Israel and Palestine to exist as two states within secure and recognised borders.’ This challenged the Australian government’s position on Jerusalem which, while not going as far as the Trump administration in terms of recognition, still opened a trade and defence office in Jerusalem in 2019, albeit lacking diplomatic status.

The ALP’s recognition of Palestine will not necessarily translate into government policy if elected. With non-binding resolutions, symbolic recognition is all that Palestine may obtain. There have been enough examples in the international arena of non-binding resolutions that have not only been ignored by Israel, but also by countries supporting such resolutions.

'How does symbolic recognition halt the colonisation of what remains of Palestine, if the politics behind such recognition seem to have no expectations of a Palestinian