Union support for Palestinian refugees in Beirut

Paradigm Shift (4ZZZ fm 102.1 Fridays at Noon) interview with Ken Davis – a long-time unionist and social justice campaigner. Ken is a member of the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine in Sydney and works for Union Aid Abroad (APHEDA) projects in Palestine and Lebanon.

Here Ian and Ken discuss how Australian unions attempt to assist civil society in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. These camps have been severely affected by Israeli occupation, Covid19 pandemic, the collapse of the Lebanese economy, the Syrian Civil War and now the explosion in Beirut.

Union Aid abroad has projects in Gaza, the West Bank and Beirut. There have been attempts by the Australian government to link this aid work to militant resistance in the region. These allegations have proved unfounded.

Civil society and the resistance

The interview raises an interesting question of how various governments including Australia USA and Israel attempt to separate Civil Society, for example union aid, from helping resistance groups like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. This and other groups are outlawed in Australia, for example, Hamas which governs Gaza.

Aid groups and Solidarity organisations are under constant Australian government scrutiny. Both Australian and U.S. governments have tried to outlaw the boycotts divestments and sanctions campaign (BDS) against the apartheid state of Israel. But how can asking people to stop buying Israeli goods and services be illegal? Isn’t capitalism supposed to be based on freedom of choice?

Meanwhile Israel, the U.S. and Australia have imposed sanctions on the Palestinian territories of Gaza because Hamas won the 2006 elections in Gaza. Israel has blockaded Gaza, preventing essential goods from entering the territory. Israel is responsible for the destruction of 58 millions euros (that’s $A95 Million) worth of European aid to the Palestinians. Australian projects have been bombed by Israel with little complaint by successive Australian governments. Why?

Mandela, the ‘terrorist’ Black Pimpernel

During South African apartheid, Nelson Mandela managed to bring both resistance and civil society together and to overcome the outlawing of the boycott against South Africa. However Mandela was also a ‘terrorist’ in the eyes of western governments because he was the leader of an armed resistance group, MK.

Cubans defeated South Africa army in Angola and ‘this led to peace talks leading to the New York Accords, the agreement by which … South African forces withdrew from Angola‘ – wikipedia. Cuban military intervention weakened the apartheid state of South Africa. Boycotts also led to the collapse of the South African apartheid regime. In 1990 Mandela was freed from Robben Island, but only after western governments were convinced that he would not align South Africa with communist block [see also Tripartite Accord (Angola)].

What can we do?
The Big Ride for Palestine is an initiative by supporters of the Palestinian people that combines a love of cycling with practical solidarity and awareness raising. This year’s big ride is co-hosted by Union Aid Abroad and the Big Ride Australia.

We want to bring attention to the human rights abuses endured by the Palestinian people, the brutal military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), and Israel’s continued violation of international law. This includes Israel’s proposed annexation of the West Bank.

We raise money to support organisations that struggle to allow Palestinian people to live with dignity and peace. In 2020 the funds raised with go to the Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organisation in Beirut.

Union Aid Abroad (APHEDA), the global justice organisation of the Australian union movement, co-hosts this event.

The Big Ride for Palestine (Australia) has organised three successful rides from Brisbane to Byron Shire (2017-2019). However The Big Ride for Palestine 2020 is organised differently this year to make the ride safer for people taking part during the Covid 19 pandemic.

Instead of having one team ride from Brisbane to the Byron Shire as in previous years, the Big Ride are asking people to nominate a ride or other activity (walking, jogging etc.) of their choice to complete during the second and third weeks of September.

Ian Curr
8 Aug 2020

Contact: The Big Ride Team

Please note, The Big Ride team are all volunteers with full time jobs, so please allow at least 7 days for us to respond to any requests for information.