ACRAWSA Message of Support for the Black-Palestinian Solidarity: Contesting Settler Nationalisms 2019 Conference

The Australian Critical Race & Whiteness Studies is delighted to publish this message of support for the upcoming conference on Black-Palestinian Solidarity: Contesting Settler Nationalisms to be held in Naarm on November 6-8 2019. The association will be represented at the conference by our Publicity Officer, Sherene Idriss.

ACRAWSA sees the the struggle for Palestinian liberation as closely intertwined with that for Aboriginal sovereignty for which our association aims to struggle through the advancement of critical race and whiteness studies scholarship in these lands. To this end we recently organised two relevant events, Coloniality, Race and Settler Resistance in Occupied Palestine with Lana Tatour, Orly Noy and Marcelo Svirsky the Sydney launch of Traces of Racial Exception: Racializing Israeli Settler Colonialism with Ronit Lentin and Lana Tatour.

In the words of its organisers, Professor Gary Foley and and Suzannah Victoria Beatrice Henty, the Black-Palestinian Solidarity conference aims ‘to reflect on and further mobilise the long-standing solidarity between Aboriginal and Palestinian peoples in the indivisible struggle against settler-colonial occupation.’

This text was written by the conference organisers and shared with ACRAWSA. We share it with you here:        

Black-Palestinian Solidarity: Contesting Settler Nationalisms 2019 

It is our pleasure to present the first Black-Palestinian Solidarity conference held in what is now known as Australia, in so-called Melbourne. This conference aims to reflect on and further mobilise the long-standing solidarity between Aboriginal and Palestinian peoples in their continuing and indivisible struggle against settler- colonial occupation. 

Black-Palestinian solidarity in the continent emerged during the late 1970s and began with the organised political actions of Ali Kazak and Gary Foley. Kazak, an activist, former Fatah member and, later, Palestinian Liberation Organization representative for the Oceania region, migrated to Australia in 1970. Foley is a Gumbaynggirr activist, historian, and co-founder of the Redfern Aboriginal Legal Services (1971) and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy (1972). Kazak and Foley saw the Palestinian and Aboriginal struggle as part of the same fight for justice against settler-colonial occupation. Their shared militant, anti-imperialist, and internationalist actions against the occupiers and their beneficiaries held solidarity at the heart of their revolutionary decolonial imaginaries. 

During the October 1973 War, Zionist students at the Clayton Campus of Monash University set up a table in the Student Union to raise funds for Israel. Foley, along with Bruce McGuinness, Wiradjuri activist, pioneer of the Black Power movement, and key figure in the establishment of the Aboriginal-controlled Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (1972), arrived at the Student Union to find the group of Zionist students assaulting an individual. When McGuinness and Foley intervened, the Zionists turned on them, and other students stepped in to help. During the resulting brawl, McGuinness and Foley managed to rescue the individual under attack and pull him to safety. When they asked the man, Mohammad Ali, why he was being attacked, he replied, ‘I’m Palestinian.’ McGuinness and Foley were thus introduced to the Palestinian struggle. 

Upon Kazak’s arrival in Australia, he was shocked to see the dire situation of Indigenous peoples in all dimensions of life under occupation. In 1979, he launched the first Palestinian-run newspaper in Australia, entitled Free Palestine, which ran until 1990 and which featured Foley’s political actions. In May 1981, Kazak curated the first exhibition of Palestinian culture and resistance in Australia, held at RMIT’s Storey Hall; Foley opened the exhibition. 

In an article published in the official magazine of the PLO, Filastin Al-Thawra, on 12 September 1993, and reprinted in the Arabic newspaper Al Bayrak, Kazak wrote: 

On his arrival Captain Cook was overwhelmed with Australia’s beauty, calmness and virgin nature so he plunged the British flag in its guts and declared, according to the custom of colonialists at the time, that this land belonged to King George III, without any regard to its people. 

Kazak’s article emphasised that the occupation was a settler- colonial project in that there was never a plan to co-exist with or respect Indigenous peoples or their sovereignty. The success of British invasion and settlement, and the establishment of the Australian nation-state, was and remains contingent on Indigenous erasure. As Kazak wrote in 1993, it aims to ‘replace them…[t]hat is why they promoted their lie that this land was terra nullius’. Arguing for solidarity as a cornerstone of anti-colonial resistance, he continues: ‘Aboriginal people are not alone in their struggle; many friends stand beside them inside Australia and outside it.’ 

This conference has its roots firmly in the history of solidarity between Aboriginal and Palestinian peoples and remains committed to justice for all. The program came about in mid-2018 after a series of meetings in Canberra between Kazak, Foley, and Suzannah Henty, a scholar of Anglo descent researching anti-colonial resistance practices in contemporary art, and then in consultation with Palestinian scholars Lila Abu-Lughod and Noura Erakat, as well as Goenpul scholar Aileen Moreton-Robinson. It reflects on the role and forms of solidarity in the precarious times of modern nation- statehood, examining how—with the hardening of immigration policies, the closing of borders, the rise of right-wing discourses, and entrenched historical-institutional racism—members of the international community can work towards self-determination and sovereignty separate from national and state governments. 

The subtitle of this conference, ‘Settler Nationalisms’, refers to modes of domination and resistance that are informed by and embody a colonial logic. Against settler nationalisms, this conference aims to reflect on and find models of solidarity and resistance. It considers solidarity and resistance as an intellectual, imaginative and political praxis informed by what Palestinian scholar Mudar Kassis describes as a ‘freedom-based epistemology’ that rejects colonial grammar and embraces a transnational and transcultural solidarity strategy. To resist capitalism’s structures of oppression 

in its imperialist, colonial, neo-colonial, nationalist and neoliberal manifestations and imagine new liberatory futures, how can we question, contextualise, substantiate, and accuse without fixing the dispossessed into a rigid narrative that further silences their voices and rights for self-determination? What is the role of increasingly- corporate educational institutions in de-normalising oppression and occupation? What is the praxis of intersectionality and solidarity? The Black-Palestinian Solidarity conference is a three-day assembly that platforms scholarly, artistic, and activist interventions, and is accompanied by several satellite events. The program includes but is not limited to academic presentations, performances, poetry readings, film screenings, and panel discussions that experiment with Black-Palestinian solidarity as a framework, with the goal of dismantling colonial occupation and its logic. By engaging with open-ended and inclusive, interdisciplinary discourses, and appealing to a combination of theory and practice, this program is conceived of as an engaged conversation. 

The 2019 Black-Palestinian Solidarity conference is indebted to the work of Assistant Professor Noura Erakat and Professor Marc Lamont Hill who have articulated Black-Palestinian Transnational Solidarity as a ‘theory and praxis in the global and indivisible struggle for justice’. Thank you Alma Thorpe. Thank you Jacqui Katona and Professor Alexis Wright. Thank you Professor Lila Abu-Lughod and Assistant Professor Nora Akawi. Thank you Professor Angela Davis. Thank you Micaela Sahhar. Thank you Professor Aileen Moreton- Robinson, Professor Ian McLean, and Professor Tony Birch. Thank you Sara M. Saleh and Brianna Hoff. Thank you to the participants, this is yours. 

We are beholden to those before and those after. 

From Djap Wurrung to Al-Quds, Gaza to Ferguson, Rojava to West Papua, Chiapas to Kanaky, Standing Rock to Aleppo, we express our deep solidarity in the indivisible struggle for justice for all. 

This conference was mostly organised on the lands of the Wurundjeri, in the Eastern Kulin Nation. We acknowledge the Wurundjeri and pay respect to Indigenous Elders past and present everywhere. 

— Gary Foley, Suzannah Henty, and Ali Kazak, 2019 

Professor Gary Foley was born in Grafton (1950), northern NSW, is an activist, actor, writer and educator of Gumbaynggirr descent. Expelled from school aged 15, Foley came to Sydney as an apprentice draughtsperson. Since then he has been at the centre of major political activities including the Springbok tour demonstrations (1971); Tent Embassy in Canberra (1972); Commonwealth Games protest (1982); and protests during the bicentennial celebrations (1988). Foley was involved in the establishment of the first Aboriginal self-help and survival organisations including Redfern’s Aboriginal Legal Service; Aboriginal Health Service in Melbourne; and National Black Theatre. In 1974 he was part of an Aboriginal delegation that toured China, and in 1978 he took films on Black Australia to the Cannes Film festival. In 1979 he set up the first Aboriginal Information Centre in London. He has been a director of the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (1981); the Aboriginal Arts Board (1983–86) and Aboriginal Medical Service Redfern (1988); Senior Lecturer at Swinburne College; Senior Curator for South- Eastern Australia at the Melbourne Museum; consultant to the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody (1988); board member of the Aboriginal Legal Service; and on the national executive of the National Coalition of Aboriginal Organisations. In 1994 Foley created the first Aboriginal-owned and operated website when he created the Koori History website, which remains one of the most comprehensive Aboriginal education resources available online today. Foley currently teaches history at Victoria University. 

Suzannah Henty is a Melbourne and Paris-based researcher, writer and educator currently undertaking a jointly awarded and cross- disciplinary PhD at the University of Melbourne and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. She is of anglo-descent, born (1992) on the unceded lands of the Latji Latji Nation, and was raised and educated on the Kulin Nation. Her paternal ancestors arrived at the early stages of colonisation from England to sovereign Gunditjmara country in 1834. Her research is concerned with the destabilization of settler colonial discourses by means of resistant contemporary art practices and critical historiography. Her research has been published in the Funambulist, Jerusalem Quarterly and Kunstlicht; she has worked as a researcher at Bétonsalon – Center for Art and Research & Villa Vassilieff, Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, and Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art; at the University of Melbourne, she has taught gender studies, modern and contemporary art history, and is a collaborator in an architecture studio that examines the built environment in conflict zones; she has been an invited guest lecturer at Victoria University, SOAS University of London, the French-German Cultural Center (Ramallah), A.M. Qattan Foundation, and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. 

Ali Kazak, born in Haifa, Palestine (1947), is a former Palestinian ambassador and head of delegation to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific region. Kazak grew up in Syria as a Palestinian refugee. He and his mother were separated from his father when Israel was created in 1948 and were prevented from returning home. He did not see his father, who was living back in Haifa, for 48 years. In 1968, while at Damascus University, Kazak was invited to join the Palestine National Liberation Movement (Fatah) and joined its political wing. Kazak immigrated to Australia in 1970. He became active in pro- Palestinian Lobbying. He was the founder and the driving force behind the establishment of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign on 30 May 1981 in a number of states in Australia (VIC, ACT, SA, WA and QLD) and in Aotearoa New Zealand’s major cities, and other Palestinian community groups. He is an expert in Australian-Arab relations and affairs. He was the publisher and co-editor of Free Palestine newspaper (1979–90), publisher and editor of Background Briefing (1987–93), the book The Jerusalem Question (1997), and author of “Australia and the Arabs” (in Arabic) 2012, as well as other publications. He has organised a number of Palestinian political and cultural exhibitions throughout Australia. 

Professor Gary Foley and Suzannah Victoria Beatrice Henty 

Aboriginal Steering Committee:
Professor Tony Birch, Jacqui Katona, Professor Aileen Moreton- Robinson and Professor Alexis Wright 

Palestinian Steering Committee:
Dr Micaela Sahhar, Sara M. Saleh, Tasnim Mahmoud Sammak 

Coordinators of the Matriarch Panel:
Jacqui Katona and the Palestinian Steering Committee 

Coordinating Assistants:
Eleanor Benson and Brianna Hoff 

Advisory Board:
Professor Lila Abu-Lughod, Professor Noura Erakat, Ali Kazak, Professor Ian McLean, Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Professor Nikos Papastergiadis

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