Stop the Genocide

An appeal to the Prime Minister and Parliament of Australia

PLEASE DO WHAT YOU CAN TO STOP THE GENOCIDE IN GAZA.

As of 8 May 2024, over 36,000 people (34,844 Palestinian and 1,410 Israeli) have been reported as killed… including 97 journalists (92 Palestinian, 2 Israeli and 3 Lebanese) and over 224 humanitarian aid workers, including 179 employees of UNRWA.

“Love lights this place up. Without love it would be dark and cold here.”
– Holocaust Survivor Halina Strnad.

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

As a constituent and a human being who cares about the value of human life, I am calling on you to advocate for an end to the violence in Gaza.

Since the UN Security Council called for an immediate ceasefire on 25 March 2024, that demand has been ignored and unenforced. Now, over 200 days into the conflict, there seems to be no end in sight. Of those killed in the last six-and-a-half months, approximately 70% have been women and children. According to UN Women, 10,000 women in Gaza have been killed – 6,000 of them mothers – and over 700,000 women and girls face possible death or injury in Rafah. This is not a measured military response to the attacks of 7 October 2023, nor is it the actions of a responsible modern western democracy in defence of its citizens or human rights. It is downright slaughter.

I’m grateful for Australia’s support for a ‘sustainable ceasefire’ and for restoring funding to UNRWA, the largest humanitarian actor in Gaza. Our Foreign Minister, Senator Penny Wong, has stated: “I am here to add our voice, Australia’s voice, to advancing the cause of peace.” But this alone is not enough. The harrowing situation in Gaza underscores the urgent need for governments worldwide to STOP THE SUPPLY OF ARMS, AMMUNITION, AND AIRLINE PARTS USED IN THESE ATROCITIES.

AUSTRALIANS WANT TO SEE YOUR GOVERNMENT DO MORE. Polling released on 27 February 2024 revealed that over 80% of Australians want a ceasefire, and that one-third of voters would consider this issue when they decide who to vote for at the next election.

In the name of humanity I respectfully urge you to please do the following:

1) ENSURE AUSTRALIA’S IMMEDIATE SUSPENSION OF MILITARY AID ASSISTANCE AND COOPERATION WITH ISRAEL. Nothing manufactured in Australia should contribute to death and destruction in Gaza. The government should halt all transfers of weapons parts and ammunition where the Israeli government and the Israel Defense Force are the end users.

2) TAKE URGENT ACTION TO ENSURE THAT ISRAEL COMPLIES WITH THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE RULINGS and acts in accordance with International Humanitarian Law, using all diplomatic means available. This includes abiding by ICJ rulings that Israel must prevent genocide and take measures to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

3) APPLY AND IMPLEMENT TARGETED SANCTIONS ON ISRAELI OFFICIALS who have called for the denial of aid, and military and civil servants denying essential food and materials to civilians of Gaza. Your government has stated that: “The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire. More than 1.7 million people have been displaced, many several times over, and half of Gaza is experiencing catastrophic food insecurity with famine projected to occur imminently.”

4) CONTINUE TO CALL FOR AN IMMEDIATE PERMANENT AND UNCONDITIONAL HUMANITARIAN CEASEFIRE IN GAZA, and also use all diplomatic means available to achieve this. If the Israeli government refuses to a ceasefire, there are options to expel its diplomats.

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

5) CALL FOR A THE COMMENCEMENT OF COMPENSATION FOR PALESTINE, AS WELL AS LONG TERM SOLUTIONS INCLUDING RESTORATIVE JUSTICE. This latter could be commenced via ‘an ancient Semitic custom known as sulha’ wherein communities begin to heal by letting those most affected talk things through, just like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, or the Truth Telling involving Australia’s reconciliation with its own history. Furthermore, anyone on either side (IDF or Hamas) who is guilty of war crimes must face justice. Any long-term ceasefire must guarantee ongoing peace, justice and equality for all people in Palestine and Israel, and also work to heal divisions within Australia and other societies as a result of the current genocide.

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.”
— Elie Wiesel

This is not a question of anti-Semitism, as the human rights of all people – including Palestinians as semitic peoples – must be acknowledged, respected and protected equally, alongside those of Jews or other communities. Miriam Margoyles and the Jewish Council of Australia have joined the call for a ceasefire, as have 700 Australian Jews. On the global stage, the so-called “two state solution” must prevent the continuation of the colonial-style occupation of Palestine, a system riven by apartheid and other divisions, and recognise that all people of the region have equal rights to life, liberty, and self determination. The current system is unfair to Palestinians and Israelis alike.

Nor should anyone suggest that the Jewish communities within Israel do not have a right to defend themselves. The attacks of 7 October 2023 were terrible, and every reasonable and responsible action should be taken to find and hold those behind the attacks to account for their actions – but the current response (the indiscriminate and extrajudicial killing of alleged Hamas personnel – without any regard for legal processes or collateral damage – the bombing of cities, apartment blocks, hospitals, universities, schools and refugee camps, etc, and the displacement of millions of people) is a disproportionate response that makes no attempt to minimise civilian casualties nor to serve as a model template for civilised behaviour. As a modern western nation, Israel is already well-armed and it does not need to be provided with provocative armaments which encourage zealous military actions that are now recognised as being potential war crimes and genocide.

The current situation dishonours all those who died in the Holocaust – and the survivors – because “Never again” should mean forever. It also dishonours those Israelis who are commemorated in Yom HaZikaron 2024 / יוֹם הַזִּכָּרוֹן 5784, plus the nearly 100,000 Palestinians now killed since 1948. These terrible losses should not be in vain.

I finally make this call in memory of a friend and Holocaust survivor, the aforementioned Halina Strnad, who used her experiences to fuel her desire to drive positive reform in the world rather than hold onto hatreds and hurts. She has passed away in recent years, but I trust I am not misrepresenting her views or philosophies by recalling that her credo was “Don’t remain a victim” and this inspired her to never call for revenge or harm on others regardless of provocation. I feel that the current Israeli government could learn something from her.

I am calling on you to help forge a path to real and lasting peace for the people of Gaza and related communities.

Thank you for your action on this matter of life and death, and I look forward to your kind response to hearing of what you personally have done to end this genocide.

Yours most respectfully,

Geoff Allshorn

___________________________

This is based upon an email that was sent on my behalf via the DoGooder website.

Permission is given to use this as a basis for your own email, provided you add appropriate changes to suit your own views and perspectives.

All rights of their material returned to author at DoGooder. My own material herein ©2024 Geoff Allshorn

A Dream Beyond Borders

The Eid of Unity and Peace: A Dream Beyond Borders

This poem was written by a LGBT+ refugee in Africa, who self identifies as Christian, and who wants to commemorate the end of Ramadan among his Muslim neighbours; his poem is published here in the spirit of acknowledging our common humanity and hoping for human peace regardless of background or belief.

ai-generated image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Beneath the crescent moon’s gentle gleam,
Eid al-Fitr whispers a collective dream.
A dream where faith and hope intertwine,
Uniting Muslims in a bond divine.

From Mecca’s sands to Jakarta’s shores,
The call of peace our heart implores.
With prayers and smiles, we break our fast,
In gratitude for Ramadan now past.

Yet, in our joy, we cannot forget,
Those under shadows of sorrow’s silhouette.
In Palestine, where olive trees weep,
For innocent lives, the cost is steep.

Children, mothers, and LGBTQ souls,
Caught in conflict, a heavy toll.
Their dreams of Eid, tinged with despair,
Yearning for peace in the air.

To our siblings in humanity’s embrace,
We send our love to that troubled place.
Wishing for the day when freedom rings,
And from every minaret, peace sings.

We call upon Israel, with hope in our voice,
To choose compassion, to make the choice.
To halt the persecution, the pain, the fears,
To dry the tears, to end the years.

Let this Eid be more than a feast,
Let it be the day when love increased.
Where every heart, near and far,
Joins in the prayer for an end to war.

So, as we celebrate, let’s not forget,
The power of love, to conquer yet.
Eid Mubarak, let this be the start,
Of a world where peace doesn’t depart.

Composed by Joseph. K

This blog ©2024 Geoff Allshorn. All rights for this poem returned to the poet Joseph K.

O little town of Bethlehem

Image by Brigitte make custom works from your photos, thanks a lot from Pixabay

O little town of Bethlehem
Engulfed in war and death!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The world draws bated breath.
For in your dark streets brimmeth
The ghosts of all those lost,
Our hopes and fears meet deafened ears
Your children are the cost.

The Christ story of ancient times
Is told anew today
While women search for birthing place
“No room” – they are turned away.
No mourning for the children
The lost of Gaza’s birth.
A massacre of innocents
No peace across the Earth.

The women of Afghanistan
Their hopes are a lost refrain.
The children dying in Yemen
or Sudan or the Ukraine.
No ear may hear their suffering
But in this world of choice,
Let humble folk rise up and fight,
And give others a Voice.

Our world is full of ancient yore
Of nobility and memes
And yet we see mass death and war
That seem to negate our dreams.
May we all find renewed hope
Real action, not blank stares.
Becoming our own answer to
Those yearned-for thoughts and prayers.

O hollow town of Bethlehem
Why do we ignore your plight,
While affluent folk everywhere
Share gifts only for one night?
They smile and bleat platitudes,
Proclaiming peace on Earth,
While others wail their silent cries
And die in shameful dearth.

Oh ancient tale of Bethlehem
You seem very far away,
Especially from Ugandan queers
Or trans folk in USA.
As we hear Christmas carols
May we please learn anew
The moral strengths attributed
One Palestinian Jew!*

*With thanks to Leunig (“Away in A Manger”, The Age, 15 December 2023) for the inspiration.

©2023 Geoff Allshorn

Human Rights Are Bigger Than We Think

For Human Rights Day 2023 and the values it portrays.

“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few… or the one.” – Spock.

Today, on Human Rights Day, the newspapers here are full of news that the Australian government announces cuts in migration, in apparent response to polls that suggest Australians think we are importing too many foreigners. This is the same population that recently told our indigenous people that they did NOT deserve the human right to have a voice in the democratic process; the same population that wants the government to shackle and detain black people who have arrived by boat, even after the High Court declares that indefinite detention is illegal.

Meanwhile, wars in the Ukraine and Gaza and Sudan and Yemen continue unabated. The USA votes against ceasefire in Gaza, and the UK abstains. Sorry, there will be no peace on Earth for millions of human beings this Christmas.

It is now 75 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed, and we seem to be much further away from achieving its goals than at any time since it was written. Affluent, entitled white folk bewail the “woke” lefties who promote social justice; conspiracy theorists demand their “rights” not to wear a mask or have innoculations, spreading a potentially fatal virus to the most vulnerable.

Therein lies a basic problem: many people think of human rights as an individual, ie. “my rights”. They need to think of humanity as a collective, a family, a genus.

Image by Cheryl Holt from Pixabay

Human rights do not begin and end with us, or with our immediate biological family, nor with our extended friendship grouping. Nor do they end within the limitations of our personal philosophies. I like to remind some people of a good comparison between being “pro-life” and being “pro human rights”:

Someone who says they are pro-life needs to understand that being “pro-life” does not begin and end with the question surrounding abortion. Being pro-life also means supporting women’s autonomy, and the right to make choices both at the start and the end of life. Being pro-life means opposing unrestricted gun ownership, the death penalty, and religious rights to discriminate against minorities. Pro-life means supporting universal health care and a universal basic income, endorsing school lunch programs and women’s shelters and social housing. It means demanding welfare programs, increased spending on science and medicine, and less spending on war. Being genuinely pro-life means upping our refugee intake, it means free public education, and employment programs to increase self-reliance and self-esteem, and to reduce crime and poverty. It means encouraging trans folk and gender variant people and everyone who encompasses diversity and difference to live freely and happily and joyfully. Pro-life means improving the quality of life for everyone around us – and around the whole world – especially for those with disadvantage, disempowerment or disability. It means higher taxes and adopting “trickle up” economics instead of “trickle down”. It means abolishing the developing world by engaging in a cultural war for true human equality. It means encouraging people to think critically and become educated and empowered and autonomous, resisting the religious or political or cultural systems that oppress them. Pro-life means working for social evolution and cultural revolution.

And so it is with human rights: anyone who claims to respect and uphold human rights must see the bigger picture. Until they are enjoyed by the person deemed to be least worthy or least likely or most overlooked and forgotten, then human rights mean nothing.

Today, on Human Rights Day, over one hundred million people are refugees or displaced due to wars, starvation, despots, genocide and injustice. Do we care?

Along with human rights come human responsibilities: and we have a duty to care – and to act. We need to extend the concept of human rights to our human family, and beyond that, to other sentient species, and to the environment, and to the biosphere – because these are all married to our rights and our survival. As creatures formed from stardust, we are all intimately connected. Human rights are life rights. Perhaps a quote from Carl Sagan would help us to gain some perspective:

“Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us – then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls. The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers.” – Sagan, The Demon Haunted World.

In the modern world, we see democratic nations electing fools and unqualified charlatans. We see populist movements of people who are ignorant of science trying to drag us backwards to the era of flat earth and oppression of minorities. It’s easy to dismiss the problem as being too big: we cannot save the world, so it’s too hard to try doing anything. But I think that we must recognise our human duty to spread hope: our world, for all its ugliness, is still a place where war and famine and injustice and cruelty are slowly being eliminated. Beauty and idealism and youthful enthusiasm must be nurtured.

Our ultimate human right is to spread hope and life; everything else is incidental and will come as a consequence. So the next time you think of giving life-saving food to a starving refugee, or another act of selfless human humanity, remember that not only are you right to do so, but it is your human right to do so – saving the world, saving the ethical core of your own humanity.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

©2023 Geoff Allshorn