Our first task is to acknowledge that where we are standing right now is stolen land, and that the
Wurundjeri people and the Kulin nations have never surrendered this land, nor given up their
Our next task is to acknowledge the colossal, life and death struggle being waged as we speak by
Palestinian prisoners inside the jails of Apartheid Israel.
This year has seen hunger strikes in Israel’s prisons. First Khader Adnan, then Hana Shalabi, then
eight Palestinian prisoners, then on April 17 some 1600 prisoners and today, on May the First, there
are perhaps 2000 or more men and women, Palestinian prisoners of the occupation, who are now
choosing systematic starvation as the last weapon of humans against an inhuman regime.
They are protesting against a prison regime of solitary confinement, strip searches, and lack of
The Palestinian prisoners and their supporters are protesting against a legal regime that includes
Military Order 101, still in force in the West Bank, that criminalises organising and participating in
protests; waving flags and other political symbols; printing and distributing political material.
And they are protesting against the system of “Administrative Detention” under which hundreds of
Palestinians – including 21 members of Palestinian Legislative Council — are held, without charge or
trial, for months or years on end.
Today, at least 8 Palestinian hunger strikers lie in Israeli prison hospitals, including some in Ramleh
prison hospital where, according to reports, hunger strikers lie chained to their hospital beds.
We here, now, today, of course, are not subject to Military Order 101. The obscenity of
Administrative Detention, of course, can be found in Australia, in the chain of immigration detention
centres that stretches from Broadmeadows through Villawood and Darwin to Christmas Island.
But the rest of us, we are told, have rights. Rights to a political voice and assembly, rights to protest
injustice, rights to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in all parts of the globe, including
Exactly what rights we have, their application and their limits, may be tested over the coming days.
In particular, in this court, what will be tested is the legality of actions taken on July 1 20011. On
that evening, at one of a series of rallies against Apartheid Israel, Victoria Police arrested 19 people.
We are here defending charges including trespass in a public place, and besetting, an anti picketing
In a bail variation hearing last year, Inspector Beattie testified that “the protesters had their own
way” for too long and there had been a “decision made to draw a line in the sand and make
The legality of the actions that followed on July 1 last year, will be weighed and decided over the
coming weeks inside this court.
What will not be tested in this court is a series of other actions, that form part of the story that leads
us to be standing here today.
We will not be investigating the sickening list of atrocities of the Golani and Givati Brigades,
stretching from the killing fields of Sabra and Shatilla refugee camp in southern Beirut in 1982 to the
systematic murder of families during Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2008/2009.
Neither is the action of Max Brenner subject to legal examination, when they decided to boast about
giving comfort and support to these war criminals of the Golani and Givati brigades with “pamper
packs”, as they put it, to “sweeten their special moments”.
Nor will the actions of the rest of the Israeli state be tested.
And of course, there will be no accounting for Israel’s willing accomplice in all this, the Australian
state which, across parties and across decades, has willingly supplied military and political support
to this Apartheid state of Israel.
We note that today and in the days to follow, strikes and mass rallies are being called in Gaza, in
the occupied West Bank, and within the borders of Apartheid Israel, in solidarity with the Palestinian
prisoners and against the occupation.
We quote the words of hunger striker Khader Adnan, now released:
“The mass hunger strike is a signal to all oppressed and vulnerable people everywhere, not just
Palestinians. It’s a message to everyone suffering from injustice, under the boot of oppression. This
method will be successful, God willing, and will achieve the rights of the prisoners.”
So today, May Day, as workers gather and march in Melbourne and Manila, in Athens and across the
globe, we should remember that the struggle of the Palestinian people, and today especially of the
Palestinian prisoners, is the struggle of all of us. And it is in that court, the court of struggle, that
justice for Palestine is being fought and will be won.