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Israel is heading towards apartheid and is
under threat of becoming the “new South
Africa” unless the international community
steps in to bring an end to the conflict
between the Israelis and Palestinians.
That is the opinion of Mike Khizam,
executive officer of the Australian Friends
of Palestine Association based in South
Australia, who spoke of the declining
conditions in the Middle Eastern country at
the Cross Road Forum last month.
“People say that this is too complex
an issue... but there is hope for peace,
with the outside world playing a role
in stemming the conflict,” he told the
“It is not a level playing field there and if
the Israelis are genuine about peace they
would not be colonising. It is incumbent on
Australia to say to the Israelis they must
follow international law.”
Mr Khizam (above) spoke of the
“disappearing Palestine”; of how the
Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip and
the West Bank (including East Jerusalem)
were now fragmented and diminished
by Israeli settlements, Israeli-only roads
and Israeli closed military zones. Nearly
700,000 Israeli settlers live in the occupied
West Bank and, under international law, it
is illegal for them to be there, he said.
“The disparity of power is so great.
“It’s effectively an apartheid situation
within the occupied territories. They
(Palestinians) are living under siege... we
don’t want a new South Africa.”
Visiting Israel a couple of years ago, Mr
Khizam met people whose lives have been
“turned upside down” by a situation which
is “out of their control”.
“I also met a lot of impressive and inspiring
people, both Israelis and Palestinians, who
were seeking the end of the occupation.”
Over the years many attempts have been
made to broker a two-state solution,
involving the creation of an independent
Palestinian state alongside the state of
Israel, a move which is supported by many
Israelis and Palestinians.
However, Mr Khizam believed it was now
unlikely there could be any resolution
without the intervention of the international
community. He urged Australia to “apply
economic and diplomatic pressure”, while
individuals could make their voices heard
by refusing to buy Israeli products or “not
supporting companies that support the
“This conflict has been going on for
70 years. Either we initiate a two-state
solution or have a one-state solution where
we give the Palestinians the vote.
“If it’s not resolved, things will only get
“It’s a grim, but not a hopeless, picture.
There is scope for pressure to be applied
to Israel from the international community.”
Apartheid threat over ‘disappearing Palestine’
In 1991 a petition calling for a ban on
landmines was started by an Adelaide
Sister of Mercy, contributing to a world-
wide movement which continues to have
an impact today.
Sr Patricia Pak Poy (right) instigated the
petition after a sabbatical in Thailand in
1990, during which time she was exposed
to the prevalence of landmines and the
devastating effects they had on individuals
The legacy of her petition is SafeGround,
which works towards eliminating explosive
remnants of war (ERW) around the world
and is celebrating the 25th anniversary of
the presentation of the petition to Federal
Parliament in February next year.
SafeGround’s South Australian coordinator,
Helen Stanger, said at the time the issue
was particularly bad in Cambodia.
“Over half a million refugees were
streaming back across the border with
Thailand, trying to find a safe place to
settle after 13 years of civil war,” she said.
“Due to the abundance of landmines
there was no safe place and many of the
returning refugees were being killed and
By 1992 Sr Patricia had collected more
than 1400 signatures on a petition
which was presented to Parliament in
Canberra by John Scott, the member for
Hindmarsh. In 1993 Sr Patricia founded the
International Campaign to Ban Landmines
– Australian network.
The Network joined with a developing
international campaign to bring the issue
to the attention of the United Nations,
resulting in the signing of the Ottawa
Convention or the ‘Mine Ban Treaty’ in
1997 and the Cluster Munition Convention
in Oslo in 2008.
After the passage of legislation, the
Australian Network changed its name
to SafeGround to reflect the change of
focus from banning landmines to positive
advocacy in seeking to make the land in
affected countries safe for its people, with
the motto of ‘reducing impacts of war’.
Mrs Stanger said the organisation’s work
had been vital in assisting landmine
Due to current conflicts in Afghanistan,
Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen,
there has been an uptake in the use of
landmines, improvised explosive devices
and cluster munitions.
In 2015, worldwide landmine casualties
reached a 10-year high at 6461, a 70 per
cent increase on the 2014 figures.
Globally, there are as many as 300,000
landmine victims, three quarters of whom
are civilians, with one third being children.
Mrs Stanger said the statistics highlighted
the continuing need for organisations like
SafeGround and the significance of its
work in making the world a safer place for
the international community.
The 1991 Petition undoubtedly had an
impact on both Australia and the global
community’s commitment to action on
landmines, she said, and those who
signed it “took part in an action of lasting
In addition to the national committee,
a group still meets in Adelaide and is
organising the 25th anniversary celebration
of the petition and all it has led to: the
formation of SafeGround and the changes
in international legislation.
The event will be held on Monday February
27 from 7pm to 9pm at Mercedes College
and all are welcome.
For more information visit
By Lindy McNamara
Sr Patricia’s petition had global impact
By Jack Manning
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