Q&A: Australian senator Mehreen Faruqi says she won’t ‘shut up’ on Gaza

The Greens politician says she sees ‘no point’ in being in parliament ‘if we remain silent in times of such grave injustice’.

A woman looks into the distance she is wearing a black and white scarf
Senator Mehreen Faruqi at a pro-Palestine rally on October 28, 2023 in Perth, Australia [Matt Jelonek/Getty Images]

Australian senator Mehreen Faruqi has been leading protests in the national parliament calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict.

As deputy leader of the Australian Greens, Faruqi says that she is bringing the “peoples’ protests into parliament”.

With 11 senators, the Greens form part of the cross-bench in Australia’s upper house but the party’s calls for a ceasefire have been opposed by Australia’s centre-left Labor government, led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Albanese’s government has made little change to its position since abstaining from a United Nations General Assembly vote calling for a humanitarian truce last month.

Al Jazeera spoke to Faruqi about support for a ceasefire in Australia and what potential she sees for a change in the Australian government’s position.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Al Jazeera: The Greens have called for a ceasefire vote in the Australian Senate. What is currently preventing a vote from happening?

Mehreen Faruqi: The Greens did push for a vote in the Senate calling for a ceasefire but both the Labor government and the Liberal-National opposition joined up to oppose it. This shows how blatantly they are ignoring the atrocities committed in Gaza.

The morally bankrupt major parties would like us to remain silent so their cowardice is not exposed. But the Australian Greens and I will not shut up and sit quietly in parliament while the government comes up with pathetic spin on serious questions about justice for Palestine.

Al Jazeera: You and your Greens colleagues have held protests in the Australian Senate, include a boycott of question time – what led you to take these actions?

Mehreen Faruqi: I proudly led the Greens protest in the Senate calling for a ceasefire and boycotting question time. I know we speak for so many in the community.

I will unapologetically continue to use my parliamentary platform to call for a ceasefire, an end to the occupation of Palestine and for Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

To me, there is no point in being here in Parliament if we remain silent in times of such grave injustice. We must get louder and louder.

Al Jazeera: Do you think that the Australian government’s position on a humanitarian truce is reflective of the Australian people?

Mehreen Faruqi: Not joining a vast majority of nations in calling for a truce was an utterly disgraceful and shameful position for the Australian government to take.

Calling for a humanitarian truce is the absolute bare minimum and they can’t even do that.

Tens of thousands of people have marched across Australia every weekend since the attacks on Gaza began, demanding peace in the region and demanding the Australian government call on Israel for a ceasefire.

police motorbikes can be seen in front of a large crowd waving Palestinian flags on a sunny day
A ‘Free Palestine’ protest on October 29, 2023 in Sydney, Australia [Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images]

The decision to ignore thousands upon thousands of Palestinian and allied voices shows the Australian government’s complete disregard for the very people who put faith in them when they elected them.

People will not forget this betrayal. History will not look back kindly on the actions of the government.

Al Jazeera: To what extent is the Australian government involved in Israel’s war in Gaza? Is it possible that members of the Australian government could potentially be held liable for this involvement?

Mehreen Faruqi: Australia has one of the most secretive weapons trades in the world, but we know hundreds of military shipments have been exported to Israel over the last few years.

As far as I am concerned, our country has a hand in the bloody massacre of more than 10,000 people and counting.

Israel is committing war crimes and subjecting Palestinians to collective punishment. The Australian government should immediately stop military exports to Israel.

But more importantly, Australia is one of a small group of Western countries that continue to shield Israel from any accountability, not just over this invasion of Gaza but the entire 75 years of the occupation of Palestine.

It is no surprise that Israel behaves so monstrously when it knows governments of countries like Australia will back them, no matter how brutal and oppressive they are.

Al Jazeera: The Greens hold 11 seats in the Australian Senate. What can the Greens do from this position in regards to Australia’s participation in this conflict?

Mehreen Faruqi: The Greens are bringing the voices of the majority of people calling for justice and peace in Australia into parliament. This is powerful in many ways. It shows the community there is someone in the highest office in the country who hears them and has the guts to take a principled stand. They know someone is with them. It also keeps the pressure on the government to call for a ceasefire and an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.

Like millions of people around the world, I am horrified by the lack of accountability for Israel. Not calling for a ceasefire while thousands of children are being massacred in Gaza is heartless and shameful. Our government might be complicit but people are on the side of justice for Palestine.

I’m marching shoulder to shoulder with tens of thousands of people on the streets across Australia and speaking at these protests.

It was time to bring these peoples’ protests into parliament so the government would be forced to respond to their calls one way or another.

Source: Al Jazeera