Palestinian-Australian sues government for 'racial discrimination' over support for Israel

Palestinian-Australian sues government for 'racial discrimination' over support for Israel
Palestinians in Australia have long called on their government to do better on the Israel-Palestine file.
2 min read
15 February, 2022
Protesters hold a banner during demonstration march against Israel in Sydney on May 15, 2021 [BIANCA DE MARCHI/AFP via Getty]

A Palestinian-Australian man has filed a complaint against the Australian government for "racial discrimination" over its support for Israel, the man's legal counsel announced on Tuesday.

Nasser Mashni, a Palestinian-Australian, will be represented by Birchgrove Legal, a Sydney-based legal firm, in what the firm hopes will be a "landmark case" for Palestinians in the country.

"There should be legal consequences at home for governments that support foreign nation-states in carrying out land theft and violations directly against racial or ethnic groups where it causes discriminatory harm at home," Moustafa Kheir, Birchgrove's Principal Solicitor, said in a statement.

This is the first time a complaint against Australia's foreign policy towards Israel will proceed against the government, following the approval of the Australian Human Rights Commission - a statutory body that investigates complaints about human rights breaches.

Mashni's complaint focused on the Australian government's official comments during Israel’s war on Gaza in May 2021 and on its advocacy on behalf of Israel at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The complainant argued that the Australian government's behaviour betrays its obligation to advance equality before the law for all citizens, including in international tribunals of justice, and that this discriminates against Australian Palestinians.

"Such actions (...) make Palestinian peoples’ right of return a more distant dream and causes enormous distress to Australian Palestinians," Birchgrove Legal wrote.

The complaint called on the Australian government to acknowledge the occupation of Palestinian land by Israel, identify breaches of international law committed by Israel and support the investigation of war crimes committed by all parties - including Israeli authorities and Hamas.

In May 2021, activists and members of the Palestinian diaspora in Australia launched a petition and released an open letter calling on Australian media and government to "do better on Palestine".