Andrew Leigh bravely denounces South African apartheid of the last century, ignores apartheid being practiced in Israel today, and urges us all to take a stand against racism.
Fifty years ago today, a young Australian did two extraordinary things.
At the Mexico City Olympics, Peter Norman won silver in the 200 metres, with a time of 20.06 seconds. In the half century since, no Australian has run faster. It is still our national record.
But the best was still to come. As he walked out to the medal ceremony with Tommie Smith (gold) and John Carlos (bronze), the two African-American runners told him that they planned to bow their heads and put their fists in the air in support of human rights.
The failure to honour Peter Norman was our national shame. His inspiring action could have been highlighted in the opening ceremony to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, but it was not. He died in 2006. Smith and Carlos were among his pallbearers.
In 2012, I moved a motion that the national parliament apologise posthumously to Peter Norman for the way he was treated. It was carried unanimously. Norman’s mother, Thelma, came to hear members on both sides of parliament pay tribute to her son.
Today, Peter Norman symbolises the opportunities that each of us have to take a stand against racism. Following the parliamentary apology, a Queensland history teacher told me that he had asked his students to research the story, and then write about moments when they might speak out: such as when a friend tells a racist joke.
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Our politicians should stop virtue signalling, and start doing something about racism in Palestine. It is now quite clear that Israel was never going to agree to a two state solution. Their plan is, and always was, apartheid. The Knesset recently passed a law (the Nation State Law) limiting political self-determination in Israel to Jews only, officially disenfranchising over 6 million non-jewish indigenous Palestinians living in Palestine under the control of the Israeli state, including around 2 million Israeli citizens.
That is the very essence of apartheid.
Follow your own advice, Andrew Leigh. You have an opportunity to do something about racism today. Take a principled stand. Make a public statement on apartheid in the state of Israel. Speak against moving the embassy to Jerusalem in Parliament.