Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre,
University of Technology Sydney

‘Temperatures rising! Australian civil society & Palestinian freedom’

A Welcome from CCS

The CCS Research Centre is proud to be hosting the conference organised by the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine on ‘Australian civil society & Palestinian freedom’. Our research centres on how cosmopolitanism and human solidarity informs the development of civil societies ‘from below’, so this conference is exactly linked to our research agenda. We are especially interested in researching how grassroots action by one society on behalf of another can influence social change, and Australian civil society action to support and promote Palestinian freedom is a key contemporary example of such grassroots action. As witnessed in recent controversies about sanctions against the Israeli state, there are important strategic political issues at stake that need to be debated, and we hope this conference will make an important contribution to these debates.

At CCS our research has a strong focus on ethno-national relations, and in particular, the relationships between government policy and ethnic hierarchy. We are sharply critical of ethnicised policymaking, where it marginalises, excludes or scapegoats, and creates cultural divisions and ethnic conflicts. We have asserted the intrinsic value of cultural diversity, of multicultural relations and cosmopolitan inclusivity, and have sought to bring these values into the policy field. We are critical of ethnocracy in all its forms, in the first instance in Australia, for instance as manifest in the recent derogation from the Racial Discrimination Act to enable discrimination against indigenous peoples in the Northern Territory. We are also critical of ethnocracy internationally, wherever ethnic hierarchy may be institutionalised by the state, including in countries such as Israel, or indeed in Palestine.

With regard to Israel-Palestine, members from the CCS research centre have had a long engagement with the question of Palestinian freedom, and have hosted key thinkers and representatives, including Tanja Reinhart, Ilan Pappe and George Bisharat. The Palestinian struggle for freedom remains a central global question of concern for us all, and of central importance for Australians given the continuing bipartisan political consensus in favour of the Israeli state. It is also of special significance in 2011 as the Arab democratic uprisings finally bury the mythologies of the ‘War on Terror’. As democratic solidarities erupt across the region, the political possibilities are expanding. Now is a very good time to be discussing solidarities for Palestinian Freedom, perhaps the best of times for many years.

Individual academic members of CCS hold a range of views on these issues; CCS encourages healthy debate about strategies that promote the freedoms of all citizens of Israel and Palestine. CCS sponsorship of the conference does not indicate CCS support for any particular political position on the Israel/Palestine question, other than a concern for democratic peaceful and civil resolution of conflicts within and between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. In expressing solidarity for Palestinian freedom we also express our solidarity with civil society groups within both Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories who seek peaceful resolution to conflicts within and between Israeli and Palestinian peoples.

James Goodman
Coordinating Co-Director
Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre

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