Sary Zananiri, Kalares' Mill, 2013–2014. Photo: Kerry Leonard. Courtesy the artist.

In 1967, my grandfather had been displaced for nineteen years and an Australian citizen for eleven of those. It was a(nother) painful year to be a Palestinian: the so‑called six‑day‑war adding Naksa (setback) to Nakba (catastrophe).[1] It was also the year my Pa was brought into acute confrontation with the Australian state, having acquired the right, and indeed obligation, to vote in the referendum to change the constitutional exclusion of First Nations peoples. But if Pa had to vote through the state, his views were less concerned with its violent intercession than with the experience of people oppressed by it. Apparently, Pa made one definitive pronouncement on that ballot: ‘I see how it is here, it’s the same as for us; the owners of this place are not wanted and they are not welcome in their own land’.

To Pa this was as obvious as it was disgraceful; like many Palestinians of his generation, Pa abhorred the British for the Balfour Declaration of 1917, but he could see the structural damage of Britain here too. No one was talking about settler-colonialism in 1967 the way that Patrick Wolfe would later characterise it (as something undiminished, in either violence or criminality, by the passage of time); it would be another decade before Edward Said published Orientalism—both offering vocabularies that made what had happened to Indigenous people, and people on the periphery of the Western imaginary, legible in scholarly and political contexts. But even without this language, the facts of its resemblance could be articulated by people like my Pa. No one had to teach him about it. It was his life.

A 2022 Melbourne Writers Festival panel, Memory Work, facilitated by Wiradjuri writer and scholar Jeanine Leane, addressed the fallacious colonial question of who has a voice by thinking structurally about the issue of who has a platform. Referring to a recent essay published by Koori and Lebanese panellist, Mykaela Saunders, the panel (also featuring Bundjalung poet Evelyn Araluen) discussed the false settler lens of deficit:[2] one which Saunders connects to the way in which the settler mythos is enmeshed in missionary tradition, which is sometimes characterised by an aim to give voice (or usurp it), particularly where the deficit narrative has taken root. The themes of this panel resonated with conversations I grew up with in my own diasporic Palestinian community. We talked about lacking a voice, when in truth what we lacked was a platform and in so lacking a platform, encountered very little recognition for who we were. A phrase championing diversity that has entered popular culture in recent years, you can’t be what you can’t see, makes me reflect on that childhood of ethnic obscurity in which our identity was treated as a dangerous provocation. In which we had to constantly reaffirm that we were who we said we were, because, astonishingly, casual interlocutors would question, negate or deny our Palestinian-ness to our faces.

Jonathan Jones with the Bathurst Wiradyuri and Aboriginal Community guwiinyguliya yirgabiyi ngay yuwin. gu gulbalangidyal ngunhi (they made a solitude and called it peace) installation view, Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, 2015. Front: guwinyalgu gurawinybu (stone tools and blossoms), 2015 stone waste from Bathurst Wiradyuri and Aboriginal Community Elders stone‐tool making workshop held in September 2015, grevillea dhulubu barrimabu (spear and musket), 2015 spear, maker unknown, nineteenth century, south‐east region, wood, Brown Bess flintlock rifle, 1771, iron, wood, (both from private collections) Photo: Sharon Hickey

Representation of Palestinian struggle in the language advocated for by Palestinian people[3] is slowly gaining support, though the work ahead remains monumental; but change is due not only to the persistence of our community but to intersectional solidarity—specifically in the Australian context the crucial generosity of First Nations people who have amplified our voices with their own and extended us platforms. This Artlink commission itself illustrates the logic of lateral bonds between those that have been oppressed by the particularities of a settler population, and the linkages between us—outside the mediation of systems unsettled by our voices. It is also an act of great generosity, for a First Nations writer to offer a Palestinian writer a platform to reflect on these connections, and I thank Tristen Harwood for this.

In 2020, a controversy emerged around an Australian literary prize that asked entrants ‘if your entry takes up the voice or experience of a marginalised or vulnerable identity, do you identify yourself as being a part of that community or experience?’ In her essay addressing the outrage that ensued, Leane writes, ‘The white imagination is indeed colour blind … to its own colour—whiteness; and to its own cultural standpoint that is neither neutral nor universal’.[4] Indeed, Leane notes this was ‘part of a larger reaction to calls from minority cultures to stop speaking for us’; that the usurping of voices exists on a continuum where ‘theft is culturally ingrained in the modern nation of Australia’.[5] Thus, conversely, to dismiss the ongoing and critical role of identity politics is to pinpoint a structural privilege that makes politics in explicitly cultural settings appear too earnest for the proper subject of creative output. Representational shift is but one of the privileges settler-societies must relinquish; but the violence of the colony is not merely representational or metaphoric. To the contrary, settler-colonialism is characterised by violence in the extreme—though its monstrosity belies an anxiety about the limits (even the impossibility) of omnipotence. It is a deep irony of settler-colonial projects that legitimacy is central to their anxiety, and that they seek (but will never receive), recognition from those they have tried, and failed, to remove. Force might enable theft, but Indigenous sovereignty is inalienable.

This theme is investigated in two artworks which feature settler weaponry as imperfect henchmen in the colonial project of erasure. In doing so, these independent works repurpose the annihilating intention of munitions directed at the sovereign body/ies of Indigenous people. Palestinian artist and academic, Sary Zananiri’s Kalares’ Mill (2013–14) was inspired by images of the bullet-riddled streets of Ramallah after the Israeli Defence Force’s invasion of the West Bank during the Second Intifada in 2002. Yet when Zananiri travelled some six years later to cast moulds of the damage, few traces remained of the deep Israeli incursion into Palestinian urban centres. Ultimately, Zananiri located a mill which, destroyed in the First Intifada, and consequently abandoned, still carried the scars of bombardment. Zananiri writes, ‘in casting the holes left in its walls by bullets, each meant to target a person; these fragments … are made material, bringing to bear the physicality of the conflict’.[6] Zananiri intended that these souvenirs of violence might be held by an audience; objects cast from the palimpsest of bullets that did not find their target offering a corporeal meaning to the abstraction of firepower. In one image of the work, the artist’s hand cradles his own glass casting, a physical rejoinder to negation.

Wiradyuri[7]/Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones’ project guwiinyguliya yirgabiyi ngay yuwin. gu gulbalangidyal ngunhi (they made a solitude and called it peace) was commissioned by Bathurst Regional Art Gallery and exhibited in 2015, coinciding with the settler bicentenary of Bathurst. Like Zananiri, Jones takes the ammunition of the settler, in this instance flint, as a site for disrupting fictions of settler-colonial omnipotence. As Leane writes in her catalogue essay,

there is no mention […] that the settlers were almost defeated by the Wiradyuri, who fought fiercely for their Country, or that the situation became so dire for the new settlement that in 1824 […] a state of martial law against the Wiradyuri people [was declared].[8]

Jones juxtaposes ‘the unwieldy settler musket that required flint-stone to fire it and was notoriously slow to activate and unreliable in reaching its target’[9] with a slate-grey circle of flint with which Wiradyuri people made spears, a resource endemic to their Country. In the artworks’ configuration, Jones points to the failure of the colonial attempt to scatter and dissipate the Wiradyuri people’s history and culture and I think also to colonialism’s failure to successfully turn the resources of Wiradyuri people against them.

Dr David Singh, Professor Chelsea Watego & Dr Liz Strakosch, co‐directors of the Institute for Collaborative Race Research (ICRR) promoting the second issue of the Sunday Paper. Courtesy of the ICRR

Zananiri observes there is a ‘fundamental lack of cultural understanding at the crux of colonialism’,[10] and Jones’ meditation on ammunition, like Zananiri’s, underlines the perseverance of Indigenous people against erasure. As such the legacy of violence, captured in these physical artefacts, are preserved by the Indigenous artist; colonial violence rather testifies to Native survivance, to borrow Anishinaabe scholar Gerald Vizenor’s term, which in Indigenous hands becomes a haunting. Unanga scholar Eve Tuck and US artist C. Ree have characterised this phenomenon of haunting in the settler-colonial idiom as the ‘relentless remembering and reminding that will not be appeased by settler society’s assurances of innocence and reconciliation’.[11] There are ‘always more ghosts to return’: the re-constituted munitions in both these instances become the medium for these visitations. Though not comparative works, the resonance is striking; and speaks to commonalities in First Nations and Palestinian resistance. 

Solidarity with and between Palestinians and those with marginalised or vulnerable identities on Turtle Island / North America, has a long history. For instance, after the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre in Beirut, Lebanon, Jamaican American poet June Jordan’s “Moving Towards Home” enacts a reflexive solidarity that amplifies the Palestinian experience of this brutality when she writes

I was born a Black woman
and now
I am become Palestinian

Following the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the unofficial national poet of Palestine, Mahmoud Darwish, wrote “The ‘Red Indian’s’ Penultimate Speech to the White Man”; mobilising the parallels between a Native American experience and that of the Palestinians through a framework of sovereignty, colonial expropriation and survivance. More recently, the late Stó:lō poet Lee Maracle dedicated “Talking to the Diaspora”, published a year after the third massive aerial bombardment of Gaza in 2014, to Mahmoud Darwish and the children of Gaza. A similar solidarity exists here in this country, though the formal connections are more recent, and a scholarship of its development through the latter decades of the twentieth century is yet to be undertaken.

Gumbaynggirr activist, historian and co-founder of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy (1972), Professor Gary Foley, cites witnessing a 1973 fight between students at the Monash University Student Union building as his induction to the Palestinian struggle. Since that time, the 2021 Jerusalem Peace Prize recipient has extended Palestinians the generosity of his solidarity and a shared platform. In 2019, Foley co-facilitated the Black‑Palestinian solidarity conference at the University of Melbourne (adapting the idea of a 2018 conference at Columbia University to foreground Indigeneity), which as Zananiri documents was ‘the first time that a forum formally linked the two separate but parallel struggles for indigenous sovereignty’, which fostered a vital interdisciplinary methodology.[12] Zananiri suggests this structure was crucial to its success in legitimising different voices and modes of knowledge. Kamilaroi, Kooma, Jiman and Gurang Gurang artist Richard Bell, who participated in the conference had already taken his installation, Embassy (2013–), to the Al Ma’Mal Foundation for Contemporary Art Jerusalem Show VIII in 2016. Inspired by the original Aboriginal Tent Embassy, and by a younger generation of Tent Embassy activists in regional Australia, this ongoing work has offered an alternative forum in which to foreground sovereignty and facilitate discussions that interrogate prevailing stereotypes.[13]

In Embassy’s Jerusalem iteration, Bell discusses with his interlocutors[14] questions of land expropriation and civil rights. The embassy trope is well-known in Australia, and since the 1970s has drawn attention to the way in which Indigenous people have been exiled in their own land. Yet in taking the work to Jerusalem—where Palestinians have suffered a similar fate[15]—Bell offers a transformative solidarity to Palestinian claims. Historically, when Palestinians have drawn attention to their displacement or refugee status, they are accused of antisemitism, because Zionism has framed the demand for Palestinian rights as synonymous with a call for the destruction of Israel. Thus, when Bell speaks to the systemic inequality of settler-colonial societies, he re-casts Palestinian rights alongside the demands of all Indigenous peoples. Embassy reminds the audience that decolonisation is not a matter of convenience: the settler must give something up—and it is a deflection to characterise that request as the central offence.

A pivotal legacy of the 2019 Black-Palestinian conference has been to accelerate connections made between First Nations and Palestinian people in this country, and the resulting initiatives have had both creative and political inflections. One instance was an open letter in July 2020, against the Australian vote at the UN Human Rights Council, which signalled support for Israel’s illegal annexation of significant parts of the occupied Palestinian West Bank. Despite the nexus of timeliness and geography, its Palestinian authors could find it no home in major Australian newspapers, though the letter gathered more than 700 signatories.[16]

There has always been a material cost in this country for supporting Palestinian claims; but in signing within the first few hours of the letter’s circulation, our First Nations colleagues and allies stared down that threat, and I have no doubt that this show of support played an incalculable role in the unprecedented response of solidarity for Palestinians.[17]

Still from Daggit Gaza (2009) dir. Hadeel Assali Courtesy of Hadeel Assali

There have been other successful political interventions since, most notably the Sydney Festival Boycott (2022) in response to Israeli government funding of an Israeli work in the festival, a campaign spearheaded by First Nations artists and arts organisations who were among the first to withdraw, and ‘produced the most compelling arguments for accountability of cultural institutions.’[18] In late September 2022, the Sydney Festival announced it will no longer accept foreign governments’ funding, acting on the findings of an independent review prompted by the mass boycott.[19]   

In late 2021 The Sunday Paper was inaugurated by anti-racist artists and activists as a platform for Palestinian and First Nations solidarity following the omission of Palestinian voices in coverage of the May 2021 Unity Intifada. During the uprising, some thirty-strong Australian-Palestinian advocates coordinated to agitate for better representation, and though we found willing partners in many progressive literary platforms, it remained difficult to publish in mainstream media outlets. This response was out of step with the international trend in anglophone news media where a noticeable increase in Palestinian representation was evident. A conspicuous example in the Australian media landscape, The Saturday Paper, has been widely criticised for failing to publish a Palestinian perspective despite positioning itself as progressive. For instance former editor of The Monthly, John Van Tiggelen, noted back in 2014 that publishers of small publications ‘spike’ certain topics; and for Morris ‘Morry’ Schwartz ‘one of those is Palestine […] So, you can’t touch it; just don’t touch it. It’s a glass wall.’[20] Despite being predicated on ‘content that is sadly neglected elsewhere in the media landscape’,[21] in the pages of The Saturday Paper, the Unity Intifada never happened.

The Sunday Paper has evolved beyond its catalyst, underlining the necessity of initiatives that neither seek permission nor exhaust our resources in compromising with outlets that have serially censored our views and our voices as something unspeakable. A financially independent project, it sets out one possible vision of the mutually reinforcing work of Blak-Palestinian collaboration. The first two issues have been multi-layered art objects, grounded in an ethics of solidarity. Though existing primarily in print form (while providing QR codes to audio editions and inter-textual links to related podcasts and websites), the intention is to remain as non-hierarchical as possible; collective, consultative and, for my part I hope, a self-sustaining enterprise. Indeed it offers a place that many of us fantasise about, where, as Ballardong Noongar writer Timmah Ball observes, one ‘can create work untethered from the constraints of capitalism and the fallacy of neutralism’.[22] While born of specific conditions, it has emerged as a robust initiative, safeguarding the perspectives of all its contributors, which for diasporic Palestinians has been a historically rare experience. It has also highlighted how readerships coalesce around platforms, the first issue selling beyond expectations—and its modest success suggests that what is suppressed in mainstream media is little guide to community sentiment but reflects an institutional status quo.

Among the short films launching the 2019 conference, Palestinian scholar and filmmaker Hadeel Assali’s Daggit Gaza (2009) captured an essential portrait of resilience and cultural integrity in the face of serial brutality inflicted on the people of Gaza. As Assali prepares a traditional salad (for which the short is named) she talks to her uncle in Gaza who itemises a litany of recent atrocities before reflecting: ‘god bless the flexible wood, the flexible wood doesn’t break’. Darumbal and South Sea Islander journalist Amy McQuire reflects this sentiment in the first Sunday Paper, arguing it is not violence but shared resistance that has forged connection between Palestinian and First Nations people: ‘Sovereignty is at the heart of both of our protests; and it is why even when there seems to be no hope, we are still able to resist’.[23] When my Pa apprehended the parallels between Palestinian experience and that of First Nations people of this Country, as highlighted by the 1967 constitutional referendum, he offered something transformative to our family. In recognising a common experience, I think what my Pa found was a lifeline; one that guarded against the loneliness of believing that the injustice which had determined the course of his life, was in any way exceptional. Coalitions of solidarity give platform to voices; we diasporic Palestinians must ground our ongoing work in the lessons of recognition and generosity that the true owners of this country have long extended us.

Sary Zananiri, Kalares' Mill, 2013–2014. Photo: Kerry Leonard. Courtesy the artist.


  1. ^ Nakba is the Palestinian word that describes the dispossession from homeland that began in 1948 while  Naksa is the Palestinian description of the Six Day War in 1967 when Israel took control of the area now known as the Occupied Palestinian Territories which had formerly been under Jordanian and Egyptian Administrations
  2. ^ Mykaela Saunders, “Stories of our Dysfunction have been Greatly Exaggerated,” Sydney Review of Books, 29 August 2022,; accessed 15 September 2022
  3. ^ Micaela Sahhar, “How Black Lives Matter is Changing the Conversation on Palestine,” The Conversation, 31 May 2021,; accessed 15 September 2022
  4. ^ Jeanine Leane, “No Longer Malleable Stuff,” Overland 241 2020,; accessed 12 September 2022
  5. ^ Leane, “No Longer Malleable…”
  6. ^ Sary Zananiri, “Chrystallising a moment: the Kalares mill on the Ramallah-Jerusalem road 2013-2014, cast crystal” [Artist statement], National Student Art Glass Prize 2014,; accessed 16 September 2022
  7. ^ This is a preferred variant spelling for people around the Bathurst area
  8. ^ Jeanine Leane, “Which piece of Australia was founded in peace? guwiinyguliya yirgabiyi ngay yuwin. gu gulbalangidyal ngunhi (they made solitude and called it peace) by Jonathan Jones,” 19-26, [catalogue essay],; accessed 12 September 2022
  9. ^ Leane, “Which piece of Australia…”
  10. ^ Sary Zananiri, “Knowledge, Culture and Method: Thoughts on Colonialism and Decolonization,” Magazine 28, 13 August 2021,; accessed 16 September 2022
  11. ^ Eve Tuck and C. Ree, “A glossary of haunting,” in Handbook of Autoethnography, edited by Stacey Holman Jones, Tony E. Adams and Carolyn Ellis (Left Coast Press, 2013): 639-658; 642
  12. ^ Zananiri, “Knowledge, Culture and Method.”
  13. ^ Bell made this point on young Aboriginal activists speaking at Embassy in Adelaide, AGSA, with Dominic Guerrera and Nici Cumpston, 21 October 2022
  14. ^ Richard Bell in Conversation with Nuri al-Okbi (trans. Jack Persekian & Adania Shibli), The Jerusalem Show VIII “Before and After Origins”, Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art 6-31 October 2016,; accessed 23 September 2022
  15. ^ To cite one example, through Israeli law that deemed Palestinians displaced even within the borders of the new state, to have relinquished at law their property rights
  16. ^ Randa Abdel-Fattah, “The Great Palestinian Silence,” Meanjin Quarterly, 10 July 2020,; accessed 24 September 2022
  17. ^ The editors at Overland did not hesitate to extend our statement a platform and ultimately an abbreviated statement was published as an advertisement in the Age and Sydney Morning Herald, deploying the power of the dollar against the silencing implicit in editorial decisions: see Micaela Sahhar, Sara M Saleh and Randa Abdel-Fattah, “Statement: Artists and Academics Against Annexation,” Overland, 3 July 2020,; accessed 24 September 2022
  18. ^ Randa Abdel-Fattah, “Beyond BDS ‘victories’: The Lessons of the Sydney Festival Boycott for Grassroot Activism,”  The New Arab, 7 March 2022,; accessed 25 September 2022
  19. ^ Kelly Burke, “Sydney Festival to Suspend Foreign Government Funding After Mass Boycott,” The Guardian, 27 September 2022,; accessed 27 September 2022
  20. ^ Tim Robertson, “Palestine and the Saturday Paper,” Overland, 1 August 2014,; accessed 26 October 2022
  21. ^ The Saturday Paper Media Kit 2022, p. 2,; accessed 26 October 2022
  22. ^ Timmah Ball, “Disobedient bodies in the architecture of institutions,” The Sunday Paper Issue 2, May 2022, 25
  23. ^ Amy McQuire, “Our Shared Resistance”, The Sunday Paper Issue 1, December 2021, 5.