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The Long List (of Receipts)

Note: This may or may not be a work of fiction

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A cropped digital drawing of a red keffiyeh

Matt Chun, digital drawing, 2023

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Good Ones

The man in the navy suit with a wavy tuft glued to his forehead is horrified when he hears the announcement. “Sara, a Palestinian with tawny olive skin, has been awarded for One Achievement or Another”. His mouth twitches when my thank you list is spearheaded by Palestinian inspirations. As soon as I step off the stage, he strides over to me and my colleagues, a dart aimed straight towards us, the bullseye. “You must be proud. She’s one of the good ones.” The next day, tuft man emails then also calls the team manager. He is charming. Funny. Disappointed at a statement our human rights organisation’s global office has released criticising Israel’s actions in the West Bank. He then strongly suggests some antisemitism training for the team- as though this is the only antidote to having a Palestinian presence.


I inform my senior colleagues, Martha and Cath, about the Palestinian panel I am invited to speak at over the weekend. “How great.” They are supportive. Then they suggest I distance myself from the Palestinian global grassroots campaign BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), or at least, distance myself from my workplace (reminder: a human rights organisation). The two are mutually exclusive. “You know, it’s common sense—just stay away from controversy.” Many years later, the organisation will adopt a number of BDS policies I—and the movement for justice for Palestine—are advocating for.


A manuscript about Arab migration and history is submitted to a local publisher, to much interest. Diversity is profitable. The ‘Arabic-speaking world’ is home to a multiplicity of backgrounds and heritages, and the publisher is keen to represent them all. Except for Palestine. “It’s not recognised on a map.” It will take years before this publication’s outright racism and silencing of Palestinians is revealed. A white guy will say it— and that will help our cause. Most other white people will believe him because our word is not objective enough.

Robust Conversation  

I am sitting in an interview flanked by two white male colleagues, Brad and Rob. It’s been a long, auto-pilot afternoon of interviewing candidates, of questions like ‘Tell us about your past experiences” and “Why do you want this role?” and “What’s your commitment to work culture” <insert standard response>. The pink-faced white woman shuffles in her seat. She states, “I know who you are”. More accusation than an answer to any question. “I saw that video you made. About Palestine. And I have to say—I disagree with it,” she ballistically punctuates each syllable. Brad and Rob pause, their translucent faces confused. I pause, all the air has left my chest like a deflated tire. I respond quickly, like I am being chased. “There is plenty of disagreement amongst us here. We encourage robust conversation in this environment.” The coloniser and colonised is now considered ‘robust conversation.’ I hate myself for replying that way. After the interview, I withdraw from the hiring decision. Though I am capable of being fair and just—that is the expectation even when my existence is called into question—I have to make sure there is no chance of complaints of bias and retaliatory behaviour made against me; the very one with spit on my face.

Distressed Dog

Gaza, completely besieged and blockaded, is being bombed by Israel in a devastating 11-day military offensive. A Palestinian-Australian scholar, Randa Abdel Fattah, is on live TV speaking to the casualties. We are all grieving, but we are all grateful for the chance to have one of us speaking. Only two questions are taken from the studio audience, both from Zionists. The bespectacled lady with a mop of brown hair tells of her son, in Tel Aviv, and his dog. How distressed the dog must be. Randa sits up straight, her shoulders hardening like asphalt. “Your son's puppy was scared? There are children who were massacred and slaughtered, nine Palestinian families have been wiped off the civil record...” The complaints about Randa come into the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) hard and strong, a high-level meeting between members of the Israeli lobby and ABC leadership is arranged.


There’s a portrait exhibition featuring activists, authors, artists and other celebrated progressives with the aim of challenging racist assumptions. I am asked to be part of it. I ask who else is included—it’s always my first question, as part of my ethics of practice. Big Name 1—tick. Big Name 2—tick. Big Name 3—‘renowned community leader’. My throat curdles, reacting to the name. No tick for a self-identified Zionist and senior figure in an Israeli lobby group. I try to explain to the journalist the ironies of having a Zionist in a space that is supposed to be anti-racist. The journalist listens, because, according to her, what I have to say definitely matters. Then she tells me what I should think: “We have to have space for ‘heart conversations’.” Colonised hearts and coloniser hearts need to just connect. That is what has been missing from our movement this whole time apparently. I withdraw from the anti-racism exhibition.

Art and Politics Don’t Mix - part I

The Israeli government has donated a sum to a major festival for the arts. We speak to the organisers, the board. We explain the reasons why this is problematic, harmful, why it undermines solidarity with populations everywhere seeking to disrupt their colonial contexts —from so-called Australia to Palestine. The festival goes ahead anyway: “Their hands are tied”, “Politics shouldn’t get in the way of art.” Palestinians along with First Nations and other allies organise. We connect, we write our concise op-eds, do the snappy interviews, and have countless conversations. Most are supportive. Angry like we are. Some debate whether to boycott based on our ‘angry’ behaviour—as though justice is conditional on our politeness. Israeli mouthpieces call us ‘agents of chaos’. Constructing Palestinians as aggressive and bullies is required to maintain the colonial, apartheid regime against us—physically and metaphysically.

Art and Politics Don’t Mix - part II

A congregation of Palestinian artists on stolen land attracts the ire of the Israeli lobby. Media interviews are arranged (close to none featuring Palestinians), op-eds are published (close to none written by Palestinians), visas are blocked, politicians intervene, sponsors boycott, artists with mediocre liberal politics withdraw in protest of the Palestinians. Freedom of speech is stuffed in the back of a cupboard when we seek to speak.

Conflict/Peace/Security/Dialogue/Negotiation........etc etc etc

When we write to our local members, including Australian politician Tanya Plibersek, during the festival, demanding to know what is happening to the visas for Palestinian authors susan*, Saree and Ramzy, this is her reply:

"Dear ...

Thank you for taking the time to contact me to express your concern about the cancellation of Palestinian writers at Adelaide Writers’ Week.

I agree, this is a very important conflict, one that I have long paid attention to.

It will take leaders recognising their respective roles in the cycle of escalation and conflict, and returning to meaningful dialogue and negotiation, for a just and enduring peace to be achieved.

Australia strongly supports a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, where Israel and a future Palestinian state exist in peace and security within internationally recognised borders. And the Albanese Government’s approach will always be guided by the principle of advancing the cause of peace.

Kind regards, Tanya"


I am valued at my new workplace, they assure. Teamplayer, first review praises. I also find out I am excluded from opportunities and added responsibilities, because I “will make our donors uncomfortable”. Breathing, existing, being Palestinian is cause for discomfort. I wonder if anyone thought to push back on the donors. Challenge their behavior and bigotry. I quit. But I never reveal that I know about the discrimination. Not because I don’t want to burn bridges in an industry that will follow you around and punish you for it—but because I don’t have the bandwidth for battle this time. I am exhausted.


Every Palestinian I know is forced to become a bookkeeper. One day, our receipts will come in handy.