In his address to the National Press Club Yanis Varoufakis condemned the world’s passivity in the IDF onslaught on Gaza. He called out Australia.

Varoufakis Greece’s former Finance Minister referred to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s sudden change of heart when he announced the resumption of aid to the 1.3 million Gazans who are starving to death and who are continuing to be bombed by Israeli forces.

“Too little too late”, said Varoufakis about the reversal of the decision to halt aid. And it is too late for over 30,000 Palestinians who have died in only five months.

“When you have people, kids starving to death and you pause, you are defunding the amelioration of the starvation of those children. And, therefore, in my view, the image of Australia has been irreparably damaged by this,” he said on Q&A.

Australia wasn’t the only nation to halt aid to Palestinians during the war on Hamas and by effect the people of Gaza. Yet, Varoufakis decided Australia especially has a duty to Palestinians, “because of the sorry history of terra nullius”.

In our colonial history genocide of First Nations people is the foundation of modern Australia. Terra nullius – an empty land – is a fabrication and an illegitimate motive for colonisation.

The ill-conceived doctrine of terra nullius – an empty landwhich is rooted in white supremacy, is the same “ideological cover” that drives Israeli forces to commit war crimes against Palestinians.

The justification has “been transferred from Australia to the land of Palestine under the banner of “A Land Without a People for a People Without A Land”, Varoufakis said.

The empathy that Australians should thus feel for Palestinians should come from a place of lived experience: we did that too and we are in the process of unlearning, hence we should know to do better.

While I was watching Varoufakis in all his articulate authority, something else was emanating through his address. I’ve heard Varoufakis talk about economics before, about the trouble with austerity and the reign that capitalism has over constructing a hierarchy of nations, and I had the same thought on these occasions: Varoufakis often conveys the ethos of Greekness, of what it means to feel Greek.

Of course, I don’t mean this in the values sense because Greeks will differ in their values – socialist to conservative to religious to atheist. I mean this is in a transgenerational pledge to fight for those who are oppressed. Greece is no stranger to oppression. After a 400-year Ottoman occupation, Greece was only liberated one hundred years, new to the fashion of nation states, only to then be confronted by World War One, then World War Two.

The Greeks knew how to fight for their freedom. Freedom for Greeks has a meaning that goes beyond individual rights, but is about upholding your very identity, your very right to exist.

Even the Ottomans recognised this during their occupation of Greece, where they learnt that the Greeks would not abandon their identity; they had a longstanding culture to uphold and were better equipped to run their own affairs.

But the Greeks also fought for the rights of others. In World War Two, contrary to their dictator Metaxas, the Greeks famously denied the passage of Axis forces into the country.

They could’ve let them, as the Italian forces were seeking passage, but it was the people who denied them the right.

Their stance was not just to protect themselves and their families – if anything, this stance proved fatal to the onslaught that ensued – but rather, to prevent or at least stall the oppressor.

After all, 95 per cent of the Jewish population of Thessalonki ended up in Nazi extermination camps – a memory that still haunts the Jewish community and the Macedonian Greeks.

While complicity did exist in Greece as it did throughout Europe, Greek local authorities and civilians scraped billions of drachmas in ransom money for the forced labourers to be freed from their Nazi oppressors. In Crete, Cretans pronounced their comradery with Australian soldiers, hiding them and fighting in their midst. They sacrificed their lives for the lives of the Australian soldiers.

Varoufakis talks about Australia’s “crucial and active complicity in Israel’s deliberate war crimes against Gaza” and of Australia acting at the US’ beck and call. Complicity is deeply ingrained in Australia’s national identity, but it is less penetrative in Greece. Why?

The Greek resistance to the oppressor didn’t stop at World War II. The trauma that Greeks suffered also didn’t stop after the killing was done. The Greeks wrote songs about their pain, they built a modern country from unredressed scraps and they still carry the cross of what was destroyed, financially and otherwise. Trauma is nestled in the ethos of being Greek, almost like a transactional necessity; the price you pay to exist.

So why should Varoufakis’s address resonate with the Greek community, and more specifically, the Greek community in Australia?

We all have the potential for empathy.

As human beings we should be striving to empathise with those who aren’t us; to understand their pain and suffering and to do what’s in our capacity to prevent it – this is called active empathy. However, for Greeks, a different sort of empathy is enlivened, that which is derived from the ethos of Greekness. The unforgotten trauma was the price the Greeks paid for their right to exist, no less the freedom of others.

As more Palestinians are killed each day in the confines of a small enclave that is left of the Palestinian jurisdiction Australian-Greeks should be affected.

As Australians we are part of the continued legacy of colonisation, which we ought to acknowledge and pledge all we can to reverse the damage.

But the beauty of culture, language, of philoxenia and the generosity to others – such that our ancestors were prepared to put their own lives on the line – are what surpass a traumatic history and a deficit of land and money.

Our predecessors know what it means to fight for your nation’s integrity – not just personal freedom – and not only for the preservation of the air you breathe.

In Gaza they’re being denied even that by Israeli forces. Palestinian voices fall on deaf ears and the reporting of deaths only continues to increase.

“Everything has been said and nothing has changed” lamented Palestinian journalist Plestia Alaqad.

Entire neighbourhoods flattened to debris with no chance of rebuilding, entire families wiped out, children killed with no remorse – these are the tactics against a people’s culture and right to exist. Greece’s luck could’ve tipped the very same way.

Elena Piakis is a law graduate (Juris Doctor) and legal secretary with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service