Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Microscope: Labor's Pains

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Allon Lee


Agitation in the ALP at federal and state level to recognise a Palestinian state was notable for the number of Labor figures who opposed it.

This included Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Shadow Defence Minister Richard Marles (Australian, July 13). Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong stated, "I would emphasise... this is ultimately a matter the Israelis and Palestinians... have to resolve," ABC Radio National "Drive" (July 4) and Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek derided it as merely "discussions at a state level," Australian (July 4).

Former Hawke/Keating Minister Graham Richardson questioned conferring recognition on a state that includes Hamas (Sky News "Richo", July 16).

Fellow Hawke/Keating minister Peter Baldwin attacked pro-recognition campaigner Bob Carr who "gave a talk on Palestine to a gathering of ALP members" [in Tony Burke and Anthony Albanese's electorates] that was "an unbroken recitation of alleged Israeli villainy, devoid of even the slightest suggestion of fault on the Palestinian side... The whole tenor of the speech was grotesquely unbalanced, as must have been obvious to Carr and the senior MPs present. Yet there was not the slightest dissent from anyone at the meeting," Australian (July 8).

Former Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said recognition is "gesture politics and... simply not helpful," Australian (July 13).

Former Labor adviser Luke Walladge wrote how "three times in the last 70 years, the Palestinian leadership have been offered a state; three times they have run away," Daily Telegraph (July 7).

Labor MP Michael Danby wrote, "three times the Palestinians have been offered the two state solution that Carr and his cronies claim they support. Three times Arafat and now Abbas have just run away from these offers... Of course these branch stacks, (the people who really motivate Carr and whom he is often pictured addressing) will not know of the two states with land swaps offered by Ehud Olmert in 2008," Spectator Australia (July 15).

Federal Liberal MP Simon Birmingham ridiculed South Australia's government for presiding over the country's highest unemployment rate and a crippling energy crisis but thinking it "know[s] the pathway to... peace," Australian (June 26).

In the Courier Mail (July 10), Rowan Dean argued that a Palestinian state already exists under Hamas' rule in Gaza and Fatah on the West Bank, both of which are permeated by "incitement to murder and anti-Semitism." What doesn't exist is their commitment to "genuine peace" and immediate recognition would ensure that "doesn't change."

A Spectator Australia editorial (July 8) called the recognition move "the latest fantasy of the deluded fools of NSW Labor" that "will only encourage and reward the same ideology in which terror and Islamism have so successfully thrived."

Visiting former US peace negotiator Dennis Ross maintained that Palestinian leaders have "always... focused on symbols far more than substance" (Australian, July 15).

Columnist Caroline Marcus condemned the push for ignoring the "Palestinians' fundamental denial of Israel's right to exist" and the "lionis[ing]" of terrorism against Jews (Daily Telegraph, July 4).

Australian foreign editor Greg Sheridan wrote (July 4) that the recognition push ignores that Gaza is run by Hamas, a terrorist outfit proscribed in Australia and that a two-state solution requires a compromise on the "absurd" Palestinian right of return, an end to incitement, and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state - which they have yet to do.

Israeli ambassador Shmuel Ben Shmuel listed Israel's statehood offers and efforts to start negotiations that were rebuffed by the Palestinians, suggesting "those acting with the best interests of the Palestinians at heart...acknowledge the historical facts," Australian (July 6).

In the Australian Financial Review (July 5), AIJAC's Colin Rubenstein argued that settlements are a furphy, noting that "since 2003, no new settlements have been established and existing settlements have not expand[ed] their current geographic boundaries," and "even Palestinian leaders admit settlements take up less than 2 per cent of the West Bank."

Those advocating recognition were few and far between.

There was former Queensland ALP Vice-President Wendy Turner's op-ed (Australian, July 6) and a published letter from Australia Palestine Advocacy Network's George Browning in the same edition. Both pleaded for the world to end alleged Israeli abuse of Palestinian human rights, but ignored the lack of Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections for a decade, arbitrary arrests and alleged torture, and LGBTI intimidation etc, in Palestinian-ruled areas.

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