Let’s look back to 2011. In that year, then-Greens leader Bob Brown demanded then-opposition leader Tony Abbott apologise for speaking at a rally where sexist placards targeting then-prime minister Julia Gillard were displayed.
Brown clearly thought that the company you keep as a member of parliament is of great importance.
Fast forward eight long political years, and one of Brown’s protégés, Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi, has been attending rallies with similarly disgraceful placards. Instead of sexist slogans, these placards are undeniably antisemitic. Some depict Jews as pigs and monkeys, others advocate for the deaths of Israeli civilians via a “third intifada”.
Light has been shone on far-right antisemitism in recent months, but the far-left version has largely avoided the same scrutiny. Speaking about antisemitism on his recent radio show, ABC Religion and Ethics editor Scott Stephen rightly noted that “There are forms of antisemitism that are given a kind of social justice, or even progressive, alibi, that then becomes very, very pernicious, very difficult.”
Far from being peaceful supporters of the well-recognised right of the Palestinian people to have their own state one day, Members and Senators representing the Greens in the Commonwealth Parliament continue to openly advocate for boycotts against Israel, attend demonstrations alongside terrorism supporters, and use the language of some of the world’s ugliest Israel haters. They also deny the right of Israel to a Jewish state and call for all Palestinians and their generations of offspring to be given the legally-baseless and historically unprecedented right to return to Israel, with all the demographic and social challenges that would pose.
The Greens would no doubt argue their involvement is political, not bigoted or racist. But many of the comments and actions detailed in this article fit within the widely accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism – which includes “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” and “applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”
For years, Israel’s biggest enemy in Parliament was former NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon. Rhiannon took Israel hatred to new heights and it was a relief to all supporters of a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians when she retired and relinquished her platform.
However, her replacement – Senator Faruqi – appears to have picked up Rhiannon’s torch.
As recently as March 30 this year, Senator Faruqi posted photos of herself at a Palestinian demonstration in Sydney with the caption “Palestine will be free”.
Anyone who has heard the prattle of Palestinian demonstrators knows she chose to post only half of the commonly chanted phrase: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” This phrase is notorious and completely denies Israel’s sovereignty over the land between the Jordan River in the east and the Mediterranean Sea in the west – a surprising statement for a politician whose party officially supports a two-state solution.
The demonstration she attended was organised in solidarity with the Hamas-led “March of Return” to the Gaza-Israel border. This “march”, which has been taking place at regular intervals for over a year now, is touted by activists as a peaceful demonstration where Gazans call for the right to resume their lives in their ancestral homes in Israel.
In reality, the marches are violent propaganda exercises organised by Hamas, a banned terrorist organisation in Australia.
Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, has admitted on Al Jazeera TV that many demonstrators, who attend armed with knives, explosives and other weapons, are militia members who have removed their uniforms to appear like civilians. Their terror objective – to break through the border fence and terrorise and/or murder Israeli civilians living close to the border – is no secret. It is promoted on social media by demonstration organisers.
The Sydney demonstration attended by Senator Faruqi was organised by Sydney University’s Autonomous Collective Against Racism, which called on people to “stand with us and march against racism, genocide and colonialism.” In the long, ranting invitation it also declared “Moving the Australian embassy would be an explicit endorsement of the Israeli state’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine”.
Even after reading this, Senator Faruqi saw fit to attend.
Joining her at the harbourside event were speakers representing BDS Australia, one of the most virulent and extreme anti-Israel leftist groups.
Unfortunately, Senator Faruqi’s appearance at a rally that denies Israel’s right to exist, supports Hamas’ ongoing campaigns that put innocent Gazans at risk and calls for boycotts of Israel, is not a one-off.
She has attended rallies where the flags of terrorist groups Hezbollah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine have proudly flown. She has stood at lecterns overlooking racist placards comparing Jews to pigs and monkeys, calling Israel a “terrorist state” and a perpetrator of genocide, and inciting a “third intifada” – a horrendous wish given that the last intifada resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians at the hands of suicide bombers.
When addressing these rallies, Senator Faruqi seems to have two favourite tropes.
The first is Israel as a colonial project with no indigenous right to the land. “The Palestinian people for decades upon decades have had to pay the price of settler colonialism. How deeply offensive to try and pretend that this has anything to do with the peace process,” she said in late 2018.
The second is Israel as a violent bully: “In these bleak times, as the pressures on the Palestinians grow day-by-day, Israel is given a free pass to bomb, to arrest and continue to take more land in illegal settlements every single day. It’s hard, but we should never alter in our resolve to keep supporting Palestinians in their struggle for self-determination.”
She does not invoke support for a safe and secure state for both Israelis and Palestinians. She never condemns Palestinian violence, including the regular Hamas rocket attacks on Israel. And she never accepts Israel’s right to defend itself in a hostile neighbourhood.
Senator Faruqi is unlikely to be sanctioned by her leader, Senator Richard Di Natale. His record in the area is little better.
The Victorian Greens Senator has previously stated he does not support the existence of Israel as a Jewish state and distastefully used a Parliamentary condolence motion to condemn Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Senator Di Natale is also leading the Greens in demanding a partial boycott of Israel.
The Australian Greens platform does not support the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement despite pressure to do so from the NSW wing. However, the Greens Israel/Palestine policy does call for “the Australian Government to halt military cooperation and military trade with Israel.”
In April 2017, at an Australian Palestinian Advocacy Network (APAN) dinner, Senator Di Natale reinforced the party’s support for a partial boycott of Israel.
“We can have a debate about what sort of sanctions we think are appropriate, but I don’t think anybody can justify Australia engaging in military trade and military exports with the state of Israel. That has to stop,” Senator Di Natale told the audience while standing next to Senator Janet Rice.
Israel is a modern, liberal, democratic state located in one of the world’s least stable regions. Israel shares a border with Syria, a country that has been embroiled in civil war since 2011 which has enabled Israel’s most significant enemy, Iran, as well as empowered terrorist groups, to situate themselves along the Israeli border. In March, Israel’s largest metropolis Tel Aviv came under rocket fire. Despite that, the Greens believe Australia should refuse to sell Israel – a close ally – anything that might help it defend itself.
In his APAN remarks, Senator Di Natale even left the door open to further sanctions.
Writing in The Sydney Morning Herald in 2011, academic and theologian Reverend Peter Kurti argued support for BDS is antisemitic. “Far from being simply an attempt to urge the Israeli government to change its policy on the occupied territories, the [BDS] campaign really amounts to a denunciation of the Jewish state itself,” he wrote.
Reverend Kurti goes on to note that the Greens’ threat of boycotts and sanctions does not extend to the world’s worst human rights abusing, non-democratic states.
Where is the Greens’ call for a boycott of Brunei over its recent introduction of anti-gay laws? Why haven’t the Greens demanded a boycott of Iran, one of the world’s most generous sponsors of terrorism and most egregious oppressors of human rights?
The Greens flirtation with BDS seems unlikely to abate. Prominent barrister Julian Burnside, an individual not shy of being in the company of the leaders of the Australian BDS movement, has been preselected to contest the Melbourne seat of Kooyong for the Greens. While his chance of victory is minimal, it shows the type of characters the Greens continue to court.
To return to Stephens’ considered remark, antisemitism couched in the language of social justice is still antisemitism. Whether it is sharing a platform with vicious Israel haters, calling for sanctions or using misleading and extremist language, it is not progressive, it is offensive.