The Queensland Labor Party conference’s passage of a resolution, steered by the branch’s vice-president Wendy Turner, exhorting a future federal Labor government to immediately recognise a Palestinian state, was roundly condemned in the Australian media.
Troy Bramston’s report on the vote noted that “Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek refused to accept the Queensland motion. ‘State conferences don’t make Labor foreign policy… This matter was resolved by Labor’s national conference'” which committed to discuss recognising a Palestinian state only if there was no peace process progress and in the context of appropriate “conditions and timelines”, Australian (Sept. 1).
The Australian Financial Review‘s Will Glasgow (Sept. 1) observed that the vote also obligated Queensland MPs who travel to Israel on subsidised trips to “spend an equivalent amount of time meeting Palestinians…on the same visit.”
Glasgow seemingly approved of the resolution, writing “we seem to remember that NSW Secretary Jamie Clements managed, just before the rules changed, to squeeze in a subsidised trip to Israel – a favourite with Australian politicians and journalists, the latter of whom tend to then write about the place interminably for months with all the insight of a mouthy first year university student at a Q&A taping.”
The Australian editorialised (Sept. 2) that “Ms Turner overlooked the unfortunate reality that Gaza is ruled by Hamas, which refuses to recognise Israel’s right to exist – a major impediment towards a solution.” It also noted that Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are at “loggerheads” and that “however much the green-Left wishes otherwise, Palestinian statehood will not come about by stealth.”
In the same edition, Australian Jewish News publisher Robert Magid ridiculed the resolution, writing, “[Turner’s] view is understandable, given the Sunshine State’s geographical proximity with Palestine and the shared values of Queenslanders and Hamas.”
Tongue firmly in cheek, Magid predicted a Palestinian state would defy the Middle East’s current turmoil, extremist rhetoric against Jews and Israel, lack of human rights, freedom of speech and independent judicial and legislative institutions, so that “Queenslanders will no longer have to spend sleepless nights worrying about Palestine.”
A published letter from Turner defended the resolution citing “the astonishing decision of the Israeli government to invest $90 million in building more settlements. This shows a contempt for world opinion, which urges Israel to stop settlement construction because it is intended to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Australian (Sept. 3).
AIJAC’s Colin Rubenstein dismissed Turner’s claims in a published letter, writing, “No new settlements have been built since 1999 and existing settlements have not been allowed to expand beyond their boundaries under policies in place since 2003. There has been a decrease… in construction in settlements in recent years, and even the Palestinians admit settlements take up less than 2 percent of the West Bank.” Rubenstein argued that unilateral recognition only “encourage[s] Palestinians to believe they can achieve a state without making the [necessary] compromises,” Australian, (Sept. 5).
The Australian‘s “Cut & Paste” (Sept.3) highlighted that the recommended reading list of the Australian Labor Friends of Palestine website includes an article by US far-right agitator Pat Buchanan, titled “Obama v Bibi – fight to the finish”.
The section quoted from some of Buchanan’s long record of vile declarations on Israel and Jews. These included his 2007 statement that “Thirteen members of the Senate are Jewish folks who are from 2 percent of the population. That is where real power is at”, his 1990 statement that “Capitol Hill is Israeli-occupied territory” and his 1977 praise for Hitler as “an individual of great courage… a leader [whose] genius was an intuitive sense of… the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path.”
The Spectator editorialised (Sept. 5) that “where the likes of Bob Carr like to froth about the ‘Jewish Lobby’, the truth is that Labor are increasingly being seduced by the Anti-Israel Lobby [and] prostrating themselves before the false god of a unilaterally recognised Palestinian ‘state’.”
The editorial argued that “recognition of Palestine without a peace treaty with Israel will see an Islamist entity on the West Bank (one already exists in Gaza) condemning Palestinians to lives of poverty and terror…Is this really what Queenslanders want?”
This article is featured in this month’s Australia/Israel Review, which can be downloaded as a free App: see here for more details.