The NSW ALP’s state conference in February was the latest forum to debate whether to ban party members from travelling to Israel on sponsored trips, or else require they spend equal time in Palestinian areas.
Like other ALP conferences, the fixation of elements of the party on Israel generated a wave of media coverage, most of it critical.
Former ALP national president Warren Mundine told the Australian‘s Sharri Markson (Feb. 2) the ban move was “verging on anti-Semitic… Name another country that the Labor Party bans people from…?…The only difference is that they are Jewish, and I just find that quite sickening.”
Former Queensland premier Peter Beattie told Markson (Feb. 4) the proposed ban was “Stalinistic”, adding, “a lot of other places in the world…deserve…a lot more consideration.”
Markson herself noted (Feb. 2), “39 resolutions critical of Israel [were] submitted…just 17 motions have been put forward that relate to other countries.”
The Australian editorialised (Feb. 3) of the “equal time” proposal that “the real agenda is to ban Israel-sponsored trips… know[ing]… that key sites within the occupied territories are no-go areas… the equal time rule cannot work in practice.”
Bob Carr responded in the Australian (Feb. 4) that he supports the equal time proposal so that MPs can “see the conditions that apply to Arab residents… under… Israeli occupation.”
On the ABC “Religion & Ethics” website (Feb. 11), ALP Senator Glenn Sterle noted, “Bob Carr himself has been on sponsored trips to China, but I doubt that he spent, or would be permitted to spend, ‘equivalent time’ inspecting the conditions of China’s persecuted Uighur community, displaced Tibetans or political dissidents,” whereas Sterle had visited Israel and the Palestinian territories six times and met senior Palestinian officials.
Sterle accused Carr of “never [having] explained why… advocacy by Jewish Australians in support of Israel is in any way different from Greek or Turkish Australians… seeking to influence Australian foreign policy on Cyprus.”
Responding to Sterle on the website (Feb. 13), Paul Duffill of the BDS-sponsoring Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies accused Australia of “a dangerous double standard” on Israel’s “human rights abuses as opposed to those of others in the region… including Hamas.” He seemed happy to overlook that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has ruled unconstitutionally since his term expired in 2009.
In the Daily Telegraph (Feb. 12) Federal ALP MP Michael Danby wrote, “as Carr denigrates the Middle East’s only democracy, he also represents the interests of a vast authoritarian state apparatus, China. Carr is the founding director of the Australia China Relations Institute… Almost every time China is in the news, Carr comes up with some ‘nonpartisan research’ defending China.”
Former federal NSW MP Peter Baldwin told Sky News‘ Graham Richardson (Feb. 10) that criticism of Israel does not take into account Hamas’ charter calling for the “destruction of the Jewish race” nor that a “two-state solution could have been achieved decades ago” if Fatah had accepted offers in 2000/01 and 2008.
Fairfax’s coverage was limited to a couple of online reports, including NSW state MP Shaoquett Moselmane’s complaint that Sharri Markson had defamed him as antisemitic.
Greg Sheridan wrote, “That the NSW Labor conference rejected the creepy, offensive and idiotic efforts to ban Labor politicians from taking sponsored trips to Israel or force them if they do to spend equal time in the Palestinian territories is a sign of Labor’s health. The most important dynamic in the Left’s pathological, nearly demented obsession with Israel is the self-loathing of the West, which starts with an exaggerated critique and morphs into psychotic disorder,” Australian (Feb. 18).
On ABC TV’s “The Drum” (Jan. 29), Spectator Australia editor Rowan Dean said, “To say that you shouldn’t be going is to say that you are so stupid that you can’t go and look at information and make up your own mind about an issue. When I went on that trip we… went to Ramallah, met with the PLO… they are afraid that people will…come back and go ‘the narrative we’ve been told is wrong… and maybe Israel aren’t the baddies.'”
On ABC Radio Melbourne 774 “Friday Wrap” (Feb. 5), Victorian Liberal Georgina Downer called it “pathetic politics” and a “cynical move” designed “to shore up seats in Western Sydney.”
ABC host Jon Faine suggested the “cause would be better advanced by people going over there and engaging in dialogue… but the loonies on the left of the Labor party are lining up with Senator Lee Rhiannon of the Greens.”
This article is featured in this month’s Australia/Israel Review, which can be downloaded as a free App: see here for more details.