Australia/Israel Review


Media Microscope: Labor pains

Jun 29, 2023 | Allon Lee

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

The Victorian Labor State Conference’s decision on June 18 to pass a motion calling on the Federal Government to recognise a state of Palestine in its current term created a flurry of media interest.

On June 20, the Australian editorialised that “[PM] Albanese would be foolish to allow his government to be railroaded by mindless left-wing pressure within the ALP into recognising a non-existent Palestinian state. Doing so would be against Australia’s interest. It would overturn decades of sensible political bipartisanship over Israel’s security and its right to exist in a hostile world.”

In the Daily Telegraph (June 21), AIJAC’s Ahron Shapiro called the decision to pass the motion “a reckless move”. 

“Moreover, for an Australian government to consider unilaterally recognising Palestine, one must first ask which one? The one controlled by a crumbling Palestinian Authority in the West Bank that has in recent years left a power vacuum in northern West Bank cities of Jenin and Nablus filled by armed gangs? Or the one in the Gaza Strip controlled by the terror group Hamas, taking turns launching indiscriminate rockets into Israel with its partner-in-war-crime, Iranian proxy Palestinian Islamic Jihad?”

He also pointed out that the Palestinian Authority has rejected three Israeli offers to create a state and since 2014 has refused to negotiate, period, and said, “this history proves that those who argue that Palestinian statehood must be recognised…to ‘save’ a two-state solution, have it completely backwards.”

The same day on the Australian website, AIJAC’s Colin Rubenstein and Jamie Hyams were scathing about the ALP resolution, saying, “elements of the ALP would rather play counter-productive undergraduate politics than make any serious contribution to Middle East peace.”

Critiquing the text of the resolution, they said, “The ALP motion cites Israeli settlement building as an obstacle to peace, but the settlements have barely expanded geographically since 2011 when former Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat admitted they only covered approximately 1.1 per cent of the West Bank, and they certainly didn’t prevent the previous offers of Palestinian statehood.

“The motion also states that 138 other countries have recognised Palestine – yet omits the crucial fact that Sweden is the only Western democracy to have done so. Moreover, most of the others did so in the context of the Cold War, and many did not then recognise Israel. It is unlikely that many of those states which have at some time recognised Palestine, such as the former Soviet bloc countries, many African nations, or India, would make the same decision today.”

In the same edition, the Australian’s Rachel Baxendale reported that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews repudiated his own Socialist Left faction for pushing the motion, saying he would have voted against it had he been present at the conference.

Premier Andrews was quoted saying Israel is the “only true democracy” in the Middle East, “the only place in the region with a pride march, the only place in the region where women are treated equally… I can go on and on.”

Commenting on the resolution itself, he said, “if you want peace, you need a partner for peace. You need a partner, and without a partner, this is all just words really. Words and tragedy.”

Earlier, Australian Financial Review political editor Phil Coorey reported on June 20 that “Labor’s faction bosses will work between now and the ALP National Conference in August to ensure no motions are passed that will embarrass the Albanese government [including] on Israel and Palestine… However, with the Left controlling the floor of conference for the first time in decades, this will involve the faction having to inflict defeat on itself so as not to embarrass Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and Foreign Minister Penny Wong, who are also from the Left.”

On June 19, Nine Newspapers quoted Australian Palestine Action Network president Nasser Mashni backing recognition, saying doing so “would put us in lockstep with our neighbours and tell them our foreign policy is not made in Washington.”

On June 20, Nine Newspapers quoted former Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla – who apparently was approached by those papers for a comment on the resolution – saying, “If Australia recognises Palestine just as the UN Resolution [which is] the two-state solution, it will become an important step to help making peace in the Middle East particularly, between Israel and Palestine.” However, he did not explain how.

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