Jun 27, 2016 | Jamie Hyams
The “X Factor” plus
The Nick Xenophon Team (NXT), having secured more Senate primary votes in South Australia than the ALP at the 2013 election, will likely achieve three or even four Senate seats there this time. Running candidates in all SA electorates, it is also slightly favoured to gain the lower house seat of Mayo, where candidate Rebekha Sharkie is leading incumbent Liberal Jamie Briggs in the polls, and may be a threat in other SA seats. It also has Senate candidates in all other states.
It could thus hold or share the balance of power in the Senate and even the House of Representatives, a prospect that would concern supporters of Israel, given party leader Senator Nick Xenophon’s past activities and pronouncements on the issue.
In April 2014, Senator Xenophon travelled as a guest of the Australian Friends of Palestine Association (AFOPA) to the Middle East, meeting mainly Palestinian representatives and very left-wing NGOs harshly critical of Israel. He was quoted in the May 10, 2014 Australian as saying, “There is some hope through Israeli groups like Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem who show the views of the Israeli government do not necessarily represent the views of all Israelis.”
In fact, his Statement of Registrable Interests submitted in December 2014 reveals he donated to AFOPA, which supported the BDS campaign against Israel on its website. In 2010, he was the keynote speaker at the organisation’s annual dinner.
On June 3, 2015, Senator Xenophon asked, at a Senate committee, “What are the implications of Israel being recognised as a Jewish state given the Australian government’s policy that there ought to be a two-state solution? Would that go against that two-state solution?”
The Senator is apparently unconcerned, however, that many other Middle Eastern countries are recognised as “Islamic” states or “Arab” states, while the Palestinian constitution says that Islam is the official religion of Palestine.
Many of his parliamentary speeches are also highly and one-sidedly critical of Israel.
On March 24, 2015, he gave an adjournment speech that was basically a call for Gaza to receive the aid needed to rebuild after the 2014 war, basing it on a meeting he had with the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN). He did criticise rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza as a war crime, but also stated, “Gaza has been living under an Israeli blockade since 2007 when Israel placed massive restrictions over movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza.” He then questioned whether Israel’s response was “proportionate”, setting out a list of those killed and injured. He did not, however, mention the cause – Hamas use of civilian infrastructure and human shields for military purposes, also a war crime. He then demanded Israel “fully lift the blockade.”
In a March 23, 2015 Condolence motion for Malcolm Fraser, he said, “I would like to also conclude in terms of other matters he has raised… I saw the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network this morning, and they mentioned to me that Malcolm Fraser signed the Canberra Declaration on Gaza, talking about an end to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories and the blockade of Gaza.” Senator Xenophon was also an early signatory to this notoriously one-sided and poorly-informed declaration.
On June 25, 2014, Senator Xenophon raised a Matter of Public Importance specifically to criticise comments by Attorney-General George Brandis that “the description of East Jerusalem as ‘occupied …’ is freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful.”
He claimed UN Security Council resolution 242 basically required Israel to withdraw from the entire West Bank and east Jerusalem subject to “only minor and mutual territorial adjustments.” In fact, those who drafted the motion, including the lead drafter British UN Ambassador Lord Caradon, have made it clear that this was not the intention – the borders were to be negotiated.
The Senator also cited the “Palestine papers” to claim the Palestinians offered Israel a peace deal in 2008, and Israel turned it down, a direct inversion of what actually happened, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has since confirmed.
On July 15, 2014, Senator Xenophon co-hosted a forum to “mark the tenth anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) finding that Israel’s settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are illegal,” together with the Federal Parliamentary Friends of Palestine co-chairs.
In an Adjournment speech on August 23, 2012, he set out the numbers of those killed by Israel in Gaza, and in Israel by attacks from Gaza without giving any context. He misrepresented Israel’s West Bank security barrier as “a concrete barrier all around the West Bank which in some places is twice as high as the Berlin Wall,” and praised a delegation he had met from APAN which included some far-left Israeli activists including Micha Kurtz, founder of Breaking the Silence, which, Xenophon claimed, “aims to give Israeli army veterans a voice and to create an understanding of the realities of controlling a civilian population.” In fact, it circulates anonymous and therefore untestable accounts internationally, with the seeming aim of demonising Israel. He added, “The truth in my mind is that the creation of new settlements and the expansion of existing settlements is preventing any possibility of working towards a solution.” In fact, the first is not happening – and the second is not happening in geographic terms. He criticised boycotts of Israel, but concluded, “I believe the wall needs to fall, just as the Berlin Wall did over 20 years ago.”
On July 5, 2011, while supporting a motion condemning the attempt by Marrickville Council to boycott Israel, he attempted to add a paragraph noting “the detrimental effect of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade in Gaza on the Palestinian people living in Gaza.”
Earlier this year, Naomi Halpern, the number one Victorian NXT Senate candidate, retweeted a post from extremist American anti-Zionist activist Max Blumenthal which read, “More Jews decide that linking the oldest monotheistic religion to a 68 yr old apartheid state might be a bad idea” and linking to an article about Jews opposing Israel’s occupation. While a retweet is not necessarily an endorsement, it is concerning that Halpern, who is Jewish, chose to retweet this specific post.
Various other minor party and independent candidates who are currently members of Parliament or are relatively well known have also taken noteworthy stances.
Senator Bob Day AO, the Family First Senator from South Australia and the party’s Federal Chairman, moved a motion on November 25, 2015 that noted that the 2015 Bloomberg Global Innovation index “ranked Israel 5th overall ahead of the United States of America (US) in 6th and Australia in 13th place,” and called “on the Australian Government to explore the feasibility of initiating negotiations with Israel towards a free trade agreement.”
In support of his motion, he made the following statement: “I am a strong supporter of Israel. Its unique circumstances force it to be innovative…We should embrace the great innovating nation of Israel.” In March 2015, Senator Day, together with Senator David Leyonhjelm of the Liberal Democratic Party, attempted to move a motion on the Australia/Israel Chamber of Commerce. The motion was blocked by the ALP, and therefore not recorded.
Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie, who split from the ironically named Palmer United Party and now has her own party, the Jacqui Lambie Network, concluded a December 1, 2015 speech on citizenship by sympathising with France over recent terror attacks and saying, “This week I would also like to acknowledge the role that the State of Israel plays in the global fight against Islamic radicalisation. The Jewish people have shown grace, compassion, common sense and bravery under extreme attacks by people who want to wipe them from the face of the earth.”
Andrew Wilkie, the independent member for the Tasmanian seat of Denison, in a November 26, 2015 speech on a petition against cuts to foreign aid, stated, “Palestine is another area where we need to rethink our approach, because the situation for the Palestinian people is inarguably dire as Israel continues to illegally development (sic) settlements in Palestinian territory. Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr has acknowledged that these settlements are not legal, but the current government will not even do that…. What Australia must do is… condemn Israel’s illegal acts of settlement and violence. It is alarming that too many of our political leaders appear to be beholden to Israeli interests at the expense of the Palestinian people.” Mr Wilkie also signed the Canberra Declaration on Gaza.
Former broadcaster Derryn Hinch has put together an eponymous party, called Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, running on a tough on crime platform. When he hosted the Drive radio program on 3AW, Hinch, regarded as a good chance to gain a Senate seat in Victoria, regularly interviewed AIJAC guests and others with a pro-Israel view, and gave them a good hearing.
Fred Nile‘s Christian Democratic Party website features Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s 2015 Christmas speech, and in a media release dated Jan.12, 2015, in response to the Paris terror attack, Rev. Nile noted, “Four Jewish hostages were then killed in cold blood which confirms the hatred the Islamic terrorists direct at innocent Jewish civilians around the world and particularly in Israel.”
Stephen Mayne, the founder of the website Crikey and currently a City of Melbourne councillor, is running a high-profile campaign to overthrow Liberal veteran Kevin Andrews in the Victorian seat of Menzies. Mayne has drawn criticism from within the Jewish community for a history of seeming undue focus on Jewish businessmen, and in 2002, while editor of Crikey, drawing attention to the fact that then Age editor Michael Gawenda was Jewish in covering Gawenda’s decision to pull a Leunig cartoon that paralleled Israeli conduct with the Holocaust.