Letter in The Age: Here’s your answer

Former Labor MP Melissa Parke


Tony Walker’s question “Where are the boundaries between acceptable criticism of Israel’s behaviour, and criticism that might be interpreted as prejudiced?” is easily answered (Comment, 18/4).

The widely recognised International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism explains, “Criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.” Obviously Walker’s examples – criticisms of Israeli settlement expansion or the new nation-state law – are not anti-Semitic, although not immune from factual or analytical challenge.

However, criticism can risk straying into anti-Semitism in ways listed by the IHRA definition – including “applying double standards” to Israeli behaviour, “dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews … or the power of Jews as collective”, “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel … than to the interests of their own nations,” or “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour”.

Melissa Parke has called for a one-state solution – effectively Israel’s dissolution as a Jewish homeland replaced by a majority Palestinian entity; publicly supports the discriminatory Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, which demands Israel alone of all the world’s nations be punished by complete economic, academic, and cultural sanctions; and made comments arguably recalling traditional anti-Semitic tropes about supposed Jewish power.

Such stances surpassing mere criticism, and contradicting ALP policy, therefore unsurprisingly have raised troubling questions about both her motives and the appropriateness of her claims.

Dr Colin Rubenstein, executive director, Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, South Melbourne