Media Week – Labor’s travel travails

The Australian newspaper gave excellent coverage to critics of pro-Palestinian activists pushing the NSW ALP conference to ban party officials from travelling to Israel on sponsored trips, or impose conditions requiring they spend equal time in Palestinian areas.

Former ALP national president Warren Mundine told Sharri Markson (Feb. 2) the ban move was “verging on anti-Semitic… Name another country that the Labor Party bans people from…? There are none…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” and an “extreme view”, adding, “there [are] a lot of other places in the world which deserved a lot more consideration.”

In her own opinion piece (Feb 2), Markson noted, “39 resolutions critical of Israel [were] submitted…By comparison, just 17 motions have been put forward that relate to other countries, including Iraq, Syria, China or Libya. There are none on Saudi Arabia or Iran.”

The Australian editorialised (Feb. 3) 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 Glen Sterle noted, “politicians go on sponsored trips to many countries, including some of the world’s worst dictatorships, without being hamstrung by these sorts of restrictions. Indeed, 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.”

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 was happy to overlook how PA President Mahmoud Abbas has ruled by fiat 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 Skynews‘ 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.


Allon Lee