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More on the Australian Greens and the London Declaration against Antisemitism

Jun 4, 2013 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

More on the Australian Greens and the London Declaration against Antisemitism
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Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

Last week, this blog reported the refusal of NSW Greens MLCs David Shoebridge and John Kaye to sign the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism, as well as their self-serving and disingenuous justification for rejecting the document.

It would be remiss of us to leave the story there. Fortunately, other members of the Greens have demonstrated less reluctance to acknowledge that being opposed to antisemitism requires not only opposing racism against Jews from people who are not critical of Israel (actually quite a rare phenomenon), but also opposing racism against Jews from people who are critical of Israel.

Especially encouraging was the decision by Jeremy Buckingham–a colleague of Shoebridge and Kaye in the NSW Upper House–to sign the Declaration, and thereby demonstrate that the NSW Greens party is not united against the principles in the Declaration.

Federal Greens Leader Christine Milne also issued a very welcome statement. Unlike the Shoebridges and Kayes of this world, Milne was able to condemn antisemitism without feeling a need for equivocation or inserting some kind of confected loophole to allow antisemitic rhetoric if it is also critical of Israel:

The Australian Greens defend the right of all persons, to be able to live in an environment without discrimination and violence.

The Greens do not tolerate or endorse anti-Semitism and we condemn all forms of discrimination on the basis of race, culture, ethnicity, religion or nationality.

The Greens have championed anti-vilification legislation around Australia as an important mechanism in encouraging a tolerant community.

Milne did touch on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, however she did so not to whitewash anti-Jewish sentiments ostensibly expressed in terms of “criticism of Israel”, but to reaffirm what is the consensus position amongst all major political parties in Australia:

Australian Greens policy supports the legitimate rights and aspirations of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples to live in peace and security in their own independent, sovereign states.

It is the Greens’ view that the only way to achieve this, is through a comprehensive negotiated settlement of the conflict leading to a two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side within secure and internationally recognised borders.

Milne did not, however, sign the London Declaration. She has not given any particular reason for this, but it would not be a huge stretch of the imagination to conclude that there would be substantial resistance to signing the Declaration from within her own party–most likely, from a certain faction within NSW.

That is a shame. The Declaration’s recognition of the resurgence of anti-Jewish sentiment in the world today and its commitment to combating the rising hatred are extremely important, and it would be very positive for that too to rise above partisan politics in Australia and become a policy position endorsed across the board.

Nevertheless, the statement issued by Milne places at least the Federal leadership of the Australian Greens on the side combating hatred rather than excusing it. For that, they should be praised.

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