Labor Pains for Australia’s Jews

Source: Facebook
Source: Facebook

Recent coverage has focused on anti-Israel affiliations and past comments of some ‘climate independents’. The problematic record of the party vying to be Australia’s alternate government has escaped intense scrutiny. A Labor Party victory arguably presents a greater danger to our community.

The BDS boycott of the Sydney Festival was a rude shock. Equally disturbing was the silence from Labor. No senior Labor figure stood with the Jewish Community, despite multiple requests for Anthony Albanese or Penny Wong to comment.

While Communications Minister Paul Fletcher was writing articles condemning the boycott, Labor’s spokesman Tony Burke was in hiding.

It’s said that, in times of adversity, you discover your true friends. The Jewish Community witnessed who stood with us and who was missing in action.

Some in Labor did inject themselves into the debate. Anthony Albanese’s old faction, NSW Young Labor Left came out in support of boycotting Israel.

It’s wonderful that Labor leaders make friendly proclamations when speaking privately to Jewish leaders, but it’s what they say publicly that matters.

The problems in the Labor Party are systemic and go much deeper than any one incident. A litany of Labor politicians regularly create headlines for attacking Israel in parliaments across Australia. Names like Shaoquett Moselmane and Anthony D’Adam in NSW are familiar to our community.

Federally, Manager of Opposition Business, Tony Burke has repeatedly called all Jewish Communities in Judea/Samaria ‘illegal’ and repeated the libel that Israel ‘trashes Palestinian’s drinking water’. In February this year, Sue Lines, Deputy President in the Senate slandered Israel with the “crime of apartheid”.

I won’t repeat former Labor MP Melissa Parke’s Israel-related comments, since others have been sued. If anyone needs reminding, it’s worth looking them up. Sadly, she received support from some colleagues within Labor, including Chief Senate Whip Anne Urquhart. Senator Urquhart herself was recently condemned for allegedly implying that Jews use accusations of antisemitism to silence Israel critics. Notice the trend?

The above list isn’t exhaustive and could go on. Granted, all parties have rogue members, and undisciplined junior members can make flippant remarks, but these aren’t minor players. Outrageous attacks regularly come from Labor luminaries, former prime ministers, foreign ministers and potential future leaders.

Labor elders like Gareth Evans and Kevin Rudd have joined ‘pro-Palestinian’ cheerleader Bob Carr to lobby against Israel.

Labor Deputy leader Tanya Plibersek once labelled Israel a ‘rogue state’, and the then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a ‘war criminal’. Current leader Anthony Albanese hasn’t deleted a picture of himself warmly embracing Jeremy Corbyn from his social media, one of several selfies the pair took together, before Albanese wished Corbyn success in the elections.

It’s not just the personalities. Labor policies are concerning. Last year, Federal Labor called in its platform for ‘the next Labor government to recognise Palestine as a state and expects that this issue will be an important priority for the next Labor government’.

So, Labor considers establishing another Arab state an ‘important priority’? Who does Labor envisage running it? Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, who’ve just been proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Australia, and as I write are busy firing missiles at Israel?

Maybe Labor prefers current Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah group is also arguably a terrorist group. Abbas rose to prominence with Holocaust denial and is now serving his 17th year of a 4-year term. His rule has been dogged by allegations of severe corruption. This is Labor’s ’important priority’? For this they’ll overlook rampant corruption, repression of dissent and discrimination against homosexuals and women.

Former MP Michael Danby attempted to condition support for a future state on it meeting minimum requirements, like ceasing terror funding and advocating killing Jews. Shockingly, he was gagged, with what he termed ‘Stalinist thuggish tactics’. It seems no human rights abuse can get in the way of Labor’s ‘important priority’.

The national conference was no anomaly. Labor state conferences have for years competed to outdo themselves with anti-Israel radicalism. Last year’s Queensland Labor Conference falsely accused Israel of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘dehumanisation of Palestinian people’. The Tasmanian Conference has been pushing a more militant line against Israel for years. No foreign policy issue occupies so much of Labor’s attention as the world’s only Jewish State.

The current government isn’t perfect. Scott Morrison’s ham-fisted recognition of an artificial ‘West Jerusalem’ is a particular bone of contention. A senior Israeli source suggested to AJA that Israel would have preferred Australia did nothing. Even that half-hearted effort was too much for Labor, who vowed to reverse it.

Likewise, the Morrison Government rightly cut Australia’s direct aid to the Palestinian Authority but retained $10 million annually for the much-criticised UNRWA. Again, this isn’t enough for Labor, who would increase funding without extra checks and balances on where Australia’s tax dollars go.

Labor loves to remind us that it was under them that Australia recognised Israel. This is getting stale. Labor can’t run in 2022 on their record from the 1940s. Similarly, nobody can detract from the Bob Hawke years, but he became Prime Minister almost 40 years ago.

There were recent prominent pro-Israel voices in Labor. Sadly, Senator Kimberley Kitching passed away, amidst a storm of internal bullying allegations. Another shining star, Michael Danby became increasingly isolated and eventually resigned. His replacement hasn’t lived up to Danby’s impressive record. AJA has been unsuccessful in getting Josh Burns, whose district includes Australia’s strongest Jewish community to even answer emails. A notable exception is NSW State MP Walt Secord, who does the work of 10 in defending our community within the Labor party.

Getting anything pro-Israel through the ALP is a struggle. Other parties jump at the chance to announce pro-Israel measures.

Today’s Labor isn’t the party of your grandparents. Many grassroots activists and Members of Parliament espouse anti-Israel positions. If ALP leadership won’t publicly challenge them, then relations with the Jewish community are destined to further deteriorate.

Bipartisan support for Israel is critical for the community’s long-term security. AJA supports maintaining high-level engagement with the ALP. Just last week, we met with a prominent Labor MP.

When it comes to the upcoming election, voters for whom Jewish issues are on the periphery may find a way to live with Labor policies. However, those who consider Australia’s relationship with the Jewish State paramount won’t be able to overlook the changes in the Australian Labor Party.

About the Author
Robert is Director of Public Affairs with the Australian Jewish Association (AJA). His background is in law and he has experience in legal education and politics. Robert is passionate about Zionism, Australian politics, and international affairs.
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