Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Palestine and the upcoming Australian Federal Elections: some comments on the major political parties and Palestine

Dear friends,
if you are in Australia or follow Australian events, you will be aware that the Australian Federal election has been called for 7 September 2013.  

Palestine will not play a major role in the consideration of most Australian voters and will not be on the agenda of most of the political parties and candidates running in the election.  However, as Palestine solidarity activists we should have a good overview of where the political parties stand on Palestine.  

I have compiled below a brief overview of the three main parties running in the election - the Australian Labor Party (ALP), the Liberals and The Greens and their position on Palestine and the Palestinian BDS campaign.

The fact that the ALP and Liberals have appalling positions on Palestine should not surprise many people, nor should the wishwashyness of the Greens.   The role of the executive of the modern state is not to support and to advocate for ordinary people, let alone the oppressed and those in struggle.  Instead, its main role is to manage national and international affairs in order to benefit and support those who already have power.  In Australia, as around the world, governments will only move concretely to legislate and/or support the oppressed when the oppressed and their supporters build social movements strong enough to put pressure on the governments. 

This highlights the absolute importance of building at a grassroots level the international solidarity campaign in support of Palestine and the BDS campaign.  As we have already seen, the growth of BDS over the last 8 years has begun to exert real pressure and influence.  So while, Palestine solidarity activists, it is important for us to be aware of the political positions of the various political parties and to take this into account when we vote on election day, it is even more important for all of us who support the Palestinian people and their struggle to get active and continue to build a strong grassroots movement in support of Palestine and to build and grow the Palestinian BDS campaign, both in Australia an internationally.

In solidarity, Kim

Palestine and the upcoming Australian Federal Elections: some comments on the major political parties and Palestine

The Australian Federal Election will take place on 7 September 2013. A brief comment on the major parties and Palestine.

The Liberals have already publicly announced that they want to introduce sweeping Anti-BDS measures/legislation.  Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party Julie Bishop told the Weekend Australian on May 25 that a “Coalition government would block all federal funds to individuals and institutions who speak out in favour of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel”. In the same article, Bishop also labelled BDS as "anti-semitic". For more information, click here.

See also my article on Bishop and the Liberals position. Click here.

In addition, Liberal Party leader, Tony Abbott, while heading a party which is seeking to limit academic freedom and introduce anti-BDS measures has given unequivocal support to Israel calling it a "bastion of civilisation". For more information, click here.

The Australian Labor Party also hold an anti-BDS position, with the Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr stating: "The Australian Government strongly opposes the Boycott Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. This position has been placed on the public record on several occasions". He goes onto note that the ALP has actively fought against BDS, stating that BDS harms the Palestinian people. For more information, click here.

Australian ALP Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd have also reiterated the ALP's opposition to BDS, while also announcing unequivocal support for Israel (with Kevin Rudd saying at one time that Israel was "in his DNA"). In particular, Rudd has come out repeatedly against BDS and has also (obliquely) compared BDS activists and supporters to Nazis (as have some Liberals). For more information, click here.

Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Antony Albanese, despite claiming to be part of the "Labor Left" and apparently being a member of "Parliamentarians for Palestine", has also condemned BDS. According to Haaretz, Albanese "has also been at the forefront of the fight against those promoting a boycott of Israeli goods, blasting the campaign as 'clumsy and counterproductive'.” For more information, click here.

The Federal Greens have also condemned BDS. Bob Brown in 2011 stated on Lateline that the Federal Greens outrightly rejected support for BDS. He added in relation to the BDS motions adopted by the NSW Greens that: "the motion was not in the interests of the people of Israel or of Palestine". For more information, click here.

In 2012 new Greens leader, Christine Milne reaffirmed the Federal Greens opposition to BDS telling the Australian Jewish News that neither the Federal Greens or the NSW Greens supported BDS. For more information, click here.

Even, if you take BDS out of the equation, the position of both the major parties on Palestine is appalling and the Federal Greens have also taken a patronising and normalising position in relation to Palestine - for example, this is evident by both Bob Brown and Christine Milne's statements which "condemned violence on both sides", as well as Cate Faehrmann (Greens Senate candidate) public articles and comments on BDS and Palestine. See here and here.

Faehrmann when a NSW Greens MP, along with fellow Greens MP Jan Barham gave qualified support to an anti-BDS motion put by David Clarke from the Liberal party. David Shoebridge and John Kaye, also Greens MPs, however, took a principled position in support of Palestine and voted against the motion.

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