By Ben Packham
The ALP has for the first time recognised the state of Palestine in its national platform, despite strong opposition from sections of the party’s Right faction.
At the ALP conference on Tuesday, the party also ramped up its rhetoric against China’s oppression of Uighurs in its Xinjiang region but stopped short of branding their treatment as “genocide”, at the insistence of opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong.
Senator Wong successfully moved the amendment to the ALP’s platform on Palestine, which urged a two-state solution but also called on the next Labor government “to recognise Palestine as a state”.
The amendment calls for the Palestinian statehood to “be an important priority” for Labor if it wins the next election.
Senator Wong insisted the position replicated that of the 2018 ALP National Conference, but in 2018 party support for Palestinian statehood was not incorporated into the national platform.
Former federal MP Michael Danby, an influential pro-Israeli voice in the party, was prevented from speaking on the proposed resolution at the online conference.
He said the ALP had adopted former UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s plan for “unconditional recognition of a Palestinian state but also his Stalinist methods by suppressing debate on the foreign policy motions”.
“Associating Labor with a homophobic, undemocratic, kleptocratic, misogynist Palestinian regime is bizarre enough,” he said. “But attempting to create the false impression that this is accepted by all delegates is worthy of Stalin.”
Senator Wong said Israelis and Palestinians “deserve to prosper in peace behind secure, recognised borders. It reflects our belief that a true friend of Israel is a true friend of the rights of Palestinians to statehood,” she said. “And it reflects the leader’s longstanding position that any lasting resolution to the Middle East conflict cannot be at the expense of either Palestinians or Israelis.”
Executive Council of Australian Jewry chief executive Peter Wertheim said a future Labor government would come under greater pressure “to bow to those pushing an extreme line on this issue”.
“Many people, not only in the Jewish community, will feel very let down by this outdated, one-sided approach that is at odds with Israel’s recent normalisation of relations with Arab states and Australia’s security and economic interests,” he said.
Australia Palestine Advocacy Network president George Browning welcomed “this courageous, principled announcement by Senator Wong”.
“Most Australians and the overwhelming majority of the international community understand that a viable and independent Palestinian state is indispensable to peace,” he said.
“By recognising Palestinian statehood, Labor will encourage both Israeli and Palestinian moderates that are working towards a peaceful end to the conflict.”
Amid growing international condemnation of China’s “genocide” against its Uighur Muslims, Labor Right senator Kimberley Kitching sought to call out the full extent of the repression of the ethnic minority at the conference.
“The weight of evidence steadily coming out of the Xinjiang region leaves no room for doubt as to the horrific crimes, human rights abuses and ongoing obscenity being committed by Chinese government officials against Uighur and other ethnic minorities,” she said.
She was barred, however, from binding Labor to describing the treatment of Uighurs in the same terms as the US, Canada and The Netherlands, which have likened China’s repression of the ethnic minority to the Nazis treatment of the Jews.