By Paul Heywood-Smith
In late March a YouGov poll was conducted on the topic of the Australian public’s attitude on the Palestine issue. The poll was commissioned by APAN (Australian Palestine Advocacy Network) and AFOPA (Australian Friends of Palestine Association). The poll’s results suggested that the Government was out of touch with Australians on the issue. In particular, the Government’s approach to the Occupied Palestinian Territories was considered to be simply wrong. Concerns centered around illegal Jewish settlements, apartheid, recognition of Palestine, and human rights.
The Morrison government’s position on the issue was summed up when Morrison was asked his opinion on Amnesty International’s Israeli apartheid report earlier this year. Morrison responded: “No country is perfect”, and “Australia and my government, in particular, will remain a staunch friend of Israel”.
A week before the election on Saturday, APAN published what it described as “Major Parties Scorecard on Palestine”. The Liberal Coalition received slightly less than one star; the Labor Party slightly more than three stars; and The Greens nearly five stars. Readers were asked to consider these results when voting.
Having regard to the election result one might ask whether this issue played some part in that result. Clearly it is not possible to assert such, particularly when the issue was never raised overtly by the parties or the press. Foreign affairs issues were confined to the Solomon Islands (China) and Ukraine. And in so far as the Greens are concerned, there could be little doubt that its principal support came from people’s concerns over climate and the environment.
However, long term watchers of the issue appreciate that the Israeli lobby’s approach is to keep the issue off the screen. And the lobby has been particularly successful in that regard. One notable incident occurring in South Australia involved the independent candidate for Boothby, Jo Dyer. Well into the six-week election period Ms Dyer came under fire in the Adelaide ‘Murdoch press’, The Advertiser, for allegedly promoting ‘dangerous’ or ‘extreme’ views on Israel that were allegedly ‘offensive’ to the Jewish community. The allegedly ‘dangerous’ views were a nearly year-old tweet, in which Dyer promoted an article that compared Israel to colonial Australia, and argued for the creation of a single democratic state for all. Dyer had described the article as ‘lucid’, and ‘persuasive’.
The Advertiser article had a general critical tone. Nothing more was heard from or concerning Ms Dyer on that issue.
It is nevertheless interesting to note that perhaps the two most prominent Israel supporters in the Parliament, Josh Frydenberg and Dave Sharma, lost their seats, or appear that they might have. Their successful opponents were both Climate 200 backed candidates, and both appear to have had unacceptable views on Israel. Wentworth candidate Allegra Spender, opposing Sharma, was criticised for inviting assistance in her campaign from anti-Israel advocate Blair Pelese. So too was Zoe Daniel, candidate for Goldstein, for signing an open letter accusing Israel of apartheid.
The author of this piece is not for one minute suggesting that this issue brought down the Morrison government. He is, however, suggesting, that many issues bring about such an eventuality, and in this election, this might just have been one such issue.
The Labor Party, and now government, must note this. The Australian public will not tolerate inaction on events such as the recent murder of the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Nor will the public accept the new Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, peddling the same old tranquiliser, on behalf of the government, “Australia supports a two-State solution, negotiated by the parties”. The Israeli government declares that there will never be a Palestinian state. So forget the drivel concerning negotiation, and act upon Labor Party rank and file resolutions taken at recent Party Conferences, that a future Labor government must recognise the State of Palestine on the pre-67 borders.
The Australian public wants action, including sanctions, and support for ICC prosecutions for war crimes.