Party positions on the Question of Palestine

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September 2013

Dear Palestine Supporters,

On behalf of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, I wish to say a big thank-you to all of who contacted your local candidates to ask what position they hold regarding Australian government policy towards the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom.  Across the country, literally thousands of postcards and emails have been received by politicians of all parties signalling the breadth and depth of pro-Palestinian public concern in Australia.

The purpose of the campaign has not been to support any particular party or candidate.  Nevertheless, we are sending the following summary of the parties’ positions on Palestine so that our supporters can make an informed choice as to which party to support on Saturday.

Labor’s Position on Palestine

The position of the Australian Labor Party on Palestine can be found here.

Key points:

  • Labor supports the “legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to also live in peace and security within their own state.”
  • Last November, the Labor abstained from voting on the United Nations resolution to grant UN observer status to the Palestinian Authority.  The decision was seen as a compromise between Prime Minister Gillard, who wished to vote against the resolution, and the majority of the Labor caucus, who either favoured voting in favour or abstaining from the vote.
  • In July this year, Foreign Minister Bob Carr stated that “there is no Plan B, no alternative to 1967 borders with agreed land swaps and a Palestinian state with security guarantees for Israel.” and“The Palestinians must abide by the terms of the Gaza ceasefire of November 2012 and end all rocket attacks on southern Israel. Israel must stop creating new settlements in the Palestinian territories.”

The Coalition Position on Palestine

The position of the Liberal and National Parties on Palestine can be found here.

Key points:

  • Last November the Coalition expressed “disappointment” that the Australian government had abstained from the United Nations resolution to grant UN observer status to the Palestinian Authority on the grounds that “The Coalition believes Australia should vote against this bid as we do not believe that this is the path to peace and reconciliation between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. Our concern is that the drive for greater recognition at the United Nations is an attempt by Palestinian leaders to enable them to bring action against Israel through the international courts”…“It also risks conferring increased international status on the militant group Hamas which governs Gaza.”
  • In an interview for The Guardian in June, the Coalition’s Foreign Policy Spokeswoman Julie Bishop stated that Australia would “again become a strong supporter of Israel.”
  • On 28 August, The Australian reported that: “Tony Abbott is committed to upgrading relations with Israel as part of a suite of new policies on the Middle East” and “A Coalition government would also step-up opposition to the ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’ campaign against Israel, withholding taxpayer funds from any organisation that actively backed the movement.” also that “The Coalition will also seek fresh advice from ASIO on the question of banning the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas”

Green Position on Palestine

The position of the Australian Greens on Palestine can be found here.

Key points:

  • “The Australian Greens welcomed the recent decision of the United Nations General Assembly to grant Palestine non-member observer status and genuinely hope that this new legal standing enables the preconditions for a lasting peaceful negotiation for Palestinian statehood.”
  • “We have seen both the Government and the Opposition vote against the Greens’ insistence that Palestinian people have rights – not just aspirations, alongside the people of Israel. We have seen them refuse to acknowledge the devastating harm from Israel’s continued bombing, blockades and settlement encroachments while they only acknowledge the terrible carnage of Palestinian rocket attacks on the citizens of Israel.”

Summary

While the Greens have explicitly supported the United Nations’ resolution to grant non-member observer status to the Palestinian Authority, the ALP’s abstention on the issue represents deep divisions within the party regarding the Palestinian issue.  Unfortunately, no such divisions are evident regarding the Coalition’s position on Palestine.  Its intention to oppose Palestinian admission to the UN General Assembly would place Australia among a tiny minority of countries (led by the United States and Israel) against the overwhelming majority of the international community.

Moreover, the Coalition’s aggressive policy towards the peaceful campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against institutions associated with Israel’s occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories seems to be animated by a more or less open hostility towards any practical opposition to Israel’s ongoing occupation and colonisation of Palestine, a position underlined by Julie Bishop’s insistence that under a Coalition government Australia would “again become a strong supporter of Israel.”

Regarding Labor’s position, Foreign Minister Carr’s explicit endorsement of the 1967 border as the basis of the border between Israel and a future Palestinian state (a position rejected by Israel) is to be welcomed.  Yet Labor’s abstention regarding the granting of non-member observer status to the United Nations, while superior to that of the Coalition, clearly falls short of supporting the resolution.

The Greens insistence that the Australia should support the rights and not just the “aspirations” of the Palestinian people is to be welcomed.  Moreover, their consistent opposition to Israel’s bombing and blockade of Gaza and Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem contrast with the reticence of both major parties in addressing these issues.

Once again, I wish to thank all of you who participated in our 2013 I Support Palestine and I Vote campaign.

Bishop George Browning
President, Australia Palestine Advocacy Network
September 2013