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Everything Begins With Moral Indignation

The recent decision of the ALP Victorian State Branch about immediate recognition of Palestine has revealed a deep-seated changing alignment of power structures and decision-making within the party. Those changes do not bode well for Israel and the Australian Jewish community.

The Victorian decision, of which much has been written, was an alignment of the Left of the party with a majority on the Right associated with Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles.

Here are traditional friends of Israel – the Victorian ALP Right – voting FOR immediate recognition of a State of Palestine. It is noteworthy that Josh Burns, also of the Right faction, spoke against immediate recognition of Palestine.

It could be construed that the vote for Palestine was a consolation prize to the Left for leaving anti-AUKUS motions off the agenda. The negative public optics of a party brawl about AUKUS are more important than giving the Left a “win” on Palestine. Politics is at heart the art of trading positions and making compromises. And in this case the trade-off made on the day was “Yes” to Palestine for leaving AUKUS alone.

The flaw in this strategy is that the Left will ultimately flex its newly given majority muscle within Labor and soon enough win on both issues. It is about buying time for AUKUS.

Anti-AUKUS sentiment is surprisingly very high in Labor. I have personally been to branch meetings arguing in favour of AUKUS and the depth of opposition has been high. It is surprising because of the core reason AUKUS was born – the tense militarisation of the South China Sea and the weaponising of Australian trade by China.

Yet nowhere in Labor is there a debate about the malevolent role China has played in the region, the consequences this means for protection of our national interests, and the deeply disturbing grey-zone attacks China has undertaken against Australia. The AUKUS debate is about an inherent left-wing anti-Americanism and the cost of the submarines themselves.

A few years ago, during an ALP mission to Israel and the PA which I led, a very senior Labor person put it to me in these terms: the party has been infiltrated by the Chinese Communist Party. And some of the same people who intermediated the process of financing party coffers with Chinese money are also pro-Palestinian. In some cases, clearly antisemitic as well.

While many nations and political interest groups seek to influence the policy and direction of the ALP, and the Liberal Party for that matter, it is genuinely concerning for our country when a foreign power has used its financial influence in such a covert manner with objectives that are so openly contrary to Australia’s national interests. To not debate China’s rise and militarisation as a keystone of Australian defence and foreign policy, is to simply disengage with serious policy development at best, or act in support of, and promote a nation that has attacked this country through trade and cyber-activities at worst.

The NSW Right is where the China influence operation began, and as distinct from the Victorian Right, many in the NSW grouping have been trading away support for Israel for years now. It is also true that Israel has many friends in the NSW Right. It is important to understand that this faction is not monolithic. However, some decided that three federal seats with large Arab/Muslim populations would necessitate throwing Israel under the proverbial political bus in order to secure those votes for Labor.

As a Machiavellian political strategy, it can be understood in those terms. But it is the sometime viciousness of the anti-Israel position that is deeply concerning. For many, the debate is not about facts or logic. Those of us fighting for Israel in the Labor arena know the Israel–Palestine conundrum is way more an emotional engagement than a rational debate about options and choices.

For years, many of us in Labor have asked for the Jewish community’s support in battling the case for Israel, with little given. Time and again I have been told that there is little to no willingness to support those of us who believe in Israel inside the ALP. Indeed, those particular chickens have come home to roost!

Where does this leave things? The government’s leaders – viz., the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister – have made it clear that they do not want a debate on Israel–Palestine at the forthcoming August National ALP Conference. Foreign Minister Penny Wong has said that even with conference motions, the government, not the party, will decide exact timing of any decisions to be implemented.

But in Victoria, we saw the Left override the Premier’s desire to have nothing debated on Israel–Palestine. This may also happen at National Conference, in this case overriding the Prime Minister. The tensions this creates between the party and the leadership will be significant and not easily ignored. The hard question at the end of the day is: Will ALP leaders trade unilateral recognition of Palestine for no debate on AUKUS?

Our voices need to be heard. The beginning of everything lies in moral indignation. The practical outcome must be to organise.

Source : AJN