How Labor is failing Palestine

Labor has never been “good on Palestine”, and this is a fallacy that they project to win over Palestinian, Arab and Muslim voters

Penny Wong, the Labor Foreign Affairs minister, has been outwardly and vocally pro-Israel. In February this year, she tweeted on behalf of the Australian government that “we respect Israel’s right to defend itself,” as though an occupying force raiding and terrorising anti-colonial resistance, currently justified under international law, is somehow defensible. Her “both-sidedness” approach to a colonising military super-power backed by the US, and the resisting indigenous population, is a reflection of her and her party’s politics. Labor has never been “good on Palestine”, and this is a fallacy that they project to win over Palestinian, Arab and Muslim voters. But this facade has fallen; the illusion disillusioned. 

In the wake of 75 years since the catastrophic invasion of Palestine, Penny Wong, Chris Minns and other Labor figures celebrated the settler-colonial project that is “Israel” for “75 years since its foundation”. As Palestinians prepare to commemorate, share their family Nakba stories and mourn in truth-telling healing circles, Penny Wong decides to take a clear stance on behalf of the federal Labor Party, and thus on behalf of all of Australia, claiming that “Australia reaffirms our close and enduring friendship with the Israeli people.” This tweet, which came completely unprovoked, is a hard stance in support of the Israeli state, its apartheid regime and ongoing projects of settler-colonialism and ethnic cleansing. As such, it completely erases the oppression and continued anti-colonial resistance of Palestinians over the past 75 years. 

But attempts to erase Palestine  have not succeeded: Palestinians are louder and more organised than ever, building an international, unified movement both on the ground and across the world. You see, when Israel made over 750,000 Palestinians refugees, they expected those refugees, after a couple of generations, to forget the atrocities of the Nakba and that the newly formed state of Israel would only have to contain and control the Palestinians in the homeland. But actually, wherever Palestinians took root, whether that be in a refugee camp, in an Arab nation, or somewhere in the complicit West, we are proud of being Palestinian; we are proud of our existence — an existence which threatens the very foundations of the Israeli state which claims that our land was uninhabited. A community which, despite all attempts to wipe us out, continues to say: we are Palestinian, we belong to Palestine, and we demand our right to return home (under UN resolution 194). 

This is why, when Randwick Local Council decided to “celebrate 75 years of Israeli Independence” by flying the Israeli flag, Randwick locals, Palestinian and non-Palestinian alike, including pro-Palestine Jewish groups, took to the streets and to the council meeting to demand they reverse this decision. The initial motion to fly the Israeli flag was opposed by only the four Greens Councillors. All five Liberal, all five Labor and one Independent all voted in favour of flying an oppressor’s flag. The Greens recission motion failed as pro-Israel Labor, Liberal and Independents chose to celebrate the oppressive Israeli regime when they should have really been commemorating 75 years of colonial invasion. We tried to work with the local Labor party: we sent letters, requested meetings and prepared speeches for the council meeting. Alas, we were unsuccessful as the Zionist lobby had infiltrated the party too deeply: Labor politicians refused to meet with us, gave us short-handed replies and did not waver in their unabashed support for Israel. 

Why Palestinians keep voting Labor is a mystery to me, particularly when there is a major political party that is radically in support of Palestinian rights and liberation. 

Last month, the Australian Young Labor, the national body for Young Labor , adopted the IHRA working definition of antisemitism in their national conference. When I spoke to supposedly pro-Palestine Labor youth about this and demanded an explanation as to how they did not vote down the motion to adopt a definition of antisemitism which dangerously conflates criticism of Israel with racism, their (paraphrased) response was “oh well, we abstained from voting as we didn’t have the numbers to win.” The future of the Labor Party is dire when it comes to Palestine.

Chris Minns, the Premier of NSW, has himself delivered addresses at zionist conferences, aligning himself with the Zionist Federation of Australia and the Zionist Council of NSW.

The federal, state, and local Labor parties are all complicit in their support for the colonial state: their hands are bloodied with the deaths of over 100 Palestinians this year alone. This year has been one of the worst for our people – the terrorist state commands no respect nor “celebration” so long as it continues to colonise, occupy, murder, steal land, subjugate the indigenous population and grow the settlement project. The Labor party cannot claim they are ‘pro-Indigenous rights’ yet support the Israeli regime. They have deliberately chosen, time and time again, to stand on the side of the coloniser, not the colonised; the oppressor, not the oppressed. 

At what point will Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims finally decide to cut ties with this active player in the oppression of Palestinians?

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