SYDNEY (JTA) — A branch of Australia’s Labor Party is seeking to ban its members from participating in Jewish-sponsored trips to Israel, stirring criticism from a former national president and Jewish groups.
The motion will be raised at the New South Wales Labor conference in Sydney on Feb. 13-14. The conference will hear 39 resolutions focusing on the Israel-Palestine situation, compared with 17 dealing with other international matters.
Warren Mundine, Labor’s former national president, told The Australian newspaper this week that banning Labor politicians from visiting Israel “is illogical, verging on an anti-Semitic approach.” He said Israel is the only country that is the subject of proposed banned visits.
“What is the difference with this country?” Mundine, now the chairman of the prime minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, asked in The Australian. “The only difference is that they are Jewish, and I just find that sickening.”
Mundine said Labor members should be aware that Israel is “the only democracy in the region” and had “a parliament of Jewish, Arab, Christian and Muslim politicians.”
The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council and The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies organize tours to Israel for politicians and journalists.
Vic Alhadeff, CEO of the New South Wales Jewish board of directors, told JTA: “We have been running these trips for 25 years and they always include a visit to the West Bank, where the politicians are briefed by high-ranking Palestinian officials. We also take them to refugee camps. This ensures the integrity of the programs. The motion to ban politicians does not make sense. There should be more trips rather than less. The tours give participants an opportunity to assess the situation in the region for themselves. ”
Federal Labor lawmaker Michael Danby, who is Jewish, said Bob Carr, a former New South Wales premier and federal foreign minister, and New South Wales Labor parliamentarian Shaoquett Mosselmane “are maliciously pushing through these motions, pursuing fringe agendas at the risk of the reputation of NSW Labor.”
“I’m sure that the party will resist their destructive influence,” Danby said.
The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council responded to the proposals when they were first made public recently.
“The campaign against ALP members learning more about Israel through participation in visits which have financial support from other Australians is disingenuous and dishonest,” Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein said.