A NEW Labor group has been established with the aim of restoring balance in the party on Israel and the Middle East, The AJN can exclusively reveal.
The Labor Israel Action Committee, which was formed in Sydney last week, aims to promote “continuing friendship with Israel and further exchange in areas such as science, technology, environment, commerce and culture”, and to promote the “fraternal relationship between the ALP and the Israeli Labor Party”.
It also aims to promote “friendship and understanding with the Australian Jewish community”, and to support and promote the ALP’s “consistent and long-standing policy for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
The AJN understands the committee, which comprises 62 members, was formed to counter internal efforts by Bob Carr and Shaoquett Moselmane, both known for their hardline anti-Israel views.
The group is headed up by state co-patrons Walt Secord and Ron Hoenig, and federal co-patrons Dr Mike Kelly and Senator Deb O’Neill.
Speaking at the group’s formation meeting, Secord, deputy chair of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel, noted that at a recent party conference, there were more than 30 motions on Israel.
“In my view, the discussion within the ALP lacks balance. And that is why it is vital that we set up tonight’s group,” he said.
“Tonight is about taking steps towards and restoring balance in the Labor Party on Israel and the Middle East. It is important that we have a reasoned debate.”
Hoenig told The AJN this week: “As the state patron, my goal is to ensure that I am a strong voice on these issues, and to ensure there is balance when discussing these matters.”
Kelly, the Member for Eden-Monaro, told The AJN that with misreporting and misinformation on Israel, the objective of the group is to “make sure that we’re fully informed in our discussion on these issues” and ensuring there is a “better understanding of the facts”.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff said the committee provides “an important mechanism for the party to discuss policy on Israel and other matters of importance”.
“It’s a positive initiative and another indication by the many friends of the community within Labor who wish to enhance the relationship,” he said.
Last week’s inaugural meeting was attended by former Senator Michael Forshaw, Australia-Israel Labor Dialogue’s Greg Holland, former MP for Lowe Mary Easson, former NSW Treasurer Eric Roozendaal, and Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council’s Jeremy Jones, who addressed members.