ALP position on Palestine can’t be whitewashed

ALP position on Palestine can’t be whitewashed

'There is no doubt that this commitment to recognition, now in the platform, will be used by its advocates to push for even further change'.

Penny Wong addressing the ALP National Conference last month. Photo: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
Penny Wong addressing the ALP National Conference last month. Photo: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

IT is clear that Liam Getreu (Labor’s resolution ‘doesn’t undermine support for Israel’ AJN online 08/04) has no understanding of what happened at the recent ALP national conference.

In his article he refers on seven occasions to the “resolution” on Israel–Palestine claiming that it is the same resolution carried at the previous 2018 conference and that “nothing has changed”.

Mr Getreu ignores the fact that this was not simply another resolution but a change to the ALP platform. He does not refer to the platform at all in his article. Under ALP rules the platform is binding on future ALP governments, resolutions are expressions only of conference.

Why did this change happen?

Firstly, this conference, due to COVID restrictions, was an online event rather than the usual gathering of hundreds of delegates, state and federal party leaders, MPs, party officials and observers. Consequently there was very little opportunity for the rigorous debate that usually occurs.

This is not a complaint just a statement of fact.

Secondly, supporters of the immediate recognition of a Palestinian state have been agitating for changes to ALP policy for years. One time “Labor Friend of Israel” Bob Carr has led the charge at previous NSW ALP conferences and actively and publicly campaigned for immediate recognition in many party forums.

Thirdly, the original draft platform, prepared for this conference did not include the previous 2018 resolution. It was slipped into the final draft at a meeting of the ALP national executive just prior to conference.

When it was discovered that it was no longer just a resolution but would be included in the platform many, including Michael Danby, sought to have the status quo restored. This was rejected by the relevant shadow ministers. We were told it was too late.

Attempts were then made to include other resolutions on a range of foreign policy issues, some non-contentious, into the platform. After all, why should calls for “recognition of Palestine as a priority” be elevated for inclusion in the platform but not other important issues such as the reunification of Cyprus, illegally occupied by Turkish armed forces since 1974?

We were told that other policy positions could not be added to the platform but would be considered only as resolutions.

I acknowledge that Penny Wong and other party leaders and Josh Burns MP have stated that there is no effective change of position and a future ALP government will not necessarily be bound by the change in the platform. This is reassuring and sincerely stated. They highlight the language of the old resolution and new platform where the platform now “calls on” recognition and “expects” that this be a priority. Penny Wong, Richard Marles, Josh Burns and others say this allows a future Labor government to decide independently what is the right thing to do on the day. I know and respect them and their longstanding support for Israel and the goal of a two-state solution.

Yet the question has to be asked: If there is no change then why was it elevated to the platform rather than remain as a policy resolution consistent with previous conferences? And now that it is in the platform why does it require such a tortuous explanation?

There is no doubt that this commitment to recognition, now in the platform, will be used by its advocates to push for even further change. The next ALP government will come under increasing and sustained pressure to immediately recognise a Palestinian state irrespective of the situation on the ground.

It may be a symbolic recognition but that doesn’t worry those who promote it.

Further, it will do absolutely nothing to assist in the process of establishing a lasting two-state solution.

Michael Forshaw is a former ALP senator for NSW, a former chair of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade and a former chair of the NSW ALP Australia & the World Policy Committee. To read Liam Getreu’s op ed, click here.

read more: