• AILD Innovation Mission 2016

    We would like to extend you an invitation to join the AILD Labor Innovation Mission to Israel And Palestine 4-8 December 2016.

    Israel is second only to Silicon Valley in the number of startups and successful listings of startup companies. Our Mission is designed to find answers to how this is so and bring these lessons back to Australia.

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  • UK Labour’s Catastrophic Israel Stance

    The UK Jewish Community has had an historically out-sized influence on many aspects of British life. Their influence has been felt in Philanthropy, Science, Medicine, the Arts, Economic life, Social Welfare and Politics. The experience of this community of around 260,000 people mirrors the experiences of many other Western Jewish communities, and nonetheless in voting patterns.
    Western Jews have historically voted liberal left-of-centre – Labor in the UK and Australia, Democrat in the US. As refugees with a profound sense of Jewish values understanding and supporting the underclass, voting for the Left has been the status quo.
    With voting support comes financial support. And while the Jewish communities have successfully integrated into the states of the West, that financial support for political parties has been transparent and significant.
    But in recent years, that status quo is no longer existent with a large shift to the Right. And for the first time in UK history, the Jews of Britain have overwhelmingly voted Conservative.
    The central reason is Ed Milliband’s unilateral stances on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and a clear move of position away from Israel toward unilateral declaration of a future Palestinian state.
    For a community living under threat of increased anti-semitism, mirroring Israel’s increasing threat from terrorism, British Jews are very, very sensitive to movements in foreign policy. Unilateralism has proven to be a dead-end in the Middle East, and Ed Milliband’s distancing from the Jewish community has paid a heavy price, as Labor Shadow Cabinet member Michael Dugher MP argues.
    He says the price paid was not only unnecessary, and policy on Israel should be consciously reversed. He argues that a generally supportive and influential constituency should be not be cast aside for political pursuits that are disadvantageous to Labor.
    The lessons for the ALP cannot be be more relevant.
  • Israel’s Labor Party Sends Letter Of Thanks

    On the 20th of April 2015, Secretary General MK Hilik Bar and Chairperson of Israel’s Labor Party MK Isaac Herzog sent the following letter the the members of the AILD delegation during the election.


    You can download  and see the letter in full by clicking Thank You to Australian Delegation


    Download the PDF file .

  • AILD BACKGROUNDER: The 2015 Israel Election

    It certainly surprised many in Israel and the global commentariat that current Israeli Prime Minister and leader of the right-wing Likud party, Bibi Netenyahu, won the recent Israeli Election, and with the 6-seat margin over the Labor-dominated Opposition Zionist Camp unity group.
    The significance of the win resonates strongly within a number of overlapping circles of interest: Israeli domestic politics and constituencies, the Palestinian Authority and the future of the West Bank, the United States, the European relationship with Israel, the United Nations, the war against ISIS, the Sunni alliance of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and even Australia.
    Where else but with Israel does the democratic ballot of a 7 million person electorate reverberate so loudly in corridors of so many countries and elites?
    In a Knesset (Parliament) of 120 seats, Likud won 30 mandates, Labor’s unity-ticket with Hatnua Zionist Camp won 24, and the third placed Arab-based Joint List winning 13.
    The polls had been running the Labor-Zionist Camp ahead of Likud for weeks before the election. Television exit polls had even reported a neck-and-neck struggle of 24 seats each to Likud and Labor.

    Israeli 2015 Votes Stay Within Blocs

    Where did Likud’s extra votes derive from? Not from Labor, which had grown its own mandates by 3, but from other right-wing parties, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman’s Russian community based Yisrael Beteinu dramatically falling from 15 to 6 seats, and settler-based party Habayit Hayehudi led by Naphtali Bennett also falling from 11 to 8 seats. At the same time, a third new centre-right party, Kulano, led by ex-Likudnik Moshe Kahalon, grabbed a swag of 10 seats.
    In a word, the right aggregated around Likud, specifically, Bibi Netanyahu as Prime Minister following a last-minute fear campaign that shocked Israel and will continue to reverberate for months if not years ahead.
    It is now well known that Bibi issued 2 dramatic announcements 48 hours before the vote; the first was to agree to a reporter’s statement that a Palestinian State would not occur on Bibi’s watch, to which he replied, “Indeed”. This was clearly interpreted as precluding the establishment of such a state.
    The second was a Facebook video clip and sms texts to supporters that “the Arabs were voting in droves” and this pulled a huge number of votes from other right-wing parties into Likud.
    As a journalist reported, “people knew that Bibi had let Israel down on domestic cost-of-living and social issues, but were too scared in the end to vote against him”.
    And in the background, running like a growing infection in the anxious psyche of Israel, was the confrontation with President Obama.
    While it is true that polls had the majority of Israelis disapproving of Bibi’s speech to Congress taking the White House to task for the forthcoming deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions, there is no doubt that the Israeli public are genuinely concerned at Obama’s changing relationship with the region (a policy of withdrawal), and his attitude to Iran.
    From the Israeli perspective, they see Iran as Hamas’s funders and armers, Iran proxy Hexbollah expanding its threat to Israel on the Northern borders from Lebanon through southern Syria, Iraq under Iranian domination, Yemen falling under Iranian control, and through all of this Shiite ambition and expansion, the development of nuclear weapons. To the Israeli’s, and for that matter Egypt, Saudi and the rest of the Sunni world, the Obama deal with Iran is not a deal between 2 pacific states; it is between America – once the central guarantor of international peace and security – and a regime dedicated to religious and territorial Empire through apocalyptic violence.
    Bibi played to these multiple fears as ‘Mr Security’, and did so dividing Israeli society from within, and the international community from without.
    For Labor, the singular challenge remains: Labor has only won Government twice since 1977 and both times their candidate for Prime Minister was an Israel Defence Force Chief of Staff (Yitzchak Rabin and Ehud Barak).
    The Israeli electorate’s need for Labor to prove it’s security credentials is axiomatic post-Oslo. It is a widely held given of Israeli society that the dividend of the failed Oslo peace process was the terrible suicide bombings and random terror of the second Intifada unleashed by Rabin’s “partner for peace”, Yasir Arafat. Those who lived through those very difficult days have not yet fully forgiven Labor, and many who had voted Labor have moved to the political centre.
    Israel’s centre, which recorded dramatic growth last time through the virgin election of the Yesh Atid party, led by ex-TV personality, Yair Lapid, who served as Bibi’s Finance Minister until sacked late last year precipitating this election, dropped from 19 to 11 seats. Yet the new right-of-centre Kulano attained 10 seats. The total Centre is 21 seats – 28% of the total Knesset.
    Social issues – the high cost of housing and dramatically growing inequality of wealth and opportunity – run as an electric current through the Israeli electorate, and that is the reason why the polls kept focusing on a possible Labor-Centre coalition win.
    But given Bibi’s harpooning of anything else but the anxiety of existential security fears, and playing the ‘race’ card targeting the Arab population, ensured the electorate gave Likud a surprise victory and increased mandate.
    What does this mean for the next Government of Israel, and for Israel as a whole? Key trends are already apparent.
    Bibi has been back-tracking as fast as he can on his election comments regarding the Palestinian State and Arab voting patterns. Still, those who have no truck with Bibi are happily beating him around the ears, and by extension, putting more pressure on Israel to do a deal with the Palestinians or have 1 imposed. President Obama has already flagged a “review” in policy toward Israel.
    No matter what the Israeli electorate think about the Palestinians and Settlements (with the majority of Israelis consistently saying they would trade settlements and withdrawal for real peace and an end of conflict with the Palestinians), it is a sine qua non of international politics that the Israel-Palestine conflict must be resolved for moral and geo-political reasons. Even more so, the conflict must be resolved for Israel’s own benefit if it wishes to stay both a Jewish and Democratic state. And it is feared within Israel that the Obama White House accord with the rest of the world will mean the withdrawal of the US veto when it comes to unilateral pro-Palestine declarations at the UN Security Council.
    On the other hand, a recent infographic by US PAC J-Street shows clearly the overwhelming support for a 2-State solution in the new Knesset. This fact is often overlooked by those who toss about canards such as “Israel is Apartheid”. The best guide to the essential nature of Israel is in the little known fact that the head of the Central Electoral Commission of Israel is an Arab citizen,

    The discourse in Israel is clear: solve our deep-seated and existential security concerns (and after 12 wars, 2 Intifadas, and multiple random bombings, stabbings, lynchings and car attacks that fear is well grounded), and we will do the deal with the Palestinians and withdraw along the lines of the Clinton Parameters.
    In the meantime, Israeli democracy has proved again it’s robustness amidst the tumultuous Arab Winter that continues to engulf the Region. After all, the head of Israel’s Central Elections Committee is a Justice from Israel’s High Court – Salim Joubran, an Arab Citizen.


    20th Knesset 2 State Solution Support

  • Peter Baldwin Letter ‘The Gaza conflict 2014′

    unnamed (1)Peter Baldwin was the ALP member for the House of Representatives seat of Sydney between 1983 and 1998. Following a dinner hosted by the Blackheath Philosophy Forum on 26 July 2014, the chair Peter Baldwin and speaker Peter Slezak disagreed about the recent conflict between Hamas and Israel. Peter Baldwin’s take on it can be found by clicking on the following link. The letter makes most interesting reading. Peter Slezak will respond in due course.



  • Why I Could Not Support Bob Carr’s Middle East Resolution by Michael Easson

    At the NSW Labor Conference I spoke in opposition to a motion moved by Bob Carr concerning the Israel-Palestinian Peace Process. The motion lacked balance, was loosely and inappropriately worded, and seemed to equate Israel with Hamas.

    In 1977 as a university student, under the tutelage of Bob Carr, I joined Labor Friends of Israel which Carr set up to fight for a social democratic defence of Israel. It was then I learned that any true friend of Israel is a friend of Palestine and a true friend of Palestine is a friend of Israel.

    There is a long-standing NSW ALP tradition of support for Israel. Whatever my disagreements with the current government of Israel, that case remains impressively persuasive and strong. In contrast, Bob argues that “Israel has changed” and that their handling of the Palestinian issue is such that a hostile perspective is merited. I disagree.

    With the 50th anniversary of the 1967 War approaching and the conquest of the Jordanian-administered West Bank, it is time to redouble every effort to strive for what nearly everyone in the Australian Labor Party believes in, namely a two-state solution. This is something to be achieved through negotiation, compromise, and a genuine spirit of reconciliation. The now stalled peace initiative by US Secretary of State John Kerry and similar efforts by the Quartet of organisations led by Tony Blair are aimed at coaxing all sides to reach an agreement for a final settlement.

    The Quartet, set up in 2002, consists of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, and Russia. Its mandate is to help mediate Middle East peace negotiations and to support Palestinian economic development and institution-building in preparation for eventual statehood.

    We are all appalled by the renewed conflict in Gaza. Many more deaths would have occurred if any of the several thousand Hamas rockets fired at Israel were more successfully targeted. Hamas is a terrorist organisation and recognised as such by Australia’s government. Hamas started the current conflict by firing rockets at the general Israeli population (not military targets) and with its operatives murdering three Israeli teenagers hitch-hiking a lift home from the West Bank. Hatred of Jews on religious grounds by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, together with a refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist as a country, makes peace in Palestine impossible.

    Fanatics on all sides, including the extremist settlers now under arrest who burnt a Palestinian youth to death in “revenge”, need to be relentlessly fought against. Those settlers in Israel who actively believe, on religious grounds, that all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is Israel’s patrimony remain a serious to Israel’s national security, not just peace with the Palestinians.


    As every word in this debate – particularly at party Conferences – is loaded, the attention to carefully crafting a sensible position is essential.




    Bob Carr’s Motion

    MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS – Resolution adopted at NSW Annual Conference

    1. Deploring the tragic conflict in Gaza, Conference supports an end to rocket attacks by Hamas and an end to Israeli incursions, which have led to the deaths of innocent civilians.


    1. ALP Conference applauds the last Labor government for its commitment to a two-state solution in the Middle East and specifically:

    -          voting to enhance Palestinian status in the General Assembly;

    -          restating the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is occupied territory;

    -          opposing Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land; and

    -          joining the world community in branding settlements illegal under international law.


    1. NSW Labor recognises a Middle East peace will only be won with the establishment of a Palestinian state.


    1. The state of Palestine should be based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps and with security guarantees for itself and Israel.


    1. NSW Labor welcomes the decision of the Palestinian Authority to commit to a demilitarised Palestine with the presence of international peacekeepers, including US forces.


    1. If, however, there is no progress to a two state solution, and Israel continues to build and expand settlements, a future Labor Government will consult like-minded nations towards recognition of the Palestinian state.


    Editor’s note: numbers have been inserted for ease of reference.


    Paragraph 1 is uncontroversial though it is strange that there is no further reference to Hamas and certainly none to its hateful Charter which refuses to recognise Israel, calls for its elimination, and declares: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” The Charter thunders on: “The initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.”

    Paragraph 2 is problematic. The fact is Australia abstained (rather than voted against as Julia Gillard wanted) and did not vote for the UN resolutions enhancing Palestinian status in 2012.

    On settlements, everyone except the respective extremists accepts that there will need to be land swaps as part of an international peace settlement. Until a comprehensive agreement is reached, the long standing position of Australia, along with nearly every other country, is that any acquisition of land by Israel will not be recognised until a final, binding settlement is reached with the Palestinian National Authority.

    This body is more commonly called the Palestinian Authority , the interim self-government body established in 1994 to rule the emerging Palestinian autonomous regions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a part of the peace agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the multi-party body formed in 1964 to fight for an independent Palestinian state.

    Secret meetings held in Norway in 1993 between the PLO and Israel led to the signing of the historic Declaration of Principles, the Oslo Accords, in which the two sides agreed to mutual recognition and terms whereby governing functions in Palestine undertaken by Israel since the Arab-Israeli war of 1967 would be progressively handed over to a Palestinian council. The first intifada - an Arabic word literally meaning “shaking off”, in this instance, involving violent resistance – raged from late 1987 to 1993. It ended with what came to be known as the Oslo process, where both sides were to negotiate a permanent peace treaty to settle on the final status of the territories. The agreements called for the PA to take control over most of the occupied lands with security resting with the Palestinian police, although Israelis would be guaranteed freedom of movement.

    Several militant Islamic groups, such as Hamas, denounced the Oslo Accords and have never been reconciled to this peace process. A return to the exact “1967 borders” is a position no one is arguing for. Not among the Israelis, the Palestinian Authority, the Americans, the Europeans. Israel, including the Israeli Labor Party, has long called for an adjustment to borders broadly along the “Green Line” of the 1949 truce agreements. The name of the border is a reference to the green ink used at the time to draw the armistice line on the map while the talks were going on between Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.

    Unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council in the aftermath of the Six-Day War of 1967, UN resolution 242 refers in the preamble to the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”. Those words have been overwhelmingly interpreted to mean that any annexation or settlement of the areas captured by Israel in 1967 would be illegal. Israel has disputed this interpretation. The UK government routinely refers to all settlements as “illegal settlements” whereas the United States calls them contrary to international law.

    In both cases, it is clear that the language used is to encourage a final, binding settlement.  In every negotiation land swaps are discussed. The Arab League in April 2013 proposed for the first time “mutual and minor” land swaps as a central feature of renewed negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

    In 1967 East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel. Its Arab inhabitants were given permanent residency and the prospect of citizenship. Domestically, the status of East Jerusalem as part of Israel was further entrenched by the 1980 Jerusalem Law declaring Jerusalem the eternal capital of the Jewish people. The declaration has not been internationally recognised. UN Security Council Resolution 478 adopted on 20 August 1980 declared the Israeli law null and void.

    An Israeli capital in Jerusalem and a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem is the position endorsed by most peace advocates, including the Americans and European foreign ministers.

    On 22 July 2014 in Brussels the European Union Council of Foreign Affairs Ministers resolved to support Israel’s right to defend itself, condemned Hamas and “call[ed] on Israel to halt continued settlement expansion, including East Jerusalem, especially in sensitive areas such as Har Homa, Givat Hamatos and E1”. E1 is the East 1 area located adjacent to East Jerusalem in the West Bank.

    EU ministers honed in on the real fault-line in Israeli politics: those who support massive settlements beyond the Green Line, including East Jerusalem and areas deep inside Palestinian Authority territory such as Har Homa, Givat Hamatos and E1. The EU resolution does not emphasise the concept of all settlements as “illegal”. It focuses attention on those settlements Israel must surrender in a final peace process – and should now dismantle.

    As for paragraph 3, I prefer “complete” rather than “won” for the reason that I expect a freely negotiated peace is the means to that end.

    I agree with paragraph 4. Paragraph 5 praises the Palestinian Authority. If only those words were true, exactly in the way stated. This, however, is not an agreed position within the Palestinian Authority, though the Authority certainly has talked about a demilitarised zone. Israel’s position has been to oppose any Palestinian Army in an independent Palestine.

    At the July 2000 Camp David summit, hosted by US President Bill Clinton with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, the Palestinians indicated that they would be willing to accept major constraints on the “right” to have their own military force. As we know from Lebanon with Hezbollah, and Gaza with Hamas, para-military forces outside the control of a state’s government are the problem.

    In 2013 Mahmoud Abbas commented that in any peace settlement, the Palestinian state would consider being demilitarised. During negotiations with former Prime Ministers Barak and Ehud Olmert in 2000 and 2007 respectively, there was an in-principle understanding between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators to post international and American soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza for an unspecified period to help maintain security.

    It is a huge stretch to say that this has been “agreed” as Barak’s proposals were rejected and Olmert’s abandoned, though he persevered in negotiations with Abbas. In Olmert’s case, he was left stranded after a collapse in Palestine governance arrangements. Since 2007 the Palestinians were politically and administratively split into a Hamas “government” ruling Gaza, which favoured on-going war with Israel, and a Fatah administration controlling the PA, but its authority only effectively covering the West Bank. Fatah, founded by Arafat, is the leading political party of the PLO.

    Paragraph 6 is totally irresponsible. This last, loosely worded paragraph implies that if settlements continue – even if Hamas sticks to its guns with its current absolutist Charter and continues attacking Israelis – the ALP would unilaterally recognise Palestine. The resolution blithely ignores both what that means on the ground and ethically.

    Some Wider Issues

    I was a regular at Annual Conference for my first 21 years of membership. Not so in the last 20. I was surprised at how few foreign policy resolutions were sent in by party units for consideration by the 2014 Conference. There was nothing about Syria’s devastating civil war, nor the brutal conquests by the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – including the massacre of religious opponents, persecution of the historic, remnant Christian communities, and the introduction of sharia law including the mandatory circumcision of girls by excision of the clitoris. Nor anything about conflicts and outrages against human rights in Nigeria, Ukraine, North Korea, Eritrea, Sudan and a host of trouble spots. No doubt this is partly a reflection of the long term decline of the vibrancy of ALP branches, a theme this Newsletter has commendably addressed over many years.

    At this year’s Conference, there was just one resolution on ANZUS, several on Julian Assange, and 33 on Israeli settlements and Palestine.

    On the Saturday afternoon of the Conference it was good to see resolutions moved from the floor concerning cuts in the foreign aid budget, the need for free elections in Fiji, slack security at airports. They were in addition to Carr’s resolution.

    There is obviously going to be a campaign led by Carr into the National Conference. As he stated to Arab Friends of Labor at the Sunday fringe event – “next step, Federal Conference”.

    So long as Hamas is a significant force in Gaza and Palestine generally, so long as their Charter calls for the destruction of Israel, so long as they express a religious hatred for all Jews, and so long as their deeds continue to match their words, there can be no peace. Any motion that does not recognise this is unbalanced.

    There is an intra-Palestinian political context to the current fighting. When in April 2014 Hamas agreed to join a unified government of Palestine, along with the PA leadership, there was agreement to elections supervised by Egypt within six months – three months from now. In Gaza, Hamas was unable to pay its bureaucracy – as Egypt no longer provided funds. The popularity of Hamas in Gaza was collapsing. On the West Bank, support according to opinion polls was in the low teens.

    Cornered and facing electoral oblivion, Hamas ramped up its rocket attacks on Israel and provoked renewed war in Gaza. Its support has risen, however temporarily, but it still violently suppresses peaceful demonstrations opposing its rule. Funding has been gained from Qatar and indirectly through Iran. Abbas’ long term aim to present a moderate, reasonable face to the world, to be a true peace partner for Israel, is drastically undermined. Not recognising Hamas’ cynical strategy for what it is is to be wilfully blind.

    Unsuccessfully I privately pleaded for the resolution to be amended. It should have reiterated long standing Labor policy of support for two states, side by side. UN Resolution 242 proposes each state has “the right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force”. To achieve this objective Hamas has to accept Israel’s right to exist. Both sides need to negotiate for peace and reach an agreement based on respect for human rights and a comprehensive settlement.

    Rejection of a Bill Clinton initiative

    One of the most tragic moments in the whole conflict was the rejection by Arafat of the Clinton Plan, endorsed by Barak, put forward in the dying days of Clinton’s Presidency at a White House Summit from December 19th to 23rd 2000 when the three leaders met to consider a final settlement proposal.

    The Plan offered the Palestinians 97 percent of the West Bank (either 96 percent of the West Bank and 1 percent from Israel proper or 94 percent from the West Bank and 3 percent from Israel proper), with no cantons, full control of the Gaza Strip, with a land-link between the two. Israel would have withdrawn from 63 settlements as a result.

    In exchange for the three percent annexation of the West Bank, Israel would increase the size of the Gaza territory by roughly a third. Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem would become the capital of the new state, refugees would have the right of return to the Palestinian state and would receive reparations from a US$30 billion international fund collected to compensate them. The Palestinians would maintain control over their holy places, and would be given desalinisation plants to ensure adequate water.

    Arafat had to concede Israeli sovereignty over only the parts of the Western Wall religiously significant to Jews (that is, not the entire Temple Mount) plus three early-warning stations in the Jordan valley. Israel was going to withdraw from the warning stations after six years. Abbas, then leading the negotiations wanted to accept but, to the anger of Clinton, Arafat overruled him. Renewed violence erupted back home.

    Clinton’s term as President finished the next month, Barak was heavily defeated by Ariel Sharon in the February 2001 Israeli elections, Arafat died in 2004.  The second intifada started in September 2000 and only ended in February 2005, when President Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon agreed to stop all acts of violence against Israelis and Palestinians and reaffirmed their commitment to the road map for peace.

    In August-September 2005 the Israelis unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and dismantled the settlements there. Sharon, who had been a hawk, left Likud in 2005 and formed Kadima, the party of renewal, attracting a number of former leading lights in Labor. A stroke completely incapacitated him in early January 2006. His successor as Prime Minister, Olmert, was defeated in 2009. Tellingly, in 2001 and 2009, the Israeli Right returned to office after peace proposals by moderate Israeli leaders were spurned by the Palestine Authority.

    The present round of Gaza fighting undermines Abbas’ attempt to realise his long sought ambition to conclude the conflict and for Palestine to become a normal state. The fighting adds unpredictable volatility to the restarting of the peace process.

    Israel should do more in supporting moderate Palestinian representatives. Given unbridled anti-Jewish propaganda in the Gaza and the West Bank – cartoons and children’s television show the joy of murdering Jews – there are grounds for wondering if the Palestinian leaders, many of whom say one thing in English and another in Arabic, seriously believe in peace and a two-state solution and are  capable of delivering this.

    As Yitzak Rabin famously said: you make peace with your enemies, not your friends.

    The extremists in Israel who do not respect Palestinian rights are a minority. Most Israelis support a two-state solution. Hamas’ intention is to radicalise Palestinians as well as Israelis. Cool heads are needed.

    Despite the presence in the Israeli Cabinet of Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home Party and other rightist groupings in favour of unilateral annexation of the West Bank, the Israeli political establishment, including the current Prime Minister, overwhelmingly favour a two-State solution (albeit to varying degrees). Putting Carr’s position at its most generous, he seems to believe the whole world is being hoaxed by the far right in Israel.

    Israel’s proportional representation system has a threshold quota of 3.25 per cent for election to the Knesset. PR encourages the formation of tiny parties and militates against the larger parties forming coalitions within themselves and gaining outright majorities. All governments since the collapse of the Labor establishment in the late 1970s have been diverse coalitions. As the current Right coalition includes parties favouring Greater Israel settlements, this means that such elements hold disproportionate sway in Israeli politics. Hence the steady advance of certain settlements beyond the Green Line.

    Most Israelis hold to the view that settlements significantly inside Palestinian territory should be given back. Less than ten percent of settlements are in that category. Most settlers are not prone to psychotic mob violence. The EU publishes lists of settlements well beyond the Green Line that should be dismantled. This is undoubtedly a vexed and complicated issue with frustrations sometimes boiling over. So Carr is right to highlight that a permissive settlements policy is an important grievance.

    But that is not the only or most important issue in the current conflict. The most significant, fundamental problem remains implacable hostility to the very existence of Israel by wide sections of Palestinian society and genocidal hatred of Jews by a bigoted minority of Palestinians. When Hamas activists sing “from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea, Palestine will be free,” what they mean is free of Jews.

    The bind we are all in is that Hamas is locked in a deadly battle for leadership of the Palestinian people, ignoring calls from Egypt and the Palestinian Authority in recent weeks for ceasefires. They desperately want to kill as many Jews as possible. When they order their people in Gaza not to leave their homes, when they use civilians as human shields, when they hide weapons in and beside buildings such as schools and UN facilities, they are hoping that casualties of women and children will undermine international support for Israel and galvanise support for Hamas at home.

    Mistakes are made in war and I sometimes wish Israel would show greater public sorrow when that happens. But the reader of this Newsletter should make no mistake. This is Hamas’ war and Israel is defending itself.

    No responsible former Australian Foreign Minister should allow personal emotions and pent up rage against what he calls “the Melbourne Jewish Lobby” to cause him to miss the big picture. Labor should not be party to an old and recurring feature of Palestine-Israeli relations: never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

    Although the Carr motion was overwhelmingly carried on the voices, there were many voices raised against when a vote was called for. It is false to assert, as did some media, that the motion was carried unanimously.

    Michael Easson studied international politics under Owen Harries at the University of NSW. In 1977 he joined Labor Friends of Israel, was Secretary or President of the NSW ALP Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee (1977-85), and served on the ACTU’s International Affairs Committee (1981-94). In 2008 he was a founding member of what is now known as the Australia-Israel-United Kingdom Leadership Dialogue. 

    Michael Easson’s article about Bob Carr’s views first appeared in the ALP Southern Highlands Branch Newsletter – no.208 (August 2014)

  • Labor Must Not Turn Its Back on Israel

    image002Michael Easson, Labor stalwart and former Secretary of Unions NSW argues why the ALP in NSW should not dump its traditional support for the only democracy in the Middle East.

    Read it here: Labor Must Not Turn Its Back on Israel


    I have stood at the crest of Sderot, I have looked across the border – out to Beit Hanoun and the cities in Gaza beyond it – and I have witnessed failure.

    It’s sad. There are 1.8 million men, women and children in Gaza. They have a right to prosperity and peace. Their leaders, in Hamas, have a responsibility to deliver it.

    They haven’t done that. They haven’t even tried. Because Hamas does not care for progress of its people.

    They have consigned them all to life in a factory of terror, because they hate their neighbours’ children more than they love their own.

    Half a million Israelis live, learn and work in the shadow of this nightmare.

    I abhor the loss of life on either side of the border, because all innocent lives are equal, especially in death.

    But I know this. The war will end tomorrow, if Hamas stops attacking; and the Jewish State will end tomorrow, if Israel stops defending.

    My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Israel. They just want to live an ordinary life, where their kids are safe and their future is certain.

    My thoughts and prayers are with Jewish families in Australia, some of whom have faced discrimination of the type that is unthinkable and utterly intolerable.

    And my thoughts and prayers are with the mothers and children of Gaza. They have been betrayed by a generation of men who, in trying to destroy another country, have destroyed their own.

    I condemn the actions of Hamas. I pity the loss of life. I pray for peace.



    Leader of the Opposition

  • Interview with The Hon Daniel Andrews MP

    Victorian Opposition Leader and Leader of the Victorian Labor Party, Daniel Andrews MLA, recently spoke to Adam Slonim and Ben Maxfield of AILD about his visit to Israel in December 2013.

    What was your motivation for visiting Israel?image001

    It is not enough to learn about Israel from a book. You have to go there. Until I saw, with my own eyes, the modern and progressive society that Israelis have summoned from the sands of a desert, I knew I would never truly understand this land and its people. That’s why I wanted to go.

    I was to lead a delegation to Israel in April last year, but a by-election in Victoria made it impossible and Labor’s Deputy Leader, James Merlino, filled my place. I made a commitment to Colin Rubenstein, AIJAC’s Executive Director, that I would go to Israel before the year’s end and it was a privilege to finally fly into Ben Gurion with my wife in December 2013.

    What were the trip highlights?

    The security briefings were powerful and important and the cultural experience was profound. But my highlight was our focus on health, research, agriculture and technology. This is where Israel is changing the world.

    We’ve witnessed Israel’s transformation from an insular economy to a free, open and innovative society – a place built on endeavour and courage. Israel, in a word, is bold. The culture demands risk. Even if you fail, you have contributed to the vast bulk of human knowledge. That’s the untold story. That’s the wonder of Israel.

    We saw Australian waxflowers blooming in the middle of the Western Negev, and being sent back to Australia. We visited the Weizmann Institute. We spent a day at Hadassah and met paediatric geneticists leading ground-breaking research – finding cures for diseases that don’t even have a name.

    It was breathtaking but it was also confronting. We learnt that the entire Hadassah campus has been replicated underground. There’s always that reminder.

    We were at the Western Wall on Friday, and we could hear the church bells and the call to prayer call amid the solemn hours of Shabbat. It’s like nowhere else in the world.

    We also visited Sderot, a small city on the border of Gaza. I met a young woman there and I asked her what life was like. She said, ‘my reality is a rocket reality’. That’s all she’s ever known.

    What do you think of the overall political situation?

    We’ve seen people in the international community try and pressure Israel to fast-track a genuine resolution to meet tight and arbitrary timeframes. I don’t agree with that. There are no timelines in a timeless conflict.

    What do you take away from your trip that assists the relationship between Victoria & Israel?

    Our missions need to find genuine partnerships, not just partners for trade. They shouldn’t be purely transactional in nature. We shouldn’t approach Israel one deal at a time. Our friendship is more enduring than that. A partnership is a long-term venture.

    Like Israel, Victoria has a natural advantage in medical research and design. We’re a similar size. We’re thinking economies. We have partnerships like VisTech, and those between Hadassah and the Alfred, and the Technion and Monash, and the Ambulance Service and Magen David Adom. I believe our cooperation can be even stronger.

    If elected, Victorian Labor will take our politicians, our business leaders and our elite research units and send them to Israel. We need to better harness the potential between our two economies. That will be my priority. That’s how we build on our friendship.