Labor leader Anthony Albanese and opposition arts spokesman Tony Burke have refused to take a stance on the anti-Israel boycott disrupting the Sydney Festival, despite some ALP colleagues ¬privately voicing opposition to the campaign.
Since December, the city’s premier cultural event has been embroiled in controversy after organisers approached the Israeli embassy and accepted a $20,000 grant to stage -Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin’s production Decadance at the Sydney Opera House.
In response, a coalition of pro-Palestinian organisations, backed by the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, has urged artists to abandon the event until the festival’s board relinquishes the embassy money.
It’s believed more than 100 artists and crew have now joined the boycott, amounting to up to 35 per cent of the Sydney Festival’s participants.
NSW opposition arts spokesman Walt Secord, who has been the only Labor member at either a state or federal level to publicly discuss the boycott, said: “I have been on the record vehemently opposing the BDS movement since mid-2011.
“(It) is a vile movement which hurts both Israelis and Palestinians; it is also counter-productive to a two-state solution and a lasting peace agreement.”
Asked why the federal Labor Party, including Mr Burke and Mr Albanese, had not made a public stance on the controversy, Mr Secord said he had no comment, but noted that the festival chairman David Kirk needed to clarify his position on the BDS movement and its support of the festival boycott.
“No one should be seen to be showing any deference to the BDS movement,” he said.
Despite longstanding party tensions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mr Albanese has been a trenchant opponent of the BDS movement.
Last July, in an address to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the Opposition Leader said he considered the BDS campaign as one “based upon a racial targeting of a group, in this case Israel”, and vowed to continue to oppose the movement.
At the time, he also rejected a Labor motion – supported by former NSW premier Bob Carr – which advocated a boycott of ¬Israel over its treatment of Palestinians, describing it as a counter-productive measure that was not endorsed by anyone in the Labor partyroom.
Liberal MP Dave Sharma, whose electorate of Wentworth includes one of the biggest Jewish communities in the country, said he was surprised Mr Albanese had yet to make a statement on the festival boycott despite his well-known opposition to the BDS movement.
“Mr Albanese has made a big point about his opposition to the BDS movement … but this is one of the most obvious manifestations of the BDS movement in Australia we’ve seen for several years, and to have no Labor voice at the federal level come out publicly against is very troubling,” Mr Sharma said.
Mr Burke, who also refused to answer questions regarding the boycott, has previously been critical of Jewish settlements on the West Bank, describing them in 2014 as a ploy to block a two-state solution.