Australia’s opposition Labor Party is mulling a proposal by pro-Palestinian lawmakers to ban its members from participating in sponsored trips to Israel, Haaretz reported Thursday.
The motion by Labor Friends of Palestine, which will be moved at a state conference in Sydney beginning February 13, has triggered a bitter backlash with local Jews, the newspaper reported.
If passed, the motion would preclude state MPs from New South Wales, party officials and Young Labor members from joining paid trips to Israel.
The motion says the ban should be enforced so long as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government “continues settlements, refuses a Palestinian state [and] brutally mistreats Arab residents of the West Bank.”
Taking part in paid-for trips “in the circumstances is an insult to the Australian community who support our party,” the resolution says, according to Haaretz.
One of the proponents of the ban is Shaoquett Moselmane, the first Muslim MP elected to the state parliament in Sydney, who in 2013 accused supporters of Israel of being “cancerous” and “malicious.”
The motion highlights an ongoing push within Labor towards the Palestinian narrative, bolstered by Bob Carr, a former foreign minister who was a founder of the Labor Friends of Israel in 1977 and has recently become a patron of the Labor Friends of Palestine.
Carr has in the past blamed the "pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne" for wielding “extraordinary influence” on the Australian government.
Responding to the proposed ban, Colin Rubenstein, who runs the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) told Haaretz that the motion, if passed, would be a “damning indictment” of the Labor Party.
“This resolution is part of a bullying campaign to try to stop members of the Australian Labor Party from learning about the genuine complexities of the Middle East, by people who prefer ignorance and simplistic slogans to informed debate,” he said.
The proposal is “intellectually offensive and discriminatory,” he added.
Also blasting the motion was Aboriginal leader Warren Mundine, a former national president of the Labor Party who has been on a sponsored trip to Israel.
“It is an illogical, verging on anti-Semitic approach,” he said, according to Haaretz.
“Name another country that the Labor Party bans people from going to? There are none. What is the difference with this country? The only difference is that they are Jewish, and I just find that quite sickening that a party that I was president of would move down that road,” he added.
The Labor Party’s move comes after it agreed this past summer on a resolution that should the party come to power, it would consider recognizing Palestinian statehood.
The motion stipulated such course of action on a lack of progress in the currently stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
"If ... there is no progress in the next round of the peace process a future Labor government will discuss joining like-minded nations who have already recognized Palestine and announcing the conditions and timelines for the Australian recognition of a Palestinian state, with the objective of contributing to peace and security in the Middle East," the document read.
Haaretz noted that relations between the Jewish community and the Labor Party hit rock bottom in the 1970s under Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, but improved dramatically in the next decade under Bob Hawke.
Relations soured again in 2002 and 2003 when Labor MPs unleashed tirades against Israel and the Jewish lobby in federal parliament.