South Australia and antisemitism

by Paul Heywood-Smith

image: iStock On October 17 last year Pearls & Irritations published a piece by me entitled “Labor’s British and Australian leaders are out of step with progressive opinion on Israel”. I mused, inter alia, over the ALP continuing, post-election, and if successful, “to tow the Israeli-lobby line”.
On Wednesday last, 6 July, an event occurred in South Australia which I expect has not received much airplay in other States. That event gives a pretty clear indication that my fears that the ALP would so “tow the line” were well founded.
The event to which I refer was a vote in the Legislative Council upon a motion put forward by One Nation MLC Sarah Game, to officially adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism. Readers may be aware that this definition, advanced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, has received criticism worldwide as having the effect of, and intending to, censor criticism of Zionism and of Israel and its policies appertaining to Palestinians.
The Adelaide Advertiser reported on the vote being carried and advised “Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has endorsed the definition, but Ms. Game said S.A. Labor “reluctantly supported” it.
Hansard confirms that the motion was carried by all ALP and Liberal Party members of the Council, plus Ms. Game of One Nation, that is 15 votes, over the 4 votes of non ALP and Liberal members, that is two Greens and two S.A. Best members.
Is this yet another example of the significance of the independents’ votes in our Parliaments?
Sarah Game, in moving her motion, said: The hesitation, and in some cases refusal, from other parties to support this motion has been confusing and disappointing, …. It has always been made clear that legitimate criticism of Israel, similar to that levelled against other countries, cannot be considered antisemitic”.
But Ms. Game does not apparently see that therein lies the problem. Just what does ‘criticism … similar to that levelled against other countries” embrace? To my knowledge, no other countries are criticised for ethnically cleansing Palestinians. Does that mean that to criticise Israel for doing that must certainly be antisemitic? That is of course an extreme example, but there are too many shades of grey in the topic for such uncertainty to exist. Let us take another example. Is a criticism that Israel illegally occupies another’s land, viz. the West Bank, similar to criticisms levelled at other countries? I don’t believe that it is. I am not aware of another country that has illegally occupied another country’s land for 70 years. Does that mean that pursuant to the IHRA definition, it must be antisemitic to so criticise?
I might (nearly) conclude by saying that as widely reported to demonstrators outside Parliament on the day of the vote, many of which demonstrators have close contacts within the ALP, that the problem was the dictate that came down to ALP members of the Council from Canberra, indeed from Foreign Minister Penny Wong – “you will vote for the motion”. S.A. Labor “reluctantly supported” the motion, indeed!
Finally, I advert again to the paper referred to in the first paragraph. That paper drew attention to the fact that at recent ALP National Conferences the party, the rank and file, adopted resolutions that in government the ALP would recognise the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders. Well, the ALP has been in government now for what, six weeks? I am not aware of such action by the new government. I ask on behalf of ALP members committed to obtaining justice in Palestine – when will this occur?