Push to ban Israel lobby trips for Labor officials
A push to ban Labor MPs, officials and Young Labor members from accepting subsidised trips from the Israel lobby has provoked a backlash in the party, with one group branding it “totalitarian”.
Fairfax Media revealed on Tuesday that a motion on next month’s NSW conference agenda proposes the ban while Benjamin Netanyahu’s government “continues settlements, refuses a Palestinian state [and] brutally mistreats Arab residents of the West Bank”.
“To do so in the circumstances is an insult to the Australian community who support our party,” the motion, put forward by the group Labor Friends of Palestine, says.
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and similar groups regularly organise subsidised trips for journalists and politicians to Israel where they undertake guided tours.
The push is in response to a perception of an increase in approaches to Labor MPs and officials to take the trips following the passage of resolutions at recent ALP conferences moving towards support for a Palestinian state.
NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has directed that any of his MPs who accept such a trip must spend equal time visiting Palestinian areas.
But the Australia Israel Labor Dialogue condemned the proposed ban.
“This is not only unprecedented, it is an outrageous infringement of an individual’s right to travel and learn about the world,” said convenor Greg Holland.
“Our great Labor Party has never imposed such a controlling and totalitarian imposition on its people. The freedom to choose one’s own travel plans is a fundamental human right.”
Mr Holland said his organisation helps people get to Ramallah as well as Jerusalem.
NSW Labor MP Walt Secord, who is deputy chair of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel, said a ban was counter to promoting dialogue.
“As a member of a progressive centre Left political party, I believe the only way to resolve the Israel-Palestinian question is through dialogue, debate and discussion; it is not by dictating who political leaders can meet,” he said.