Labor MPs encouraged to spend ‘substantial time’ in Israel/Palestine

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NSW Labor members will be encouraged to spend substantial time in both Israel and Palestine when visiting the region.

At the NSW Labor state conference in Sydney on Sunday, a motion was carried stating that the party believes, as a strong supporter of a two-state solution, that it is important to understand the perspectives of Israelis and Palestinians and “encourages all party members visiting the region for the purpose of understanding the conflict to spend substantial time in both Israel and Palestine”.

It comes after a push within the party to ban Labor MPs, officials and Young Labor members from accepting subsidised trips to Israel.

The resolution also condemns the Abbott/Turnbull government for “failing to provide clear leadership on Australia’s contribution to progressing peace between Israel and Palestine”, and endorses the resolution on Israel-Palestine carried at the ALP national conference last year, which states that if the next round of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians fail, the party will consider recognition of a Palestinian state.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Jeremy Spinak said this is a “sensible outcome” that “rejects the anti-Israel bias and discrimination” promoted by a few party members.

“When organising our study missions to the region, we always encourage members to visit both the Palestinian territories and Israel in order to get a thorough understanding of the reality on the ground,” Spinak told The AJN on Sunday.

He said in the lead-up to the conference the majority of NSW Labor leaders engaged with the Jewish community and “we greatly appreciated the open and wide-ranging discussions”.

“We met with over 40 union officials and NSW MPs, including Luke Foley, and were greatly assisted by the ECAJ and by Greg Holland and the Australia-Israel Labor Dialogue,” Spinak said.

“The outcome reflects the fact that a majority of ALP members wished for a fair and factual debate, wanted to focus on issues that were of immediate importance to NSW and did not wish to participate in an anti-Israel vendetta.”

The Australia-Israel Labor Dialogue (AILD) said the motion is “balanced, demonstrates rational policy toward encouraging understanding of the complexity of the region, and seeks not to single out and demonise Israel”.

AILD NSW convenor Greg Holland noted that other motions, which had proposed imposing travel bans on party members specifically wanting to visit Israel, was a “totalitarian move by those in the party who are anti-Israel”.

“There is no place for restricting freedom of travel in our party,” he added.

For more coverage see Thursday’s AJN.

EVAN ZLATKIS