GREENS Senator-elect Lee Rhiannon has helped push through a policy to prevent trade between Australia and Israel, and stop Israeli sportspeople and performers coming to Australia.
At its state conference last weekend – held in the run-up to the NSW election in March – the NSW Greens passed a proposal by consensus for Australians and the Australian Government to “boycott Israeli goods, trading and military arrangements, and sporting, cultural and academic events as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestinian territory, the siege of Gaza and imprisonment of 1.5 million people and Israel’s institution of a system of apartheid”.
Rhiannon, who will take her place in the Senate in July next year, added: “The BDS [boycott, divestment and sanction] opposition to all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, reflects the principles of the Greens. The campaign is motivated by the universal principles of freedom, justice and equal rights,” Rhiannon said.
The new policy, though, has set her at odds with the federal Greens. A similar proposal was put forward at the Greens’ most recent national conference, but was rejected.
Even though the NSW Greens BDS policy is likely to have a limited effect on the party’s day-to-day operations, particularly at a federal level, it has upset the Israeli Government.
“The decision is disappointing,” a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in Canberra told The AJN. “Resolutions such as these do not contribute to the current steps being made towards a broader process of peace.”
She added the Israeli embassy was happy to engage in discussions with parties critical of Israel. “We hope that prior to the endorsement of such decisions in the future, we will be approached for dialogue,” she said.
The local Jewish community was also fuming over the NSW Greens’ decision. “The NSW Greens policy is unhelpful and egregiously one-sided,” NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Yair Miller said on Tuesday. “Disengaging is a step away from peace, not a move towards it.”
Miller though extended a hand to the NSW Greens – “The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies is hopeful of discussing a more constructive approach from the Greens at the earliest opportunity.”
Zionist Federation of Australia president Philip Chester called the policy “extreme in its antagonism against Israel. Fortunately, the two major parties do not subscribe to a policy that seeks to ostracise and delegitimise Israel. I’m not even sure that all areas of the Greens movement would subscribe to this extreme policy.”
Caption: Lee Rhiannon