Israel trip empowers MPs

Meryl Swanson speaking at the Rambam debrief. Photo: Shane Desiatnik

THREE federal MPs fresh from a Rambam study week in Israel and the West Bank say they now feel more empowered to play an informed and active role when Middle East matters are debated in Parliament and their own parties.

At a debriefing session in Sydney on March 24 with the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, Liberal MP for Barker, Tony Pasin, revealed he’d had little prior knowledge about the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Sadly …  too much of what we read [in newspapers] is written through a villain and victim prism, and not through the prism of peace,” said Pasin, whose rural South Australian electorate is three times the size of Israel.

“In that sense, I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to visit Israel to get a broader and deeper understanding [of the conflict], and to comprehend it in a more accurate prism.”

Labor MP for Paterson in regional NSW, Meryl Swanson, said “Like a lot of people, I had watched documentaries and read things and thought, these people [Palestinians] are occupied”.

“I’ve come home feeling that [view] has somewhat shifted, and that my perspectives are far broader now.”

She added that she and Pasin are members of the parliament’s agricultural committee and were both very impressed by what they saw of Israel’s high-tech farming sector.

“I’m now thinking about what I can do in my electorate to form linkages with Israel,” she said.

Labor MP for Oxley in Queensland, Milton Dick, described himself as a strong supporter of Israel, who had last visited the Jewish State 20 years ago.

“I found the Rambam program invaluable because things are constantly changing in Israel, the issues and the players, and I feel it has enabled me to be a more powerful advocate for Israel,” he said. 

“I think terms that are often bandied around – like settlements, occupation, apartheid and the wall – these are all easy catchphrases and clichés to use, and often there isn’t a counterbalance given to a lot of those arguments.”