MP under fire over Bibi-bashing speech

NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has promised to strengthen racial vilification laws if Labor is elected in the 2019 NSW election.

LABOR MP Julia Finn has been slammed for her “ill-informed and deeply offensive” comments about Benjamin Netanyahu in Parliament earlier this month, in which she labelled the Israeli Prime Minister “an enemy of peace”.

Finn, who is the Member for Granville, was reciting a speech she gave at the Sydney Town Hall in February opposing Netanyahu’s historic visit to Australia.

Stating, “I represent hundreds of Palestinian families who live in my electorate because they have been displaced from their homes by Israeli occupation,” Finn said Netanyahu “undermines the peace process every single day” and “repeatedly calls for one-sided conditions to be placed on a Palestinian state, like recognising Israel as a Jewish state and renouncing the right of return for Palestinians”.

Asked if he supports or condemns Finn’s comments, Opposition Leader Luke Foley said simply, “Robust political debate on the current Israeli government’s policies occurs within Israel’s borders and beyond, and that is totally proper. 

“However, anti-Semitic words and images are always totally unacceptable.”

As well as banners decrying “Israeli apartheid” and accusing the Jewish State of genocide, there were placards at the protest portraying Netanyahu with a toothbrush moustache, labelling him a “modern day Hitler”, and images of the Israeli flag with a swastika instead of a Star of David.

Flags of terrorist groups Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were also waved at the rally.

“There were some tasteless signs condemning Netanyahu that I disagreed with and thought were a bit offensive, making an analogy between the occupation of Palestine and Nazism,” Finn said. 

Speaking to The AJN this week, Labor’s deputy upper house leader Walt Secord said, “I totally reject and completely dissociate myself from the remarks about the Israeli Prime Minister; those comments were ill-informed and deeply offensive. They were simply ridiculous.”

Finn told The AJN racism and religious discrimination of all kinds, including anti-Semitism, is “abhorrent and I unequivocally reject it”.

“Accordingly, I believe the safety and security of Israelis and Palestinians is of equal importance and I will continue to advocate for the peaceful establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, alongside that of Israel,” she said.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff responded: “Mr Foley has always been a strong supporter of the Jewish community and we endorse his observation that anti-Semitic words and images are totally unacceptable. 

“We also note, however, that it is also totally unacceptable for Members of Parliament to participate in a rally where such words and images are on display.”

Speaking in Parliament, amid a number of attempts to silence him, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the rally “expressed anti-Semitic views”, and the images on display would be “incredibly hurtful to the Jewish community given their history”.  

“Labor mouths platitudes in its party platform but lets its members of Parliament attend rallies that deliberately fan the flames of racial division,” he said.

“I call upon Luke Foley and Labor to hold his members of Parliament to account and make them apologise immediately for their conduct.”

EVAN ZLATKIS