FORMER Labor national president Warren Mundine has described a motion seeking to ban Labor MPs, officials and Young Labor members from accepting subsidised trips to Israel as “bizarre”, “disgusting” and “anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli”.
The proposal at the upcoming NSW Labor State Conference – put forward by the Labor Friends of Palestine group – states that while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government “continues settlements, refuses a Palestinian state [and] brutally mistreats Arab residents of the West Bank”, no ALP officer, MP or Young Labor member can “accept a paid trip from the Israel Lobby”.
Speaking to The AJN this week, Mundine slammed the idea, describing it as a “crazy motion”.
“Where has Labor banned people from going to other countries? There are a few on the nose disgraceful countries around the world. Why are they picking on Israel?” he asked.
“If you look at the Middle East and all the issues, here you have a liberal democracy.
“You have Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Christians sitting in the Knesset, which those countries haven’t got, you’ve got gender equality … yet here’s the Labor Party coming out wanting to ban [members].”
He said he finds it “quite bizarre”, and said he was “disgusted” at the whole approach.
“The only difference I can see is that it’s a Jewish state,” Mundine said, adding that the motion is “verging on an anti-Semitic stand” because the only country members are banned from visiting is Israel.
Asked about the prospect of a watered-down resolution that seeks to require Labor delegates on such trips to spend 50 per cent of their time in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas, Mundine said it was an “immature approach to the whole situation”.
“I’ve been on sponsored trips from the Jewish community to Israel,” he said.
“I’ve also been to Ramallah and met with members of the Palestinian Authority in their parliament, I’ve been through the West Bank and that’s all been facilitated by those trips.
“Why are they doing this? Again it’s because of the Jewish state. This is an anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli approach.”
Instead of a ban, Mundine said he preferred working together and creating dialogue.
“I had a good view and interaction and dialogue with a number of people for and against Israel in those Palestinian areas,” he said. “Let’s have a sensible, mature and open debate, not these silly, immature approaches.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop urged federal Labor leader Bill Shorten to intervene to stop a ban being enforced.
“It is disappointing that some members of the Labor Party prefer to hold their prejudices in ignorance rather than travel to the region and learn the facts,” Bishop told The AJN.
Last week Shorten said he trusted his MPs to be able to exercise judgment in terms of their overseas trips.
“I support my MPs exercising their own common sense and views. I trust Labor’s representatives, I don’t see the need to start giving them travel instructions,” he said.
Colin Rubenstein – executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), which organises fact-finding missions to the region for politicians and journalists – said if the resolution banning trips were to be carried, it would be a “damning indictment of the Labor Party”.
“It is in effect saying that ALP members, including Members of Parliament, lack integrity, judgement and intellectual skills to assess an area of policy if provided with an opportunity to learn more about it,” he said.
“AIJAC is hopeful that ALP members will reject this proposal, which is intellectually offensive and discriminatory.”