WA Labor candidate quits over Israel comments

Melissa Parke.

OPPOSITION leader Bill Shorten says Labor’s candidate for the WA seat of Curtin Melissa Parke did the “right thing” after withdrawing from the election contest over controversial comments she made about Israel.

Parke, who was the only Labor MP to ever publicly advocate for the anti-Israel boycott movement during her previous tenure in federal parliament from 2007 to 2016, was last week announced as the party’s candidate for Julie Bishop’s electorate of Curtin.

However, after it emerged Parke told a group of pro-Palestinian supporters last month that Israel had a “fully fledged system of Apartheid”, she pulled out of the race.

In a statement, Parke said her views were “well known” and that she didn’t want them to be a “running distraction from electing a Labor government”.

“That’s why I have decided to withdraw my candidacy,” she said.

Distancing himself from Parke’s comments, Shorten told reporters on Saturday, “I don’t share those views.” He added, “She’s done the right thing – she doesn’t want to be a distraction in the campaign.”

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said it was regrettable that such an “extreme and divisive figure” received Labor endorsement, “Particularly at a time when it is vital to strengthen the political centre and diminish the appeal of low populism and false and polarising rhetoric.”

Former United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) employee Parke advocates the immediate recognition of a Palestinian state, has slammed Israel for “its brutal occupation” and regularly condemned it for using “disproportionate force” in defending itself from Hamas rockets.

According to WA Today, just a month ago Parke also claimed, “If we are truly concerned about foreign influence in Australia, we need to look not only at China, but also Israel, whose influence on our political system and foreign policy is substantial.”

In July 2014, ECAJ called for her to be “pulled into line” after she signed a petition alongside notorious anti-Israel activists, George Galloway, Greta Berlin and Richard Falk calling on the UN Security Council to place sanctions on Israel.

Later that year, after she tabled a pro-boycott petition in parliament, her own colleague Senator Glenn Sterle called her “ill-informed” and her rhetoric “inflammatory”.

“It is time that the member for Fremantle stopped spouting propaganda that comes directly from organisations and groups that are devoted to genocidal ideologies,” he told the Senate.

A spokesperson for shadow foreign affairs minister Penny Wong added, “Labor is a strong supporter of the state of Israel. That will never change.

“Labor does not support the BDS movement. A resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only come from open dialogue and discussion between the parties, not from a policy of exclusion.”

GARETH NARUNSKY