What to expect from Labor on Palestine

November 2, 2022
Sydney protest against Israel’s attacks on Gaza. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

Palestinian activists’ hopes for change came with the federal Labor government’s decision to reverse the Coalition government’s recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Labor is also allowing charities to transfer financial aid to the Gaza Strip, with less security oversight. The previous Coalition government had declared Hamas a terrorist organisation and prohibited any form of support for it, including humanitarian aid.

The previous government helped the Israeli government tighten the siege on the Gaza Strip and collectively punish the Palestinian people.

Labor has said it would return to allowing non-government humanitarian aid. But it has kept Hamas in the list of terrorist organisations, officially confirming that on October 6.

Labor has not supported a United States push, in the United Nations, to set up an inquiry to investigate human rights violations in Palestine and Israel. Australia, along with more than two dozen other countries, refused to sign on.

US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) Michelle Taylor asserted that Israel has been unfairly targeted by the UN Human Rights Council.

Australia’s Ambassador to the UN Amanda Gorely said that “Australia agrees that the Human Rights Council imposes disproportionate scrutiny on Israel,” but that Australia had “concerns about the nature of the commission of inquiry”.

Australia has doubled its financial support for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), from $10 million to $20 million, annually.

Foreign affairs minister Penny Wong said: “Until a just and sustainable solution to the refugee situation is found, UNRWA is the only organisation with the mandate and central role to provide relief and social services to Palestine refugees in the region.”

The government’s retraction that West Jerusalem is the capital of Israel was the most daring of these measures. To reduce the risk to Australia-Israeli relations, the move was theatrical.

It began with a leak to the Guardian confirming amendments to the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

These changes cancelled Australia’s recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

That was followed by Wong re-announcing her 2018 view that the Coalition government had not been serious about recognising West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel because it had kept the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison was trying to woo the Jewish community in Wentworth as part of the Liberal Party’s campaign to win back the seat in a by-election after Malcolm Turnbull resigned.

Liberal Dave Sharma won it, only to be defeated at the federal election in May by teal independent Allegra Spender.

There is no prospect that Labor in government will recognise the Palestinian state in the near future.

However, it may improve its aid program, with the possibility of expanding it to include an increase in the support for the Palestinian Authority.

Labor leaders have said the government’s decision on Jerusalem was not surprising, and that the Zionist lobby was aware of it more than a month before it became public.

The Zionist lobby made out as if Labor’s decision on Jerusalem meant it would send the Australian Defence Force to fight Israel — this is their politics of disinformation.

The Arab and Islamic community in Australia played no special role regarding the government’s decision on Jerusalem. Rather, it came about because of the cumulative effort, by the Arab and Islamic community in various states, as well as the influence of activists in the socialist movement, trade unions and the Greens.

This was why many Arab and Islamic community institutions supported Labor in the federal elections, some even calling on their members to join Labor, even though the Greens have a better position on Palestine.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.