Open letter to Senator Penny Wong: After 52 years of loyalty I will never vote Labor again

April 8, 2024
Child holds up a truth bomb at the Gadigal/Sydney rally for Palestine, April 7. Photo: Pip Hinman

Dear Senator Wong,

From the moment I became eligible to vote, I have voted Labor, a total of 52 years.

When I was 18 years old (and idealistic) I had raging arguments with my father about the policies of Labor versus the disconnect of the Liberals to the ordinary person.

My passion for Labor was fueled by Gough Whitlam’s vision for a just society. I might’ve also been a bit swayed by the fact that I benefited when he made tertiary education free and abolished the draft.

So, this letter from a 70-year-old has a lot of emotion embedded in it.

With my remaining years, I must tell you that I can no longer support Labor.

I write this knowing that some bureaucrat will no doubt file this letter so it never crosses your desk.

Maybe, however, it will be handed over to conduct the post mortem of the next election.

I was prepared to overlook Labor’s hesitation in forging truly innovative social justice policies such as the equitable funding of schools, taxation equity and environmental protection.

I perceived Labor’s lack of policy bravado in government such as not reversing the disembowelling of unions and defunding of Medicare; not removing negative gearing; not dismantling the supermarket duopoly; not confronting the bullies that are the big 4 banks; not making the right-wing monolith that is Murdoch media report impartially; and not removing the rorts Transurban, energy retailers and telcos enjoy; and maintaining the Coalition policy of ensuring tertiary education is unaffordable as legitimate political expediency to stay in power, since the alternative was unthinkable.

Nonetheless, I often think nostalgically about the socialist democracy of the past, when people sent their children to state schools, owned a bank, the post office, an airline, CSL, the utility suppliers, and the roads!

But, despite my increasing misgivings, Labor received my vote because the alternative was John Howard, Tony Abbott or Scott Morrison and, in all probability Peter Dutton with the religious right-wing and Murdoch waiting to set policy on behalf of the Liberals.

While I know Labor is no longer the party of Whitlam with his daring policies for social justice (free tertiary education, Medicare, stopping conscription and no-fault divorce) I still believed that the 21stCentury iteration of Labor cared for humanity.

But I am wrong!

No concern for Palestine

Labor has shown no concern for Palestinians since Israel launched a genocidal war to cleanse “Eretz Israel” of all Palestinians. It has shown no desire to engage with ordinary Australians that care about what happens to Palestinians in the state of Palestine.

Therefore, I must finally draw a line.

With its handling of the crisis in Palestine, and yes, I use the proper noun Palestine in recognition of the State of Palestine.

Enough is enough. I can no longer vote for Labor again.

Nothing that the Albanese government has done, so far, has been independent of United States policy.

Senator Don Farrell said it best when he stated: “I’m not sure that the United States is our most trusted ally. I would have said New Zealand, in the whole history of time — I would have said our closest international ally is New Zealand.”

Australia should be more independent of the US and strident in condemning Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land for the past 75 years and condemning successive Israeli governments’ “Zionist settler colonial” policies towards Palestine and the Palestinians.

For example, Australia did not, in its condemnation of the Hamas terrorist attack, also condemn Zionist terrorism in its establishment of the state of Israel on Palestinian land.

Australia has never condemned Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, its arbitrary detention of Palestinian citizens, its apartheid-like laws, its encouragement of violent settler-colonialism in the West Bank, with its ethnic cleansing undertones that accompany the settlers’ violence, and its disingenuous commitment to a two-state solution.

Is this because Australia has also never confronted its own guilt for its settler-colonial crimes?

The Albanese government has not called for a permanent ceasefire; it did not support South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ); it continues to furnish military equipment to Israel even though such actions may make it complicit in genocide; it has maintained deafening silence over 32,000 plus Palestinian deaths and 7000 plus presumed dead, buried under rubble; it suspended financial aid to UNRWA without adequate evidence supporting the spurious accusations of the Israeli government; and it is not one of “58 countries who submitted opinions to the Court in support of the argument that exposes Israel’s prolonged illegal practices and policies denying the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination”.

The evidence of Israel’s apartheid and genocidal policies against the people of Palestine are so compelling that it should make PM Albanese and you, Senator Wong, come out from the shadow of the US and speak out in support of all United Nations resolutions that condemn Israel.

It should also make the government an ardent supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement to isolate Israel, until it is prepared to sit down and have honest negotiations with all stakeholders in the Palestinian crisis.

Stakeholders may include Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Z Aziz states, rather prophetically, that: “While Hamas’s military actions may have played a role in the conflict, it is unlikely that they will be sufficient to bring about a lasting peace on their own. A negotiated settlement that involves all parties to the conflict, including Hamas, and addresses the root causes of the conflict, is the best way to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region.”


Furthermore, until you can explain why Hamas and Hezbollah are different to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the African National Congress (ANC) and the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (aka Viet Cong) — all have been “terrorist” groups yet now form internationally- recognized governing parties — I cannot accept that so-called “terrorist” groups of the 21st Century, with Islamic beliefs, a political arm and that run civil societies in Gaza and Southern Lebanon are different from the IRA, ANC and Viet Cong of the 20th Century.

Unless, of course, such difference is based on Islamophobia which “stands, almost singularly, as a final bastion of acceptable bigotry”.

If Islamophobia is the basis of labelling such groups terrorist, then the cliché “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” must govern the discourse when describing the militant actions of Hamas (and Hezbollah).

Certainly the United Nations Charter Article 1(2) mandates the “principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples”.

Article 2(4) does not give carte blanche to colonised or oppressed people to revolt against their colonial masters or oppressors but “[a]ll Member States of the United Nations, in both the Declaration on Friendly Relations and the Declaration on the Definition of Aggression, have recognized a right to revolt by colonial peoples when armed force is first used against them to prevent them from exercising their right of self-determination.”

Therefore, I cannot sing from the global North’s songbook that the 21st Century “terrorist” groups are significantly different from the above-mentioned 20th Century “terrorist” groups that subsequently gained legitimacy.

Instead, I believe Frantz Fanon explained the rights of the oppressed to revolt best when he stated “[n]ational liberation, national renaissance, the restoration of nationhood to the people, commonwealth: whatever may be the headings used or the new formulas introduced, decolonization is always a violent phenomenon.”

No wonder the global South sees only hypocrisy in the actions of the global North.

The support for Ukraine, in the face of Russian aggression, has been unprecedented. Yet the failure to offer the same support for the Palestinians reeks of double standards.

Fanon said: “There is no forgiveness when one who claims a superiority falls below the standard.” 

The words of the global North defending a laws-driven international order are laughable: the US and Israel have unilaterally altered the definition of armed attack; and Israel has been both a significant aggressor in wars that can be described as “interceptive, preemptive and preventive”, wars that are outside of the restrictionist view of self-defence as outlined in the UN Charter’s Article 2(4), and accused on numerous occasions of disproportionate response in such warfare.

The Bush Doctrine further weakened Article 2(4), unilaterally altering the international definition of self-defence to suit America’s own agenda of revenge and retribution across international borders.

Fanon stated in The Wretched of the Earth, “[t]hat same Europe, where they were never done talking with humanity, never stopped proclaiming that they were only anxious for the welfare of humanity. Today we know with what sufferings humanity has paid for every one of their triumphs of the mind.”

The global North’s hypocrisy regarding the global South is further exemplified by the fact that “Ukrainians [are] celebrated as freedom fighters on the basis of their whiteness coupled with Western opposition to the Russian invasion … [h]owever Palestinian lives are met with dismissal, both in life and death, and judged through the lens of terrorism.”

Just look at the statistics: in 2 years of war Ukrainians have lost 10,000 to 11,000 civilians while in 6 months of war Palestinians have lost 32,000+ individuals with an additional  7000+ unaccounted for.

At least 67% to 75% of these deaths are women and children: that equates to between 27 to 33 Palestinian deaths for each Israeli killed in the Hamas attack on October 7.

Proportionality is not a feature of the Israeli Defense Force’s Dahiya doctrine that states the “use of force … to inflict immense destruction, explicitly not distinguishing between civilian and military targets and the purposefully high damage inflicted on civilian property and infrastructure” is justified.

The global North has made it clear that destruction of civilian infrastructure in Kyiv by Russian military is a war crime. But the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza City by the IDF is justifiable self-defence “with a clear aim”.

Senator Wong, it seems you have historised past crimes of Israeli militant groups to justify your support for a fascist-like Israeli government in its attempt to create “Eretz-Israel”.

The 1977 Likud Party Platform, states “[t]he right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel is eternal and indisputable … therefore, Judea and Samaria will not be handed to any foreign administration; between the Sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty”.

Yet some Australian politicians maintain that the chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is anti-Semitic.

Senator, if you review the definition of “Eretz Israel”, it shares the same sentiment as the Palestinians for the same land.

Yet Labor has failed to sanction violent Zionist West Bank settlers, or condemn Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich with their call for the creation of “Eretz Israel”.

The Albanese government has been silent on pro-Israeli NSW politicians stating that Palestinian’s cry for their homeland is antisemitic or chastising NSW Premier Chris Minns for stifling debate on pro-Palestinian motions. These are all examples of Labor’s hypocritical fawning over Israel and abandoning the Palestinians.

Antisemitism as a weapon

I will not go in to any length about anti-Zionism versus antisemitism. But the attempt of Zionists in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance to conflate the two terms as identical is a brilliant tactic to stifle genuine debate on the Palestinian crisis.

In my view anti-Zionism is a repudiation of a 19th Century settler-colonial movement whereby European Jews, with the support of European colonial powers, colonized and settled, by aggression, the lands of Palestine (which, at the time, included Muslims, Christians, Jews, and other religious groups living side-by-side).

It thereby solved European colonial powers own antisemitic sentiments.

On the other hand, I define antisemitism as “hostility to or prejudice against Jews”.

Unfortunately, Senator, you have fallen victim to the Zionist tactic of using antisemitism and victimhood when anyone attacks Israeli militant Zionism to ensure the Zionists’ Islamophobic agenda dominates the debate about the plight of Palestinians in their own, colonised, lands.

No wonder the global South screams hypocrisy and turns to Russia, China and India for alliances.

So, back to my original reason for writing to you.

After 52 years of loyal support, I will never vote Labor again.

But I cannot vote for Dutton (and future Dutton-like clones) and their ultra-conservative backers.

Instead, I will follow the example set by one of my heroes of the 1970s, Albert Langer, who stated “[r]esistance to usurped or tyrannical authority is an essential component of the rule of law formerly recognised as such since the Magna Carta” and vote accordingly.

I expect no reply, but I hope history will record my comments.

Yours sincerely,

Anthony James

Postscript: This letter was written before, Australian aid worker Lalzawmi Frankcom was murdered by the IDF.

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