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Jews support asylum seekers while the NSW Greens deligitimise Jews – the week in politics

December 12, 2010 – 4:43 pm35 Comments

Ironically, by boycotting Israel, the NSW Greens will be boycotting some of the most advanced green technology in the world, such as this really cool electricity-producing skylight

By Anthony Frosh

Last week, the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) issued a press release calling on “Australians to welcome asylum-seekers into their communities and embrace the benefits refugees can offer Australia.”  The full statement is available on J-Wire.

As someone sympathetic to the plight of refugees, I naturally welcome the statement, which is strong and unambiguous.  And to those that have criticized the ADC for only being concerned about the mistreatment of Jews, it is another sturdy example demonstrating that such critics need to reassess their criticisms.

However, the question needs to be asked as to why such a press release did not materialise sooner.  The optimal time for such a release would have been prior to the Australian federal election held this August.  Indeed, when the immigration debate was at its most heated phase, Galus Australis published an article by Mandi Katz titled “People of the Boat – A Jewish Perspective on the Asylum Seeker Issue”.  That was July 8. The ADC’s press release was precisely five months later, December 8.  Would it not have been more relevant back then, rather than now?

If this statement had been released in the lead up to the federal election, one consideration (and I have absolutely no knowledge whether this was a consideration of the ADC) for those who might have been influenced by the statement is that the most mainstream political party with a refugee policy approximating the ADC’s was the Greens.

While many Australian Jews would naturally be pre-disposed to message sympathetic with the plight of asylum seekers, it also needs to be said that a significant proportion of the Jewish Australian voting population has reservations about the Greens in terms of their perceived antipathy towards the State of Israel.  Of course, some Jewish supporters of the Greens did make the case that the Greens were kosher in the lead up to August election.

Last week, the NSW Greens officially threw their weight behind a boycott of Israel. Their official support for the anti-Israel BDS movement will only make it harder for the majority of Jews to feel comfortable voting for them.

Ittay Flescher, one of the authors of the much read Greens advocacy piece cited above, has stated that he is disappointed with the resolution, and has written a letter to the NSW Greens explaining to them why their BDS resolution is not the right way to go, and most importantly will not further the cause of peace. The Melbourne-based Mr Flescher has also pointed out that this resolution is specific to the NSW branch and supported neither by the Victorian branch of their party, nor the federal branch.

Federal senator Bob Brown, has issued a statement to the Jewish Australian media distancing federal part from the NSW motion on BDS. “The motion passed by the NSW Greens is not the position of the Australian Greens … A proposal to call for a broad boycott of Israel was put to this year’s Australian Greens National Council meeting but was not supported,” Senator Brown said.

Even Sol Salbe, a person whose fulltime job it seems is to put up links on his Facebook page to stories critical of Israel for the pleasure of his hordes of fanatically anti-Israel “Facebook friends”, wrote, “the NSW Greens position in support of BDS is the least nuanced version I’ve encountered. The fact it is allegedly unanimous tends to indicate a fairly narrow range of views within that branch which is not duplicated in other branches where a broad shul exists.”

If even someone like Sol Salbe, a relentless critic of the State of Israel, albeit one who is always careful to leave himself wiggle room, is offering this kind of nuanced reaction, one can only imagine the reaction of the vast majority of Australian Jews who resent the inexcusable attempt at the deligitimisation of Israel represented BDS.

Unless the federal branch of the Greens vocally and unambiguously (as opposed to making more discrete assurances to Jewish audienced) condemns this resolution of the NSW branch, they will be hard pressed to gain a handy (let alone top) position on the ballot paper of the vast majority of Australian Jews.

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