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Jewish and Voting Green

August 25, 2013 – 9:15 am93 Comments

By Devin Rudaizky

jewish green2With the Federal Election approaching, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in conversations I’ve had with my Jewish contemporaries. First, my conversational partner will usually lament the fact that the two main choices in this election, Labor and Liberal, are so indistinguishable from one another on so many fronts that the electorate seems robbed of choice. Then, upon my suggestion that they vote for the Greens, a party that has proved itself to be consistently humanistic, environmentally conscious and future-oriented, my interlocutor will usually look bewildered and exclaim, “…but aren’t the Greens anti-Israel?” This claim is rarely challenged or scrutinised; indeed, it is almost accepted as an axiom of Australian politics. However, when examining the published policies of the Greens, along with statements made by their federal leaders, it is clear that this interpretation is ill informed.

To discover the Greens’ real policies, we need to look no further than what they have published online. On the Greens’ website, it is stated that they support “the democratic aspirations of both peoples” in Israel and the Occupied Territories, and “the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Israeli people to live in peace and security in their own independent, sovereign state”. Similarly, in an interview with the Australian Jewish News last year, Greens Leader Christine Milne confirmed “the Greens have always supported a two-state solution” and that “[BDS] is behind us”.

Those that peddle an anti-Israel portrayal of the Greens rely mainly upon statements made by a minority of members of State-level Greens in New South Wales (who do not influence the Federal Greens’ foreign policy), and by the pro-BDS Federal Senator Lee Rhiannon. However, by using Rhiannon as evidence of an anti-Israel bias they are applying double standards to how they evaluate the Greens compared with the other major parties. Indeed, where members of our community may overgeneralise Rhiannon’s views and assume they determine the Greens’ foreign policy platform, they avoid generalising on, for example, Labor Senator Doug Cameron’s labelling of Israel as a terrorist state, or Health Minister Tanya Plibersek’s accusations that Ariel Sharon is a war criminal. Here, presumably, it is fair to assume that these members do not control the foreign policy choices of a Labor-led government. Why, then, do these critics not have similar faith in the stances consistently reaffirmed by the Greens’ leaders?

Additionally, it is clear that regardless of the Greens’ policy platform on Israel, Israel-Palestine has never been and will never become their priority. Instead, the Greens continue to focus on their long-term vision for a fair and sustainable Australia.

However, our Jewish identities can still inform our choice at this election. The policies advanced by both the Labor and Liberal parties on asylum seekers, which deny the rights of genuine refugees, are antithetical to the Jewish moral imperative to “help the stranger”. In fact, the Rabbinical Council of Victoria recently “expressed its dismay” at these policies for this very reason. Indeed, asylum seeker policies should be surveyed through the lens of own experiences as refugees, such as that of the 1938 voyage of the SS St. Louis, the ocean liner of Jewish refugees that was repeatedly denied asylum and was forced to return its passengers to their fate in Europe. As Jews, we should look favourably upon the Greens because it is the only major party that has not resorted to using foreign lives as political pawns. Instead, it offers an alternative policy that is reasonable and humane.

For the wider Australian community, empowering the Greens has yielded very positive results. In the 2010 election, a vote for the Greens meant the implementation of carbon pricing, which has contributed to a 7% reduction in Australia-wide carbon emissions. It also meant a $5 billion dollar injection into Medicare funded dentistry to provide free dental care to all children between 2 and 17, to reduce waiting lists and to expand the public dental care system. In this election, a vote for the Greens will mean, inter alia, supporting equal educational opportunity, discontinuing the barbaric live export trade, protecting our environment, promoting social equality and investing in a sustainable economy. In these areas, and in others, the Labor and Liberal parties have converged on the side of populism and political opportunism. Consequently, at this election, a vote for the Greens is not an abandonment of support for Israel or of Jewish values; instead, it means throwing momentum behind a more forward thinking, compassionate and sustainable Australia.

For further information, please view this clip.

Devin Rudaizky is studying his second year of a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws at Monash University, where he is majoring in literature and politics. He also works as a Policy Officer at Left Right Think-Tank.

Shira Hadasha is hosting a panel featuring Michael Danby, kevin Ekendahl, and Ann Birrell next Shabbat. More information can be found here.

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