Features Australia

Conflict resolution

Do the ALP really want to promote an Islamist, racist, ethnically-pure Palestine?

29 August 2015

9:00 AM

29 August 2015

9:00 AM

After much inter-factional muscle-flexing, last month the ALP approved a resolution on Middle East policy at its National Conference in Melbourne. Some commentators argue that pro-Israel types should be pleased because this compromise declaration was the best achievable outcome in the circumstances.

While the original text of this resolution was extremely problematic, the version that ultimately passed was only marginally less troublesome; there’s no question the end-product document marks a historic change for the worse in Labor’s stance on the Middle East.

This statement of policy takes a swipe at Benjamin Netanyahu’s words, but has little to say about Palestinian deeds. In fact, the long history of Palestinian rejectionism and terrorist violence that precipitated and prolonged this bloody conflict isn’t deemed worthy of comment, much less condemnation.

The ALP resolution is predicated on the contention that the territories of the West Bank – captured by Israel in 1967 – constitute ground-zero of the Middle East conflict. But this conventional wisdom falls flat in the face of the half-century of Arab anti-Jewish violence that preceded the Six Day War.

The first major eruption of bloodshed took place in 1920 when Arab rioters killed or wounded more than 200 Jews during the ‘Nebi Musa’ disturbances in Jerusalem. Another 67 Jews were slaughtered nine years later by a vicious pogrom that racked the ancient city of Hebron. And in 1936 the entire British Mandate of Palestine was engulfed by a campaign of Arab terrorism against Jews and UK authorities alike.

This bloody track record of Palestinian belligerence has been accompanied by a coincident rejection of diplomacy and negotiation. The Arab Higher Committee rebuffed Britain’s 1937 Peel Commission partition plan that would have established an Arab state on 85 per cent of Mandatory Palestine. The Arabs again threw the principle of compromise to the winds in 1947, rejecting the UN partition plan and marching off to war with the loudly declared goal of exterminating the Jews. And after Zionist battlefield victories secured Israel’s independence in 1949, Arab leaders refused to sign a peace treaty that would have ended hostilities.

That’s why the 1949-to-1967 ‘Green Line’ separating Israel and Jordan was merely a ceasefire line rather than a full-fledged international border. A border would imply recognition of Israel’s national legitimacy and this the Arabs refused to accept.

After the Six Day War of ‘67, the nations of the Arab League met in Khartoum where they issued a statement spurning peace with Israel. In 2001 Yassir Arafat once again said no; this time to a joint US-Israeli proposal to establish an independent Palestinian state on 96 per cent of the West Bank and all of Gaza.

I apologise to readers for dragging them down the well-trodden memory lane of Middle East political history. One of the more frustrating aspects of this debate is the Sisyphean task of repeatedly winnowing truth from a morass of mythology and misunderstanding. The late-great US Senator from New York Daniel Patrick Moynihan once remarked: ‘you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.’ And the past does inform our understanding of our present – at least it should.

Those who argue the post-’67 Israeli occupation is the wellspring of conflict should thus explain why the Jews of Hebron were slaughtered in a pogrom in 1929. But they won’t because they can’t; or perhaps can’t because they won’t. Thus mainstream discourse simply ignores the self-destructive political pathology that causes Palestinians to despise Jewish national aspirations more than they value their own national ambitions.

The drafters of the ALP resolution are not merely afflicted by severe historical illiteracy, they’ve also fallen victim to a skewed moral compass that distorts their sense of priorities, misdirects their sense of outrage and leads them into very dubious territory. The most exigent crisis facing a Palestinian community today is the civil war in Syria. The magnitude of this humanitarian catastrophe was described in a recent Guardian article on an assault by Isis jihadis against the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus. ‘As soon as Daesh entered the camp’, one witness recounted, ‘they burned the Palestinian flag and beheaded civilians.’

Yet this ongoing calamity rated nary a mention in the agenda of Labor’s National Conference. Anti-Israel elements within the ALP are apparently so tunnel-visioned that only Jews are news.

But oh-so predictably, the resolution’s drafters did find the time to make an ex cathedra declaration that Jewish settlements are ‘illegal’. And if something is illegal, surely it stands to reason that thing – Jewish communities in Judea & Samaria – has no legitimate right to exist.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is in furious agreement, having vowed ‘we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli’ within a Palestinian state-to-be. And don’t forget those provisions of the Palestinian Constitution that self-define in explicitly ethnic (‘Arab’) and religious (‘Islamic Shari`a’) terms.

Combine those elements and you get the establishment of an ethnically pure, theocratically inclined Palestinian state built upon the mass expulsion of Jews. Is this really where Labor wants to go?

The resolution ends, neither with a bang nor a whimper, but with a one-sided diplomatic threat aimed at… you guessed it… Israel. If future Mid-East peace negotiations don’t proceed to its satisfaction, the ALP solemnly undertakes to consider recognition of Palestinian statehood. The whys and wherefores of any such diplomatic failure are irrelevant to the drafters of this resolution. They believe Australia should confer diplomatic recognition on the Palestinians even if – as has so often been the case in past – Palestinian rejectionism causes negotiations to collapse.

And this is where our excursion through history becomes once again relevant. The Palestinians have ‘never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity’ in pursuit of peaceful compromise, as former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban once sagely observed.

Israel has many friends within the ALP and the Zionist Federation of Australia will continue to work with its allies towards cause of a viable and Middle East peace. The real tragedy is that the hijacking of Labor’s National Conference by anti-Israel radicals has done injury to that effort.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Ted Lapkin is Director of Public Affairs for the Zionist Federation of Australia

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