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Greens NSW and the campaign for Palestinian rights

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Lee Rhiannon 16 May 2011

The Australian has engaged in much speculation about what I plan to do on issues to do with Palestine and Israel post July 1 when I am a federal Senator.

This is just one link to the story that the Australian kept running for many weeks. Senator Bob Brown named the News Limited press the “hate media” in the midst of these attacks.

A popular theme of the Australian reports has been to portray divisions between Bob and myself on the issue of the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions for Palestine campaign.

At the first press conference of our ten person party room in the federal parliament house in September last year Bob was questioned about potential differences. His reply was delightful, highlighting the strength of diverse opinions and that he hoped our team did not agree all the time.

From my many discussions with Bob I know we are both deeply committed to united party work in the federal parliament. The tactics of the broader movements that we are involved with will obviously vary from time to time and occasionally there will be a difference of emphasis.

As a confederation of parties that make up the Australian Greens sometimes our work on national policies will vary. We see this in our work on political donations.

While the Australian Greens policy is for a law to ban donations from corporations and other organisations to all political parties, the Greens NSW have adopted a stricter position in recent years by refusing to accept such donations.

The Greens work on this is widely recognised as playing a key part in the NSW parliament voting to ban donations above $5000 to political parties and $2000 to candidates and for a suite of other important electoral funding reforms that are helping to build pressure for a national ban.

This diversity in tactics plays out in many areas. Differing local circumstances also often result in variations of emphasis on what policies respective Greens parties actively work on.

The Australian Greens including the Greens NSW since 2006 have had a position on Israel and Palestine. Bob, I and all Greens clearly support peace and justice for all people of this region. As the recent debate about BDS showed there are different views within the Greens on how this can be achieved.

This is a link to the BDS proposal adopted by the NSW Greens last December and the media release I put out at the time. All NSW Greens MPs (at the time) along with delegates from 28 local groups and observers from another nine local groups were present at the NSW Greens State Council meeting that considered the proposal put forward by Petersham Newtown Greens. The proposal was adopted by consensus.

It is not accurate to say that the Greens National Council rejected a BDS proposal. As there has been some misreporting about this it is worth revisiting the March 2010 meeting when this was discussed.

It was the ACT Greens that put up a proposal for a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions. WA Greens also put up a proposal that called “upon the Australian government to halt military cooperation and military trade with Israel”. The WA proposal was acceptable to all state parties and was adopted in an expanded form by consensus.

The statement agreed by National Council reads -

The Australian Greens:

  1. Call upon the Australian government to halt military cooperation and military trade with Israel;
  2. Reiterate our call for the immediate freezing of all Israeli settlement activity in the Palestinian Occupied Territories
  3. Call for the removal of existing Israeli settlers and Israeli security and military forces from the Palestinian territories.
  4. Continue to condemn the use of violence in the Middle East in all its forms
  5. Reject violence and its promotion, particularly against civilians, whether perpetrated by a state, organisation or individuals.
  6. Support the promotion of a culture of justice, dialogue and peace between the peoples of Palestine and Israel.

 

The Australian Greens did not reject BDS; there was no vote to reject it. A less stringent boycott was supported. There is clearly a range of views on tactics among Greens across the country on this issue. While the Greens NSW support for BDS is an expansion of the Australian Greens 2006 position it does not contravene the national position.

The 2006 position includes this statement: “Australian Greens call for: UN endorsed measures, such as sanctions, as needed and in conformity with Australian Greens policies, to ensure compliance of the parties …”

The Australian Greens adoption in March 2010 of a halt to military trade links with Israel, expands upon and sits beside the 2006 position, but is not regarded as contradicting it.

The Greens NSW position also expands the range of sanctions, which are surely needed. The argument that the NSW position is a contravention of the national policy does not stand up.

Despite the intimidation, misinformation and abuse in recent months directed towards the Greens NSW, my colleagues in Marrickville and myself, I will not step away from speaking out for Palestinian human rights.

In the context of my work as a federal Senator this will be one of just many issues I will work on. The Australian Greens major concern remains action on climate change. With NSW home to the world’s largest coal port it is clear where my priorities lie.

I will be working hard to show how a carbon tax can work in NSW to help generate more jobs in renewable energy, and how renewable energy power plans can help bring down energy bills as well as helping to deliver for the environment.

I also hope to renew my interests in addressing inequities in Australia’s aid program and increasing support for oppressed communities in other countries.

Supporting human rights for Palestinians will be part of my work as a Senator. 

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