This year’s Australian Labor Party national conference resolution on Palestine acknowledges that the Palestinians deserve a state.
Some Palestine solidarity activists have claimed this as a victory. For example, Australia Palestine Advocacy Network president George Browning said in a press release: “It’s a significant step forward”.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
First, the motion makes no real mention of the other two major issues for Palestinians: equality for those living inside apartheid Israel and the right of refugees (half the Palestinian population) to return to their homes. The only inference is in the negative. The resolution supports the “legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to also live in peace and security within their own state”. This ignores the fact that peace and security need to be provided in Israel.
Second, the motion attacks the right of Palestinians to fight for their rights and provides very rocky ground for a state to come into existence. Leaving aside the debate about one state vs. two state solutions, even if you were for the latter, this ALP motion is entirely inadequate.
The motion “DEPLORES [emphasis in the original] the tragic conflict in Gaza and supports an end to rocket attacks by Hamas and the exercise of the maximum possible restraint by Israel in response to these attacks”.
This insinuates that the occupied people of Palestine are the aggressors and that Israel is the victim. Sol Salbe an Israeli-Australian who monitors Israeli media told Red Flag: “I get to read of what happened before Hamas fires its rockets … it has rarely fired unprovoked. The ALP resolution lets Israel and its military off the hook for the cross border incursions, the shooting of civilians and other ceasefire violations”.
The Palestinian people have a right, under international law, to resist the occupation. There are a variety of resistance factions, many of which have used rockets as part of their struggle. However, the ALP prefers to lump them together as “Hamas” in order to associate all Palestinian resistance with the bogeyman of Islamic terrorism and to delegitimise the united struggle of an oppressed people against the occupation.
But it’s not just the armed struggle that the ALP condemns. The conference motion also condemns the Palestinian non-violent resistance: “[The conference] REJECTS the boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel”.
Omar Barghouti, founder of the BDS campaign, told socialist newspaper Direct Action in 2008: “There are three options for the Palestinian people: we surrender, resist violently or resist non-violently. Surrender is out of the question”. The ALP, however, has declared that the only option for Palestinians is surrender, and gives Israel the green light (with a plea for restraint) to carry out its offensive actions.
How, then, to found a state through surrender? Never fear, the white knight of the ALP is “not block[ing] enhanced Palestinian status in the [UN] General Assembly”. Almost 140 countries voted with the Palestinians in the General Assembly – only nine voted against. The ALP is congratulating itself for not being as reactionary as those nine. How is this support?
But wait, there is light at the end of the tunnel! The motion continues: “If however there is no progress in the next round of the peace process a future Labor government will discuss joining like minded nations who have already recognised Palestine and announcing the conditions and timelines for the Australian recognition of a Palestinian state”.
So only if there is no progress (however the ALP defines it) will the party “discuss” recognising a Palestinian state with “conditions” and “timelines”. This is not really much support, is it?
What sort of state will the ALP accept the Palestinians getting? Well, it will only be one “based” on the 1967 boarders and involve “land swaps”, which would leave illegal Israeli settlements in place and all but guarantee that a Palestinian state would not be contiguous.
The best of this motion is a reflection of the most conservative version of reality. Indeed, silence on the issue would have been a better outcome than this resolution.