From our readers: The moral issue of Palestine ‘settlements’

Oct 23, 2021
Palestine flag feature
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In our letters to the editor this week: NSW Labor’s support for a controversial definition of “anti-Semitism”, Scott Morrison’s sales pitch, negative gearing and action on climate change.

In our inbox, Pearls and Irritations readers passionately responded to Stuart Rees’s account of the NSW Labor conference’s support for the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA)’s definition of anti-Semitism. Stephanie Dowrick’s commentary on Scott Morrison’s government and the Nationals was well-received, and others wrote in response to Kevin Davis’s call for an end to negative gearing and Ian Dunlop’s articles on climate change deniers.

We welcome your responses to our articles. To submit a letter to the editor, please email us at, including your full name and town or suburb, and the article to which you are responding. Letters should be no longer than 200 words, and may be edited for clarity, style and length.

NSW Labor and Palestine — Stuart Rees

The sneaky deal to have NSW Labor adopt controversial anti-Semitism definition


Stuart Rees’s comments on NSW Labor and Palestine are very just. The irony is that the Social Justice Committee of the party could pass normative motions about Indigenous disadvantage in Australia, and adopt a definition of anti-Semitism which is used to justify the creation and sustaining of indigenous disadvantage in Palestine. For 500 years, Europeans roamed the world, and wherever they liked, established settlements, pushing to indigenous inhabitants to one side, and in some cases, reducing them to a small, disadvantaged, minority. In recent years, this has been recognised as a moral issue for public policy, both in Australia and many other countries of settlement — but not in the most recent case: Israel. The Palestinian territory was annexed by Jordan, but invaded and conquered by Israel in 1967. The innovative Israeli government saw it as a real estate opportunity, and allowed so many Israeli settlements there that now 11 per cent of the population of Israel lives in Palestine. Surprising that the Social Justice Committee of the NSW ALP doesn’t see this. Could it be that all members of the committee are themselves settlers, rather than indigenes? — H.K. Colebatch, Hawthorn

Stuart Rees’ article is wrong in its presentation. The IHRA definition might be “controversial” to some, but on three occasions this year ALP Leader Anthony Albanese declared in favour of the wording. An ordinary suburban branch of the ALP sent their support for the IHRA definition to ALP central office commending the wording to ALP conference. This was published in the NSW ALP conference material to delegates. It was not hidden or secret that the cross-factional recommendation of the Law and Social Justice Committee was to support the position submitted by the branch. Mr Rees is disingenuous to claim this was sneaky or hidden from delegates. Obviously, Mr Rees knew what was before conference. In mid-September onwards he referred to the Conference material publicly available. As is his right, he campaigned against the wording, as readers of P&I know. Conference decided contrary to his wishes — democratically and openly. There was nothing sneaky. Mr Rees also suggests the IHRA definition means that criticism of Israel is considered anti-Semitic by IHRA supporters. That is not true. Legitimate, reasoned criticism of Israel on matters (such as settlements, etc.) is of course legitimate, even if some hide behind Israel criticism to defend their antisemitism. As the IHRA guidelines say, “the overall context” matters. There might be a drumroll of people worried about all this, but majority opinion prevailed. How can this possibly be wrong? — Michael Easson

Looking beyond Scott Morrison’s sales pitch — Stephanie Dowrick

Mirage man Morrison continues to defeat the common good

Yes, Scott Morrison may indulge in fantasising over “mirages”, and trying to convince people that they are real, but he himself is no mirage. He, unfortunately, is all too real. He will no doubt take his claim to Glasgow of Australia surpassing its emission targets, but more considered (and knowledgeable) observers know otherwise. He may also shrug off the blatant rorting of JobKeeper subsidies to profitable businesses, but more people than he thinks are appalled by this corruption, which is what it is in plain language. The Nationals are presently in a “feeding frenzy” to extract vast sums from taxpayers, seemingly inured to what people may think of this. These are but mere snippets in the “carnival of corruption” this administration indulges in. What is not a mirage, is the forthcoming election: voters may just show Morrison that his “mirage of continuing power”, at any cost or by any means, is simply a deluded dream. One can only hope Australians finally see through the utter pretence of Morrison selling himself as a champion for the “common good”.  Robert Harwood, West Hobart

Unaffordable housing — Kevin Davis

A good time to end negative gearing and taxpayer subsidised speculation in housing

I agree wholeheartedly with Kevin Davis in his article on (non)affordable housing. Houses should be for people to live in and not as a commodity for speculative investment. I would like our tax system reorientated to recognise this by making mortgage interest tax deductible for the occupied family home and no other. Investors would still be able to buy and negatively gear residential property and be treated precisely as proposed by Kevin, with tax deductibility confined to that investment alone and not general income from other sources. Similarly, capital gains should be taxed as income with allowance for inflation and not halved as initiated by Howard. It is patently obvious that the present system is contributing in large measure to the rising cost of housing and, like action on climate change, remedies will only be possible with a change of government.  — Ian Hill, Swanbourne

Addressing climate change — Ian Dunlop

The deniers at The Australian with their faux commitment to climate change. Part 1

I agree with Ian Dunlop — the transformation required to achieve zero emissions is profound and must start immediately, but the notion that technology will save us is a false hope. It is about survival and achieving this will require a radical change in our behaviour — to consume less of everything, to waste nothing by treating “waste” as a precious resource that must be reused or recycled etc, and stop trashing this planet. This must be driven by a new mindset, values, beliefs, aspirations about life itself. If humanity is not prepared to change it will end up becoming an evolutionary dead end — the most destructive and least successful species that ever lived on this planet. — Roger Taylor, Camberwell

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