MELISSA PARKE.-“Support for Palestinian rights is not anti-Semitic” (The West Australian 8.1.2020)

I had but dipped my toes back into federal politics via a bid for Julie Bishop’s former seat of Curtin when the campaign was over.

My withdrawal was accompanied by heavy criticism from certain sections of the media who seemed determined to make sure my political corpse never rose from the dead. Once that intention had become clear I had no choice but to step down as a candidate. This would be an ongoing distraction from the election campaign – so, exit stage left.

The media outrage centered on my alleged extremism – as reportedly demonstrated by a speech I gave earlier this year at a small gathering to launch the WA Labor Friends of Palestine.

In that speech I referred to events that had been reported to me during my two and a half years of living and working for the UN refugee agency – UNRWA – in Gaza from 2002 to 2004. It was part of my work as an international legal officer to receive reports regarding violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

In February 2003 I received a report from one of our international Operations Support Officers regarding an incident that had taken place at a checkpoint in the south of Gaza. The British officer reported to me the case of a pregnant Palestinian refugee woman who had been ordered by a female Israeli soldier to drink from a bottle of bleach, and had suffered serious injury to her throat and insides as a result.

UNRWA duly reported this incident to the Israel Defence Forces and the soldier in question was subsequently charged. The case was reported in The Age newspaper on 23 June 2003 ‘Soldier made woman drink cleaning fluid’.

During the election campaign my prior reference to this case and my other comments were referred to by several journalists, commentators and analysts in the Australian media as an ‘allegation’, a ‘lurid claim’, ‘inflammatory’, ‘unevidenced’, ‘vivid concoction’, ‘a medieval trope against Jews’, ‘a laundry list of slanders…and downright falsification’ etc.

The implication being that the things I’d said had been made up. The incident at the checkpoint was not concocted; it happened. There is no need to invent atrocities, they are occurring on an almost daily basis in the Occupied Palestinian territories.

I was quoted as saying that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians was ‘worse than South African Apartheid’. The fact that I was quoting Nobel peace prize winner and renowned anti-Apartheid campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the time was omitted from the stories.

When you have a country that systematically segregates and discriminates against a section of the population in its laws and actions, with separate and lesser living conditions, separate and lesser roads, separate and lesser systems of justice, separate and lesser access to water, separate and lesser rights, what do you call it, if not Apartheid? This point was made in the highly respected Israeli newspaper Haaretz last year by Jewish Israeli journalist Gideon Levy:

Anyone who has read my parliamentary speeches will know that I have frequently criticised many countries for their failure to uphold human rights and international law, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, among others. In these cases, I have never been accused of being Islamophobic. Yet my criticisms of Israel have resulted in accusations of anti-Semitism.

Calling for Israel’s compliance with international law and respect for Palestinian rights is not the same thing as hostility to or prejudice against Jews. It is not anti-Semitic.

The rise of anti-Semitism is rightly a matter of global concern. However, it is necessary to distinguish between anti-Semitism and criticism of the state of Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. I am not alone in this belief, it is a concern that has been recently expressed by 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars:

“…The threat of anti-Semitism does not originate from Palestinian rights activists, but mainly from the extreme right and from Jihadist groups. Denying that could alienate Muslims and Arabs from the vital struggle against anti-Semitism and hamper the possibility of building true solidarity between Jews, Israelis, Muslims and Arabs in fighting anti-Semitism and other forms of racism.”

The international community has a duty to uphold international law and to act in a non-partisan way to bring about respectful dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians – this is the only path to peace. For this to happen, Israel as the side with the most military and economic power, must show goodwill by ending its relentless illegal settlement building, its punitive blockade of Gaza and its brutal military occupation.

For too long extremists on both sides have set the agenda. Ordinary Israelis and Palestinians deserve the opportunity at long last to live together in peace.

Hon Melissa Parke is the former federal Member for Fremantle and a long-time advocate for human rights.

[ Note. The above article  appeared in The West Australian on January  8, 2020. On the same date the newspaper also said that it ‘apologises unreservedly’ to Melissa Parke for what it had published  earlier concerning her on this matter. John Menadue]


Melissa Parke is the Former Federal Member for Fremantle and Member, UN Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen.

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13 Responses to MELISSA PARKE.-“Support for Palestinian rights is not anti-Semitic” (The West Australian 8.1.2020)

  1. Charles Lowe says:

    Melissa – the number of feedback comments alone (I’ve never seen so many!) is such magnificently eloquent testimony to your effectiveness.

    I look forward to your Parliamentary return.

    In the meantime, I urge you to help your strategic chances by a specific tactic – ‘persuading’ NSW Labor’s reform process to ensure that, whatever else its outcome, it is able to implement Andrews’ electoral funding protocols, were it to win Gov’t in 2023.

    I am certain you know the ramifications of that recommendation.

  2. Michael Furtado says:

    I’ve come to this late but with the unenviable benefit of hindsight. Unfortunately Iran’s own goal of shooting down large numbers of its innocent citizens along with those of Canada and the Ukraine do no favours for the Palestinians and their supporters among whom I count myself. Another propaganda victory for Israel, I fear.

  3. Rhys Stanley says:

    The Melbourne based Zionist brigade, alive and well, pushing the anti-Semitic line, day in and day out, but fast wearing out the record. Before that, as stated in these comments, it was the old reliable Holocaust, all part of the grand marketing plan that represents Israel today and all designed to control the middle east. They already control the US.

    So off to the Holocaust show this month is the Australian Governor-General as they use such compliant people to promote their evil cause, a cause that includes murder, inhumanity, child imprisonment, 70 years of brutal and illegal occupation and the end result of it all, apartheid.
    One would need a strong stomach to support such cruelty as that.

    People are waking to the evils of Zionism, far worse than any other “ism” the world has ever encountered and that includes communism and fascism.

    What a country this would be with a parliament comprised of Melissa Parke think-a-likes. Decent, really honourable members with justice as their motivation.

  4. Gilbert George says:

    Anything goes in elections.

    At the time, the aim of those newspaper reports was pretty obvious, and no time to correct anything in the last minute tsunami of “information”: Melissa stepped out of the race and shamefully it appears the Labour Party declined to support her for fear of losing votes. Mission achieved, so there’s no harm in apologising unreservedly now and keeping powder dry until the next election, when the race card, the refugee card, the jobs card, the national security card etc will once again be trundled out and uncritically repeated: fear, loathing, lies and innuendo – appealing to every instinct except the ones that are touted as making us proud to be Australian.

    This is what voters seem to accept as normal from most politicians from both sides. The great pity is that at the next election most of us will once again be swayed. Facts, noble causes and noble sentiments? Bah humbug!

  5. Ko Win Oo says:

    The vast and informal but effective conspiracy between the Israeli govt (especially under Netanyahu) and the international media just confirms the old truth about the Golden Rule, which is that those who have the money make the rules.

  6. Jim KABLE says:

    I want to offer my own thanks to Melissa for her work, her calling out of anti-Palestinian actions by the occupiers – the Zionist Israelis – especially of the Likudnik Netanyahu thug. And I was going to say that not all Jewish folk – nor Israeli Jews – are anti-Palestinian – reconciliation and more is something wished for by many caught up in the mess made of that part of the world by the British and French earlier in the 20th century. I wanted to refer to the strong anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian Jewish communities of North America – but earlier responses seem to have covered all those matters – including the reference to the Australian Jewish Lobby – the one giving free (but not obligation-free) trips to important Federal politicians – those insecure enough to accept, I note – to Israel.

  7. Andrew Farran says:

    It is sad and unfortunate that too often in Australian politics the agenda is being set or influenced by extreme groups of one kind or another with little regard for facts or the truth of any matter.

    While the tendency for many is to live and act within their own personal bubble, the wider community interest will struggle to be made manifest.

  8. Doug Hewitt says:

    Thank you, Melissa, for expressing your personal experience of an example of the acts of brutality being carried out daily by members of the Israeli armed forces as they implement the racist policies of the Netanyahu government. It is shameful that governments such as ours are unwilling to criticise such policies and are ready to label those who speak out for Palestinian people as anti-Semitic. We also have an Australian media which is generally unwilling to report the truth of violent acts against the Palestinians. How much longer must the victims of such policies be expected to suffer in silence? Desmond Tutu is correct in labelling such policies as apartheid.

  9. Alasdair Wardle says:

    Well said Melissa. It was a great pity that you had to withdraw from the Federal election last year. Misuse of the term ánti-semitic’ carries real risks, so in itself it becomes a meaningless term of abuse. When the media add to the confusion, civil society is diminished.

  10. Rex Williams says:

    Melissa, you never need to explain anything that you have said or done in support of Palestine. It is such a pity that so few of your comrades in arms in government did not pick up the baton that you relinquished on your retirement from this current Zionist-corrupted government.

    What happened to you since that date, in relation to your bid to re-enter the calling where you excelled in your efforts for justice, is nothing less than a great pity. This country needs people who have the courage to tell it how it is. There are very few that can fit that bill.

    Yes. It is apartheid in Palestine from the Israelis, the equal to South Africa in its apartheid heyday, nothing less and has been for years and will continue to be so until the current United Nations gets some courage against the corrupting influence of the USA. The world has seen since the advent of Trump what a power hungry, criminal country that has now become.
    As Jerry Roberts stated, not all Jews are Zionists, thankfully, but here in this country the Zionists have picked their marks carefully in corrupting federal parliamentarians with large doses of support, free visits to the current home of apartheid, Israel, which is nothing less than corruption, influence on Prime Ministers and Governors-General and so many others to gain some benefit for their false values while at the same time, extracting voting obligations from tame little Pacific Island countries at the UN for future tourism and trade commitments. That’s how its done and they have been doing it for years.

    The Zionist modus operandi, proven to work, time and again.

    Just look at the USA. “Don´t worry about the Americans, we Jews control the Americans and they know it”, so said the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu….and he should know. He is still around because of US support.

    Decent Australian people know that support for Palestine is not anti-Semitic, the phrase used by corrupt Jews everywhere as one of their favourite “tricks” and now known to be so, universally. They have dined out on anti-Semitism for decades as with the holocaust before that.

    Skilful, devious trickery.

    I am confident that your work at UNRWA was of great value. With you and most of the decent people in our country, we all know that Palestine deserves freedom from hateful apartheid occupation, the equal to anything we have seen in our lifetime, including the infamous Third Reich.

    Welcome back.

  11. Malcolm Spry says:

    An excellent commentary Melissa. For far too long the Israeli government and supporting Zionists have hid behind the anti semitism tag in order to avoid criticism of unacceptable policies and human rights violations. Does being anti Trump or anti Republican make you anti American. The illogic is obvious. It is interesting to note that the Jewish community in the USA is far more critical of Israel than their brothers and sisters in Australia. Here, the slightest criticism of Israel is jumped on by the Jewish lobby whose comments are all too welcomed and covered by an uncritical media.

  12. Jerry Roberts says:

    Well said Melissa. Not all Jews are Zionists, not now and not at the time of Theodore Herzl. As you point out, many Jews who are loyal citizens of Israel are concerned about treatment of the Palestinians. Surely a Jew cannot be anti-Semitic. The Zionist lobby was way out of line with its blatant interference in the British election, not that it made any difference to the result, which was all about Brexit.

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