The Greens correctly get up the noses of Labor, Coalition over Gaza

Jun 7, 2024
Australian Greens Leader Adam Bandt speaks during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, June 5, 2024 Image: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

The Greens, a party with whom Labor may well have to negotiate with to form government after the next election, have the knack of getting up the noses of both Labor and the Coalition by accusing both major parties of doing little or nothing to effect an end to the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza, senseless killing that has been going on in the name of self-defence since October 7.

For the most part, this is part of the cut and thrust of everyday politics. But the Greens have certainly hit a sensitive nerve by raising questions about the billion or so that the government has thrown the way of Elbit Systems, an Israeli company that is engaged in supplying hardware to the IDF. When the government has been asked about this, it has always ducked the question.

On Wednesday, both Labor and the Coalition attacked the Greens in Parliament, accusing the party of supporting pro-Palestinian violence directed at MPs. A number of MPs’ offices have been painted with slogans backing the Palestinian side in this fight.

Greens leader Adam Bandt responded on Thursday by threatening to sue Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus for defamation after he made similar charges on the ABC’s Radio National.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese bears a lot of the blame for this situation, by his mealy-mouthed statements about the conflict. He has steadfastly refused to take a stand, preferring instead to issue what I call “on the one hand, … on the other hand” statements.

The government made much of the killing of Australian citizen Zomi Frankcom by an Israel drone some months ago, but it has now fallen silent, hoping that the lack of any follow-up by the mainstream media will ensure that the matter dies a natural death.

The opposition has made no secret of the fact that it backs Israel to the hilt. It has no time for the Palestinians, with leader Peter Dutton having much to say about the suffering endured by Israelis, and much less to say about the nearly 40,000 Palestinians who have been killed in cold blood by the Israeli army and air force.

Both Albanese and Dutton have gone on the attack against the Greens to divert attention from the other problems facing them. Albanese has had one problem after another with immigration issues – and simply refuses to take the one step that he should: sacking his minister.

Dutton is keen to keep the focus on anything other than the policies which he has repeatedly promised to outline, with nuclear energy heading the list. Far better to talk about the Greens and their alleged support for Palestinian protests that leave the door open to questions about nukes.

The Greens have done nothing wrong in highlighting the stances adopted by Labor and the Coalition right through this conflict. Both major parties are timid in the extreme, fearful that the media – which have also picked their side, most backing Israel – will attack them over support for one belligerent or the other.

Labor has silenced a number of critics of Israel from its own ranks, with West Australian Senator Fatima Payman being pulled into line for backing the Palestinians, while NSW Labor leader Chris Minns sacked one of his front-benchers for criticising the way the state’s police handled pro-Palestinian protests.

Labor has one great fear: that the degree of support that has been witnessed in Australia for the Palestinians will translate into anti-Labor votes at the next federal election. It would be even worse for Labor if these votes go to the Greens who would then be kingmakers once the voting is done and dusted.

There has been a conscious bid by both Labor and the Opposition to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism – or rather anti-Jewish sentiments, given that both Arabs and Jews are Semites – and to keep the volume down as much as possible. This isn’t the case in Australia alone; in the US and the UK, things are more or less the same.

The Greens have done the right thing in shaming Labor, though the rhetoric being employed is a trifle over the top. But then that is true for all sides of politics – when did one hear of a politician who knows the meaning of nuance?

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