Greens say Israel is ‘practicing crime of apartheid’ and call for boycotts of far-right figures

Nour Haydar

ABC News (Australia)  /  June 5, 2023

The Greens have adopted a new policy position on Palestine and Israel which expresses concern that Israel’s “ongoing colonization of Palestinian land” is eroding the potential for a two-state solution and states that “Israel is practicing the crime of apartheid”.

Key points:

  • The Greens say Israel’s “ongoing colonization” of Palestinian land is rendering a two-state solution “unachievable”
  • The minor party agreed to update its policy position on human rights in the region at its national conference on Sunday
  • Greens leader Adam Bandt wants the Australian government to rule out holding meetings with two far-right Israeli ministers

The updated resolution — which was backed by Greens MPs and senators and drafted in collaboration with Greens for Palestine and Jewish Greens — was formally adopted at the party’s national conference on Sunday.

While the Greens have long called for Australia to recognize Palestinian statehood, the party has hardened its language against Israel and urged the government to boycott meetings with far-right Israeli ministers.

“The state of Israel continues to deny the right of self-determination to Palestinians and continues to dispossess them of their land,” the resolution states.

“We aim to rectify this injustice in a way that will allow both Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace, security and equality, exercising self-determination as described by the United Nations Charter.”

Since the Greens’ previous policy on the issue was adopted in 2010, two leading international human rights organizations have joined groups in the region to accuse Israel of committing apartheid through its policies towards and treatment of Palestinians.

The party’s new policy document says: “The state of Israel is practicing the crime of apartheid against Palestinians as noted by prominent human rights organizations – including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as Palestinian and Israeli groups including al-Haq, Yesh Din and B’Tselem.”

It also states that “Israel’s ongoing colonization of Palestinian land is rendering a two-state solution unachievable” and says the rise in right wing extremism is “contributing to the intensification of repression, violence and a further worsening of the humanitarian situation for Palestinians”.

The Israeli government has previously dismissed the findings and accused the organizations of peddling an “anti-Israel agenda” and pouring “fuel on the fire of anti-Semitism”.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the Australian government supports a two-state solution and has urged Israel against expanding and building settlements in the occupied West Bank which are illegal under international law.

“The Australian Government recognizes the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own and is committed to a negotiated two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist, in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders,” the statement said.

“We have consistently called on all parties to refrain from activities that diminish the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution, including settlement activity in the Palestinian Territories.”

“The Australian Government will engage with members of the Israeli government as appropriate and necessary. We have a longstanding relationship with Israel that allows us to have frank discussions with the Israeli Government, including on areas of disagreement.”

Last year Foreign Minister Penny Wong rejected the use of the term “apartheid” arguing “it’s not a term that’s been found to apply by any international court and is not helpful in progressing the meaningful dialogue and negotiation necessary to achieve a just and enduring peace”.

Labor’s 2021 national platform calls “on the next Labor Government to recognise Palestine as a state” and to treat it as an important priority.

Greens call for boycott of far-right ministers

Greens leader Adam Bandt has also called on the Albanese government to boycott meetings with two far-right Israeli government ministers.

Israel’s Minister for National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir has been convicted on numerous charges including supporting a terrorist organisation and incitement to racism, while Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich publicly said a Palestinian village should be “wiped out”.

Last month a European Union delegation reportedly cancelled a diplomatic event over the planned attendance of Mr Ben-Gvir, while in March US officials declined to address a conference where Mr Smotrich was a guest speaker.

“Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is increasingly a threat to both Palestinian self-determination and Israeli democracy, with far-right nationalist Ministers terrifyingly committed to violence against Palestinians,” Mr Bandt said.

“Far-right Ministers are making justice and peace impossible, and it’s time Australia refused to meet with these Ministers and redoubled the push for peace.”

The ABC understands there are no meetings currently planned between Australian ministers or officials and the pair, who hold portfolios that give them responsibility for major security functions in Israel and policies in the West Bank.

Greens Foreign Relations spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John said Australia should also apply Magnitsky-style sanctions against them.

“These two right-wing extremists are being rejected not only by foreign governments, but by progressive Jewish people across the world, who see that their actions and language are further pushing the Israeli government to the far-right, and rendering a two-state solution unachievable,” Senator Steele-John said.

“Australia needs to join an open, human rights-aligned public debate about the state of Israel’s policies toward, and treatment of, Palestinian people.

“This should start with boycotts and Magnitsky-style sanctions on Ben-Gvir and Smotrich.”

Greens oppose IHRA definition of anti-Semitism

The Greens have also rejected a controversial definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the Morrison government, and backed by Labor, which critics say stifles legitimate criticism against the government of Israel.

The party’s resolution states that “criticism of Israeli government policies and actions is not anti-Semitic” and the party opposes the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism because it “conflates criticism of the state of Israel with anti-Semitism”.

Ms Wong has previously said the definition is “so important because it ensures respectful debate, where disagreements are aired without descending into hateful and anti-Semitic slurs”.

The ABC has requested comment from the Israeli embassy.

Nour Haydar – political reporter