Push to ban Israel lobby trips for NSW Labor officials

Recognition of Palestine “if there is no progress to a two-state solution”: Bob Carr. Photo: Ryan Osland NSW Labor leader Luke Foley has directed that state MPs must spend equal time in the Palestinian areas if they accept assisted travel to Israel. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Israel trips are aimed at “indoctrination”: Shaoquett Moselmane. Photo: James Alcock

Divisions within the ALP over Middle East policy are set to flare at next month’s NSW conference over a push to ban Labor MPs, officials and Young Labor members from accepting subsidised trips to Israel.

The proposal has been put forward by the group Labor Friends of Palestine.

The motion states that while Benjamin Netanyahu’s government “continues settlements, refuses a Palestinian state [and] brutally mistreats Arab residents of the West Bank”, that no ALP officer, MP or Young Labor member “accept a paid trip from the Israel Lobby”.

“To do so in the circumstances is an insult to the Australian community who support our party,” it says.

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and similar groups regularly organise subsidised trips for journalists and politicians to Israel where they undertake guided tours.

The push is in response to a perception of an increase in approaches to Labor MPs and officials to take the trips following the passage of resolutions at recent ALP conferences.

At the 2014 NSW conference, former foreign minister Bob Carr – a patron of Labor Friends of Palestine – successfully moved a motion calling on a Labor government to move towards recognition of a Palestinian state “if there is no progress to a two-state solution”.

Last year’s national conference passed a similar motion put by Right faction powerbroker and shadow finance minister Tony Burke.

In September last year, Queensland Labor went further, passing a motion calling for a future Labor government to “immediately” recognise a Palestinian state.

NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has directed that state MPs must spend equal time in the Palestinian areas if they accept assisted travel to Israel, but this does not apply to party officials, many of whom have taken the trips in recent years, or Young Labor.

The NSW Right faction is deeply divided on the issue, with the strong views of influential powerbrokers of Lebanese heritage clashing with those supportive of Israel.

Upper house Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane said he supports the push to ban the trips, but believed extending the Foley directive to officials and Young Labor is “a more feasible and balanced approach”.

Mr Moselmane said the Israel trips are aimed at “indoctrination”.

“If they want to have party members travel to Israel, then they should also be taken to Palestine, to the West Bank, where it’s safe and possible to do so,” he said.

Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff said all tours include visits to the West Bank and participants are briefed by “top-level Palestinian officials”.

“This ensures the integrity of the program and gives Australian delegations an opportunity to see for themselves the reality on the ground,” he said.

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