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Thursday, November 04, 2004


Labor MPs test limits of ‘reasoned criticism’

Former Australian Environment Minister in the Australian Labor Party’s Hawke government, Barry Cohen, dropped a shocker last month publishing an article declaring “anti-Semitism is now rampant” in the ALP - Australia’s oldest political party and currently in government in every state and territory.

In a country without institutionalised racial or religious regulation, the accusations are startling. Unlike Malaysia, for instance, religion is no barrier for election to Australia’s highest positions of government and, unlike, most other Asian countries, neither is one’s place of birth or ethnicity.

Cohen’s complaint is that “Labor’s hard left” has subverted the ALP’s balanced position on the rights of the State of Israel and of Palestinian Arabs through anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism “so grotesque” that criticism of Israel has moved to the anti-Semitic “ranting and raving, common among the extreme right”.

The former member of the House of Representatives called on the party to continue to reject all forms of prejudice and to return to “reasoned criticism” on middle-east issues.

Current MHR Tanya Plibersek, strongly criticised by Cohen for calling Ariel Sharon "a war criminal" and Israel a "rogue state" has since reaffirmed her support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue and her condemnation of acts of terror such as suicide bombing.

She said at no point, had she ever felt that her criticisms of the Sharon Government “were anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish or threatened the survival of the State of Israel”.

Recently appointed the ALP’s federal Shadow Minister for Work, Family and Community; Shadow Minister for Youth and Early Childhood Education; and Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on the Status of Women, Plibersek added:

“I am proud of my statements criticising the Taliban for its treatment of women in Afghanistan and the mullahs for their repression of democracy in Iran.

“I do not believe these criticisms make me anti-Arab”.

Spot on Shadow Minister. Afghanistan and Iran are not Arab countries.

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