Federal Greens leader Bob Brown on BDS on the ABC's Lateline last night reminded me of former PM Rudd's contortions on the subject of asylum seekers back in 2009.
Remember the latter's 'tough but fair' mantra, which allowed the Opposition to claim they'd be even tougher on asylum seekers, and how that began a race to the moral bottom for both parties?
Instead of which, Rudd could simply have said: 'When it comes to asylum seekers, we will adhere strictly to the letter of international humanitarian law. End of story'.
Likewise, instead of embracing, defending and selling BDS as right and proper when dealing with a racist, apartheid state, Brown's ducking and weaving has merely handed his Zionised Labor and Liberal opponents a stick to beat him with.
As always, it's the Palestine test which sorts politicians of principle from the rest. Backing BDS was Brown's opportunity to pass that test with flying colours, but, sadly, he's whimped out.
Here's the relevant extract from the interview, with my comments in square brackets:
Ali Moore: [I]f we can look at the Greens, and of course your performance in the NSW state election... You picked up a seat in the Lower House for the first time, but many expected you to do better and the fact that you didn't was put down [By whom?] to the support of the Greens in NSW for a series of military, trade and services boycotts against Israel. [Er... it's called BDS.] You've said you don't agree with the NSW Greens 'who handled so badly that part of the campaign against my advice'. What were you telling the Greens in NSW? What didn't they listen to?
Bob Brown: Well if you're talking about that advice [Hello? She is.], my advice is that you leave national matters to the national arena, and that includes foreign policy. [So NSW Greens can't have a policy of boycotting Israeli products, but it's OK for NSW Labor to have a policy of support for a trade agreement with Israel? See my 22/3/11 post To Boycott or to Bed] But also, if you see an attack coming down the line and a real effort to pursue this issue, as we saw with The Australian newspaper, then you deal with it early. [Oh, I see. If the Zionist lobby (which he never mentions), aided and abetted by the Murdoch press, get upset, then you back down?] Fiona Byrne in Marrickville is a lovely person [Damning with faint praise!] and she didn't deserve what happened [Notice how he never mentions the swastikas or the threatening phone calls? See my 27/3/11 post A Very Ugly Turn Indeed] and I think the Greens strategists...
Ali Moore: But do you support the policy? Do you support the policy that the NSW Greens have for a boycott?
Bob Brown: No, I don't, and I've said this before publicly, Ali, that it was rejected by the Australian Greens Council last year. And I've been talking with Jamie Parker, the new Lower House member for the Greens, who's made this fantastic breakthrough. He's the mayor of Leichhardt. He's going into the Parliament as a Greens voice in the Lower House.
Ali Moore: And he supports the policy.
Bob Brown: He said - he told me today there is no way that he will be bringing this policy into the NSW Parliament, that he expects me to be looking after foreign policy and that he's got very important issues other than that that he'll be taking into the NSW Parliament. He won't be taking this issue into the NSW Parliament.
Ali Moore: Well, given your view, in the Senate just a couple of days before the NSW state election, Senator Fifield moved to condemn the boycott of Israel instigated by Marrickville Council*. And of course you're candidate Fiona Byrne was the mayor of marrickville Council. You didn't support that motion. You wanted the opposition of the Greens recorded. Why?
[* "Senator [Mitch] Fifield (Victoria - manager of opposition business in the Senate) - I move: That the senate - (a) notes (i) the boycott of Israel instigated by Marrickville Council, part of the Global Boycott Divestments and Sanctions banning any links with Israeli organisations or organisations that support Israel, and prohibiting any academic, government, sporting or cultural exchanges with Israel, (ii) letters from Marrickville Council to members of parliament asking them to support the GBDS, and (iii) reports of the intention of the Greens Marrickville Mayor, Ms Fiona Byrne, to seek to extend the boycott of Israel to the entire state of NSW; (b) acknowledges that Israel is a legitimate and democratic state and a good friend of Australia; and (c) denounces the Israeli boycott by Marrickville Council and condemns any expansion of it. Question agreed to. Senator Bob Brown (Tasmania - Leader of the Australian Greens) - I ask that the Australian Greens' opposition to this motion be recorded."]
Bob Brown: Because the motion was not in the interests of the people of Israel or Palestine. [Is this guy serious?] It was a very politically-loaded motion, and I note that Eric Abetz now says, of all people, that he's going to bring a motion about this into the next parliament. Look, you know, that's the way the far right in politics works here. But, I would say...
Ali Moore: But will you be comfortable putting your opposition to this policy on the record?
Bob Brown: I've just done so, and so has our national council [Adam Bandt MP, & senators Young, Milne & Siewert]. But let me tell you, Ali, that the Greens do have a policy on an independent and self-governing state for both Israel and Palestine living next to each other [Borders?], for support for the UN motions [They're called resolutions, Bob.] that have gone through on this, for a non-violent trajectory towards the independent state of Palestine [Such a condition is not imposed on Israel, I notice.] in the future. And neither of the other parties have a policy. You go looking for it, you won't find one, but the Greens have had - been through the rigour of developing this policy and we stand by it.
Ali Moore: And this policy that the NSW Greens stand by, do you have the power as the federal party to intervene in a state branch if there's a policy you don't agree with, and, indeed, what will happen with Lee Rhiannon? The NSW senator takes up her position in July. Will she have to recant state policy to do so?
Bob Brown: No, neither of those things. We're not in the business of censuring every member of the Greens or branch or state party, but it is pretty obvious, isn't it that the national party looks after foreign affairs. I'm the spokesperson for the national Greens on foreign affairs. I know where my party room stand on that. They're not going to promote this policy. It has been rejected by the Australian Greens and that's where we stand. And so, if NSW Greens wish to maintain the policy, they've got nowhere to go with it. And, you know, so be it. What they do...
Ali Moore: Is it difficult though to, I suppose, have a united party when you have very decisive issues actually dividing the party on state and federal lines in this instance?
Bob Brown: Like every party, and I can tell you who prevails here: the Australian Greens do. I have discussed this with my party room. There's no way that this policy is going to be promoted by us in the Parliament, but we stand strongly by the policy I've just outlined. And...
Ali Moore: But what happens if Lee Rhiannon stands up in the Senate and speaks to that policy and supports it? [The implication being that we can't possibly have free speech in the Australian parliament.]
Bob Brown: Well, should she be prevented from doing as she wishes? I'm not in the business of suppressing people, but I think you will find that Lee will make up her own mind about that, but she - the party room has made a decision that that policy's not going - and the Australian Greens party rejected the policy so - and you know, let me go back again: we know what Australians want us to be dealing with; they want us to be dealing with a budget coming down the line which is going to cut their interest [in...?] to ribbons, which is going to cut thousands of jobs out of the public service, I predict, and which is going to, at the same time, give a massive tax break to the big corporations. That's where we'll be concentrating our effort in trying to get householders and average small businesses in this country a fairer go than the way in which the Labor Party - and backed by the Coalition - is heading as far as economic, what I think is quite unfairness in this country.