Saturday, November 15, 2014

Palestine & Labor's Funding Dilemma

Former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr is confidently predicting a shift to a more pro-Palestine position in the ALP:

"If a backbencher in the next Labor government rises at caucus to move that Australia recognise a Palestinian state, I would expect it to be carried overwhelmingly - even on the voices as it was at the recent Queensland and NSW party conferences." (Letter to The Australian, 12/11/14)

A potential problem for the party, however, lies in its need to fund election campaigns. Without a system of taxpayer-funded elections, raising funds can be an expensive business, and political donations from wealthy individuals in the Jewish community have long been an important source of campaign funding for the party.

In his recent book, Diary of a Foreign Minister, for example, Carr quotes former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd as saying that Jewish political donations made up about one-fifth of Labor's funding for the 2007 federal election. This money, of course, is predicated on Labor adopting a position of blind, uncritical support for Israel. Should it deviate from this, ever so slightly, as Rudd found in 2010, this is what can happen:

"Australia had long been one of Israel's 3 most supportive friends, along with the US and Canada. But now there were troubling signs that Rudd had decided to distance himself from the Jewish state... It started in February [2010] with the news that assassins with the Israeli intelligence service Mossad had forged 3 Australian passports to enter the United Arab Emirates to kill a Hamas military commander... It sharpened a week later when Australia switched its vote in the UN to signal a weakening of support for Israel... The concern intensified last month when the government expelled an Israeli diplomat as a punishment for the passports abuse... All through this, the Israeli ambassador to Australia and some members of the Jewish community felt a chill in their dealings with the government. Phone calls went unreturned, normal dealings seemed to be suspended. The Jewish community reciprocated. When Labor approached key groups to hold fund-raising events for the coming election, they feigned busyness, but it was a deliberate and unmistakeable retaliation. The Jewish community was an important source of Labor funds for the 2007 election. A single lunch in Sydney raised $100,000. A Toorak tennis court party for 200, attended by Rudd and Julia Gillard, raised more. But as this year has unfolded, it became increasingly clear such effort would not be repeated." (What am I, chopped liver? How Rudd dived into schmooze mode, Peter Hartcher, Sydney Morning Herald, 22/6/10)*

It seems that British Labor too is in a similar bind:

"The Labour party is facing desertion by Jewish donors and supporters because of Ed Miliband's 'toxic' anti-Israel stance over Gaza and Palestine. In a fresh headache for the Labour leader, it is understood that Mr Miliband has been warned that Jewish backers are deserting the party in droves over what community leaders perceive to be a new, aggressive pro-Palestine policy at the expense of Israeli interests... [A] previous donor said they had been asked by the party to arrange a fundraising dinner for Jewish Labour supporters but had found no takers. 'Miliband won't get that [money], I can tell you that now,' he said. 'I was going to do a couple of dinners and invite prominent members of the community, who are quite wealthy, to raise funds. They just wouldn't touch it. It was too toxic for them to even consider. There is a lot of reluctance to support Miliband financially, unfortunately.'... Prominent Jewish supporters say problems started in the summer with Mr Miliband's aggressive condemnation of Israel's ground incursion into Gaza last August, which he described as 'wrong and unjustifiable'. He accused David Cameron of being wrong not to have condemned the land operation and claimed that 'Israel was losing friends in the international community day by day'. This was followed by a decision to whip a vote calling on the Government to unilaterally recognise Palestine - against long-standing British and Labour policy that recognition should only be part of a negotiated two-state settlement. That decision was opposed by a number of senior Labour MPs - including at least two shadow cabinet ministers - who warned it would haemorrhage Jewish support... A number of Jewish former Labour supporters also compared Mr Miliband's stance on Gaza unfavourably with David Cameron's, which, they suggested, had been calibrated to ensure that prominent Tory Jewish supporters stayed on board." (Labour funding crisis: Jewish donors drop 'toxic' Ed Miliband, Oliver Wright,, 9/11/14)

What a fine state of affairs, where political parties must calibrate their foreign policy to suit those who, while comfortably domiciled in places such as Australia or Britain, entertain fantasies that Palestine actually belongs to them.

[*See my 22/6/10 post The Best Israel Policy Money Can Buy.]

1 comment:

willy bach poetic thoughts said...

Hold everything, I think I have to make an exception here, I usually don't post any anonymous material, but some being called MERC (Middle East Reality Check) wrote this article and it is right on all scores. How can we run a democracy based on this?
"What a fine state of affairs, where political parties must calibrate their foreign policy to suit those who, while comfortably domiciled in places such as Australia or Britain, entertain fantasies that Palestine actually belongs to them."