Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Vale John Kaye (1955-2016)

The ms media this week lists the many worthy causes championed by the late NSW Greens MLC John Kaye. All except one - Palestine.

You may, for example, read the former Greens' leader, Bob Brown's reference to Kaye as "a friend of the poor and dispossessed," but find yourself wondering to which poor and dispossessed Brown was referring.

You may read the assessment of John Macgowan, the former Liberal Party staffer responsible for shepherding government legislation through the NSW Upper House, in which he describes Kaye as "that rare breed of politician who could always be relied upon to do the right thing, to put common decency first," but find yourself wondering why, if this were so, only Kaye and fellow Green, David Shoebridge, saw fit to defend the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against its detractors in the NSW Upper House in September 2011, an occasion when even the other Greens in the House were found wanting. (See my 16/9/11 post A Cautionary Tale)

Here, in part, is what Kaye had to say at the time:

"I cannot support this motion [moved by the Liberal's David Clarke, and reading in part: '(c) 'notes that some of the rhetoric used by proponents of the BDS camp has descended into anti-Semitism'*] and will be voting against it. This motion is a cheap attempt to smear the BDS movement as anti-Jewish when it is not. It is an attempt to allege that there is anti-Semitism on the side of the BDS debate when there is no evidence of such anti-Semitism.

"There is direct evidence that the anti-BDS side is being supported by those with excellent fascist connections - the Australian Protectionist Party - and not just fascist connections, but connections to Holocaust deniers. This motion attempts to explain the real horror of anti-Semitism and its most appalling manifestation in the Holocaust to achieve cheap political points. It cheapens the memory of the six million people who died in the holocaust, and many more who suffered terribly under Nazism. As such, I cannot support the motion and will be voting against it.

"Lest it be said that voting against this motion in any way implies any lack of condemnation of anti-Semitism, I put on record again that The Greens moved a motion this morning to condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms. I did that in order to ensure that the wedge that was designed into this motion, for those who felt the need to vote against it, would not be used. There is, of course, a legitimate debate about advancing the rights of Palestinians who have been dispossessed by Israel, who have been left stateless, without human rights, and who have been left with a dysfunctional territory. As pointed out by the Hon. Trevor Khan, in October 2011 [sic: December 2010] the NSW Greens supported the BDS mechanism. It is on our website, despite the Government Whip saying that it is not. It is there, and if Trevor Khan could find it, surely anybody could find it.

"The Greens recognise it as a mechanism to address the appalling situation of the Palestinian people and the role that the policies of the Israeli government have played in promoting those conditions. Just as the consumer, trade and sporting boycotts against South Africa brought about change in that country, it is The Greens' belief that these boycotts can bring about change in Israel and Palestine. The Greens recognise that there are those who do not believe that Palestinians face a systemic denial of their rights and there are those who do not support BDS as a way of achieving an improvement in rights. It is their right to believe so.

"The Greens recognise that there were those during the campaign against apartheid in South Africa who thought that the blacks in South Africa got quite a good deal. Some felt that boycotts would not help the blacks in South Africa - the Liberal Party and The Nationals were full of such people. Who can forget Joh Bjelke-Petersen, a former Premier of Queensland, who fought vigorously against the boycotting of South African sporting events? History shows that those people were dead wrong. History shows that those people supported an unconscionable denial of human rights based on racial background. History shows that the boycotts were an important ingredient in bringing about change in that state and in bringing about a new era where human rights were no longer determined by the ethnic, religious or racial backgrounds of people who lived in that state.

"I have no doubt that history will show that those who oppose BDS, those who give Israel unqualified support, are doing no favours to the citizens of Israel and are ignoring the realities of the systematic denial of human rights to Palestinians. The BDS campaign is controversial and there are a range of opinions on it - as was the case with the boycotts against South Africa. Those who support BDS are not afraid of criticism and debate. There ought to be criticism and debate about a tactic that is highly controversial, but that criticism and debate should be founded on fact, not in a fantasy borne of ideology.

"The BDS campaign is no more anti-Semitic than are those which called for an end to the attacks on the front-line ethnic groups in Burma are anti-Burman...

"I cannot support the motion, just as my Greens colleagues Bob Brown and Christine Milne in the Senate, and other senators, voted against a similar motion moved by The Nationals member Senator Boswell. The motion before the House today is somewhat of a copy of Senator Boswell's motion. That motion was a nasty wedge and this motion is a nasty wedge. As an Australian Jew I find the exploitation of false accusations of anti-Semitism particularly obnoxious. Others of similar ethnic and religious backgrounds to me might disagree and say there is anti-Semitism; it is their right to do so. But let us be absolutely clear, the BDS campaign is not anti-Semitic. One might not like that it targets Israel or that it targets shops that are owned by Israelis, but it does not target shops that are owned by Jews. It has no connection to the appalling tactics implemented by the Nazis during the Holocaust."

[*See my 17/9/11 post Witches Brew 1.]

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