Greens face backlash over Israel boycott stance

By Dan Goldberg, April 14, 2011
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The Australian Greens, a small but important faction in Labour's minority government, have been accused of antisemitism following support among some of its MPs for the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.

Liberal MP Andrew Robb has accused the environmental party of "creeping antisemitism" and his Liberal colleague, Malcolm Turnbull, blasted the party's anti-Israel stance, claiming it is "anti-Jewish and therefore antisemitic".

The Israel issue came to a head in the lead-up to the New South Wales election on March 26, when Fiona Byrne, the highly fancied Greens candidate in Marrickville, an inner-city council in Sydney that backed the BDS last year, was defeated at the ballot box in what Greens leader Bob Brown later admitted was a backlash against Ms Byrne's support for the Israel boycott.

Although the NSW faction of the Greens has adopted the BDS campaign, triggering a major backlash from the Jewish community, Senator Brown stressed that the federal Greens party has not backed it.

But Leigh Rhiannon, who from July 1 will represent the Greens in the upper house of the federal parliament, claimed the party's defeat in Marrickville was because it "didn't do enough to amplify support for [a boycott]".

Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield introduced a motion in the Senate condemning Marrickville council's support for the boycott. The motion passed but Senator Brown registered his opposition to it.

Other anti-Israel Greens MPs have also attacked Israel. West Australian Senator Scott Ludlam last year described it as a "rogue state" and his South Australian colleague, Sarah Hanson-Young, was filmed addressing a rally during which protesters urged Australia to sever ties with Israel.

The Labor government has struggled to hold onto power, relying on the Greens and several independent MPs, and this issue has strained relations, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard describing the Greens as "extremists who do
not share the values of everyday
Australians".

    Last updated: 12:15pm, April 14 2011