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News Ltd issues apology to former Labor MP Melissa Parke

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Former Labor MP and U.N. human rights expert Melissa Parke (Screenshot via YouTube)

Following accusations of anti-Semitism, an apology has been published by the mainstream media to human rights advocate Melissa Parke, writes Peter Wicks.

ON 26 MARCH this year, something unusual happened.

News Ltd was forced to take a big bite of humble pie and print an apology to former Labor MP Melissa Parke in The Herald Sun. This apology came after articles were printed that could have given the impression that Ms Parke was an anti-Semite after she was critical of Israel’s human rights record.

To add icing to the cake, as well as the apology, they ran an editorial piece by Ms Parke titled ‘Criticism not same as racism’.

This simple fact may seem obvious to you and me, but to many readers of News Ltd, it is not so obvious. It also appears that it’s not that obvious to many members of the Coalition and some members of the Labor Party.

Then again, maybe those involved in this saga don’t really believe this matter is anything to do with bigotry. Maybe there is something far more sinister going on.

Melissa Parke served as the Labor Member for Fremantle from 2007 through to 2016. In her nine-year parliamentary career, she achieved vastly more than some managed to achieve in over 20 years. Parke became the Parliamentary Secretary for Mental Health, Homelessness and Social Housing in 2013.

She also sat on several of Parliament's Joint Standing Committees, including the Joint Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Committee for Treaties and the Joint Statutory Committee: Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. She was also appointed Minister for International Development in 2016.

Prior to entering Parliament, Parke worked with the United Nations as a lawyer from 1999 until her election. This saw her based in Kosovo during the peace-keeping efforts, in Gaza working with Palestinian refugees and later in Beirut and New York.

Melissa Parke certainly has the international, legal and political expertise to recognise apartheid when she sees it and has become well known and widely respected for calling out human rights abuses.

While most see that as a noble and just cause, for others it is viewed as threatening.

In 2019, those threatened by her passion for human rights reared their ugly heads.

Having announced her retirement from politics in 2016, Parke put her hand up to be the Labor candidate for Curtin in the 2019 Federal Election.

This was going to be a big call. Curtin was a safe Liberal seat being vacated by Julie Bishop, a high profile candidate would be just what Labor needed. She was quickly preselected and hit the ground sprinting.

However, with a candidate so committed to human rights, it didn’t take long for those seeking to protect violators to start throwing their accusations and smears.

Being a dedicated defender of Palestinian rights, there were soon calls from within the Labor Party for Ms Parke to be stood down as a candidate and articles started appearing in the press smearing her. Some of these articles portrayed Ms Parke as an anti-Semite and pointed to a speech she made at a pro-Palestinian event where she spoke about a pregnant Palestinian woman who had been forced to drink bleach by an Israeli soldier at an Israeli checkpoint in Gaza. Despite efforts by many that this was a false claim, the incident was confirmed and an Israeli soldier was charged over the incident.

As Ms Parke has said:

‘The incident at the checkpoint was not concocted; it happened. There is no need to invent atrocities, they are occurring on an almost daily basis in the Occupied Palestinian territories.’

Those critical of Parke’s speech didn’t take issue with the act of forcing a pregnant woman to drink bleach, nor the mindset that would even contemplate such a heinous act. Their issue was that the matter was being brought up and may cast the Israeli military in a bad light.

Ms Parke has a not-so-hidden agenda of wanting to see pregnant women pass checkpoints without having to drink bleach, kids to have access to clean water, medical supplies and reliable power for those in Gaza and for Palestinian families to be allowed to live in their homes peacefully without having to worry about being forced out at gunpoint to make way for Israeli settlers.

According to some, this makes her an anti-Semite. If that is so, I wonder what it makes those who are supportive of these things.

Amidst the controversy, Melissa Parke put the Labor Party’s interests ahead of her own and stepped down as a candidate.

While Parke put the party’s interests first, whose interests were put first by those within the party attacking her as a Labor candidate?

There is a lot of debate around foreign influence in Australia and, intriguingly, many of those leading the campaign against China are also known to be quick out of the blocks defending Israel.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) released a report on the number of overseas trips and junkets taken by Australian members of parliament between 2010 and 2018 and funded by foreign entities and governments. This report clearly showed there were more declared trips to Israel than any other country. Almost twice as many trips as there were to China and more than double the trips to the U.S.

The report states:

‘The largest sponsor of all non-Australian government-funded trips for Federal Parliamentarians was AIJAC.’

The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) is the Israel lobby in Australia. It is also interesting to note AIJAC’s trips/junkets included flights and accommodation whereas many other sponsors covered accommodation only.

AIJAC also sponsor trips for State MPs in several states including NSW and Victoria.

They appear to think they are getting bang for their buck.

It was not only Melissa Parke that came under attack during the 2019 election campaign — also under fire were Labor’s Josh Wilson and Senator Sue Lines.

Their crime was to speak at an official function in support of Palestine at the Labor Party’s National Conference in December 2018. Their words were leaked to the media and misrepresented to pressure them into resigning before the election. Given this was an official Labor Party function with only members in attendance these leaks to the press and representative of a foreign government could have only come from Labor Party members. One wonders what the outcome of this would have been if it been about China rather than Israel.

In fact, after the last election, media focused on rumours of China lobby involvement in Gladys Liu’s campaign. They ignored the Israel lobby’s efforts to remove two sitting members and a candidate from the expected incoming Labor Government.

Melissa Parke’s legal action against those who participated in attempts to brand her an anti-Semite resulted in an apology from The West Australian earlier this year and now News Ltd. Both publications have also published a column by Ms Parke on why legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies is not anti-Semitism.

There will be more to follow with Ms Parke also taking legal action against David Sharma MP and AIJAC Executive Director Colin Rubenstein for their public defamatory statements.

Anti-Semitism is a real thing, however, disagreeing with an Israeli government policy does not make you an anti-Semite.

The Israel lobby likes to point to Israel being the only democracy in the Middle East and it’s true, Israel is just as democratic as any other nation that doesn’t allow millions of its population to vote based on ethnicity and religion. However, there is something those pointing the finger may like to ponder. If being critical of Israeli policy makes someone anti-Semitic, then what does that make the opposition party in Israel?

Or are you selective in whom this nonsensical rule applies to?

Peter Wicks is a former Federal Labor Party staffer. You can follow him on Twitter @MadWixxy.

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