The acknowledgment of Palestine as a state on March 30 by the Australian Labor Party is a positive step, but it comes with a lot of conditions.
Pro-Palestine activists are right to doubt the ALP’s sincerity and whether it is really willing to follow this position in its entirety if it forms a government after the 2022 referendum.
The words that are used on Palestine recognition is still ambiguous. Although the ALP pledges to recognize Palestine as a state, it also states that it “expects” this issue to be a top priority for the next Labor administration. “Expects” is just as it says. This is not the same as saying that if Labor wins power, it will resolve to recognize Palestine as a policy priority.
Furthermore, the ALP has made the issue a critical priority for years. The identical words were introduced in the party conference’s closing session in December 2018. The representatives backed “the recognition and right of Israel and Palestine to exist as two states within secure and recognized borders” and the ALP “calls on the next Labor government to recognize Palestine as a State”.
Labor, unfortunately, lost the May 2019 contest. The Liberal Party retained its majority and, under Scott Morrison’s leadership, formed a new government.
Morrison was Australia’s Prime Minister as the ALP introduced what was clearly a policy change on Palestine in 2018. Morrison’s reactionary stance on Israel, in particular, is said to have forced Labor to adopt a seemingly radical stance on Palestine.
Morrison interacted with the same notion, after the former US President Donald Trump violated international law by publicly recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — and then relocating the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied city — in the hopes of taking the help of pro-Israel lobbies in Australia before the referendum.
Albeit, Morrison did not go as far as Trump. He did not relocate his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, instead adopting an equally unconstitutional stance in which he recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and vowed to move the embassy there as soon as possible.
Morrison’s policy has been considered as an embarrassment and has brought Australia closer to Trump’s illegitimate, anti-Palestinian stance.
That happened while most of UN member agreed that Israel’s occupation of Palestine was illegitimate and that the fate of Jerusalem could only be decided by a diplomatic arrangement, the Australian government, headed by Morrison, disagreed.
As the Arab countries protested Australia’s new stance, the ALP was pressed to balance the Liberal Party’s agenda. The ALP’s current strategy on Palestine could not be tested in effect because it lost the election. Still, according to the party’s most recent policy meeting, the same stance has been repeated, but with some leeway that might encourage Labor to reverse or defer the progressive position if and when it comes to power.
Yet the Labor Party’s stance is a significant move forward for Palestinians in their “legitimacy war” against Israel’s oppressive occupation.
But according to experts, in a legitimacy war the side with the poorer military could lose a lot of battles but still win the war. This was as valid in 1975 in Vietnam as it was in 1994 in South Africa. In the case of Palestine, this could also be valid.
This is why pro-Israel leaders, and organizations are outraged by the Australian Labor Party’s acknowledgment of Palestine as a state. The fact that the ALP supports a two-state solution, which is neither just nor realistic, does not distract from the fact that recognition of Palestine remains a viable option for Palestinians seeking to legitimize their plight while delegitimizing Israel’s apartheid system.
No politician, can win the credibility battle for the Palestinians, or any other marginalized country. Palestinians and their allies must assert their spiritual and legal dominance over politicians who are always self-serving in order for symbolic politics to become substantive in the future.
For the time being, the Australian Labor Party’s acceptance of Palestine is not only symbolic, but it is crucial. It has the potential to become something positive in the future if it is used properly — by pressure, activism, and mobilization. However, it is the Palestinians, not the ALP, who are responsible for this.