FEDERAL Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon used taxpayers’ money to print posters that called for Australia to “break ties with Israeli Apartheid”, called for the Palestinian “right of return” and for Israel to “end the occupation”.
The poster, printed for the Palestine Action Group to mark Al Nakba Day, the Palestinian people’s national day of “catastrophe” caused by the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, was printed and authorised by Rhiannon.
Rhiannon also posted a video online in which she said that in 1948 “Palestinians were killed and driven out, often at gunpoint”, and that “roughly 70 per cent of the population were ethnically cleansed in a deliberate campaign to make room for the new Israeli state”.
With reference to the poster, Rhiannon was asked by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) which territory she refers to as “the occupation” and “precisely which ties between the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Israel” should be broken.
However, a representative said the claims were made by the Palestine Action Group, and not the Senator.
When her representative was pressed on Rhiannon’s position, he said that “as a representative of the Australian Greens and Greens NSW, Senator Rhiannon’s positions on Palestine can be found in our public policy documents”.
ECAJ executive director Peter Wertheim said, “On any view, the claims and demands made in the poster which Senator Rhiannon has ‘authorised’ – such as the ‘right’ of return and the characterisation of Israel as an ‘apartheid’ state – go well beyond anything to be found in the Greens policy documents.
“If Senator Rhiannon has ‘authorised’ the poster, I cannot understand why she cannot answer my specific questions about what she understands the claims and demands in the poster to mean.”
According to rules, parliamentarians must use their communications entitlement to “support their role as members of the Australian Parliament and to help them communicate with members of the public in relation to their duties as elected representatives”.
And they can only print material “for parliamentary or elected purposes”.
Australian Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale assured The AJN that his party will not seek to end relations between Australia and Israel.
“Australian Greens policy recognises the ongoing injustices, repeatedly highlighted by the United Nations, that the Palestinian people have suffered,” he said. “We would like to see these injustices addressed in a way that will enable both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace.
“We feel that ongoing diplomatic dialogue and relationships between Australia, Israel and Palestinian representatives is important to achieving this goal.”
When asked if printing the flyer was an unacceptable use of public funds, Di Natale said that “it’s not uncommon for MPs to support community groups with printing. Determining which are appropriate community groups to assist is a matter for individual MPs.”
While stating that the Greens believed in a two-state solution, he did not specifically address the question put to him by The AJN of whether the party recognised Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish homeland.
Last year, Di Natale was forced to issue a retraction after implying in an interview with The AJN that Israel should be recognised as a “Jewish State”.