Since the NSW election discussion among many readers of Left Flank has been dominated by the battle over Marrickville Council’s BDS policy. The Left inside the party has just had to face down the combined forces of the Murdoch media, Barry O’Farrell, Kevin Rudd, various sections of the pro-Israel lobby, and the party’s own national leader, Bob Brown. This is not to mention the use of the mainstream media to attack pro-BDS Greens and state Greens policy by Upper House MP Cate Faehrmann and Marrickville Councillor (and until very recently Bob Brown staffer) Max Phillips.
The Marrickville Councillors who stood firm to support the BDS did so under enormous internal and external pressure, well documented in the major daily newspapers. What you can’t read is that many NSW Greens members continue to support a strong stance on Palestine, in favour of the BDS. Moreover, missing from much analysis is that the adoption of the BDS was democratically decided by the NSW Greens, and is a political position held by many progressive forces globally.
From what we’ve heard about the Greens NSW State Delegates Council held in Balmain over the weekend, tensions have run high in the wake of the election and BDS controversy. We understand that the party has not backed away from its support for the BDS, and the use of media outlets to wage internal arguments has not been allowed to slide. This is enormously important both in terms of the internal BDS campaign, and because it should give courage to Councillors (as well as candidates, NSW MLAs and MLCs, and Federal Senators) that they should continue to support and promote democratically-decided policy even when faced with the enormous criticism of the forces discussed above.
This is not simply a case of taking the principled stand of a martyr: the international BDS campaign is a live and real issue, and the plight of Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories is critical. Some Greens have argued that the party should take a pragmatic position on questions like the BDS. This seems quite strange to us. For years the Greens held principled positions on climate change even when these were called mad, fringe and unreasonable. Why should the BDS be any different?
Isn’t there also a wider issue for the Greens itself at stake here: will the Greens continue in its tradition of being the progressive voice willing to take principled stands even in the face of criticism from mainstream politicians and the MSM?
The BDS has also been used as a stalking horse in relation to Senator-elect Lee Rhiannon, seeing her accused of factionalism. While some of our readers have encouraged Left Flank to write on these claims, even a cursory look at the MSM will show that any factional behaviour has been on display in public and is not at the hands of Rhiannon. Indeed, if there’s any criticism to be made of the Left inside the NSW party it’s that it has too often put party unity ahead of political clarity and coherence, leaving space for more conservative forces to go on the front foot.
NSW members were greeted at their State Delegates Council meeting this weekend by this story from Saturday’s Canberra Times. The story suggests anything but a cooling off after the state election and BDS upheaval. If anything, things are only just starting to heat up: