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Wednesday, 21 May 1980
Page: 3042

Mr COHEN (Robertson) Quite frankly, this is not the first time that we have seen the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) and certain other members on the Government side of the House using the Israeli question and the question of the Jewish people for their own political purposes.

Mr Birney - Scandalous! That is a miserable statement to make.

Mr COHEN -We on this side of the House do not believe that there is any consistent and genuine belief in and support for the state of Israel and if there is it is only insofar as the honourable member for Phillip has the biggest Jewish population in Australia in his electorate. I would like to know just how many honourable members opposite would take any interest in Israel if they did not have any Jews in their electorates. The Australian Labor Party has one of the proudest records in support of the state of Israel since Israel's establishment in 1949.

Mr Ruddock - Mr Deputy Speaker,I raise a point of order. The remarks made by the honourable member for Robertson, which were a reflection on members of this House, ought to be retracted. To suggest that a honourable member would use people of a particular race for a miserable political purpose, which were the words used by the honourable member for Robertson, I regard as-

Mr COHEN - That is not a point of order. He is breaking into my speech.


Order! The Chair cannot uphold the point of order. I call the honourable member for Robertson.

Mr COHEN - If members on the other side want to get up and attack this Party's record on Israel, they are asking for everything they get. We have the proudest record in this Parliament on the question of Israel right from the time when Dr Evatt supported the formation of the state of Israel. There are honourable members in this Parliament who have not a Jewish vote in their electorate. They supported Israel through thick and thin.

Mr Baume - Who else supported it?

Mr COHEN - I only have to mention Dr Evatt as one. Bob Hawke and Senator Wheeldon are others who have supported it. There are people in the Labor Party who are also concerned, I might add, about the fate of the Palestinians. I am one of them. I have no objection to the support for the state of Israel but there are human beings on the other side- the Palestinians. To be total and unequivocal in support of the survival of the State of Israel does not mean to say that we should ignore the plight of the Palestinians. It does not simply apply to-

Mr Bourchier - You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Mr COHEN - The honourable member ought to do a little bit of study about what is going on in the Middle East.

Mr Hodgman - It is disgusting; a two bob each way bet.

Mr COHEN - I can take you to Israel and introduce you to hundreds or even thousands of Israelis who are concerned about the Palestinian question. Anybody who knows the slightest thing about the Middle East knows damn well that there will be no solution to the problem of the Middle East-

Mr Burns - Shame on you.

Mr COHEN -Don't you bloody well say shame on me. I have been interested in Israel for the whole of my bloody life. I do not need a snotty nosed twit like you to tell me what my position is.

Mr Burns - Point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker!


Mr Burns - Point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker!

Mr COHEN - I know this better than anyone else in this bloody House.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable members for Isaacs and Robertson will resume their seats. Order! The House will come to order. I suggest that this is a lamentable way in which to commence a new day. I ask honourable members to observe the decorum of the House and exercise some self-restraint. I call the honourable member for Robertson and ask him to contain himself.

Mr COHEN - Mr Deputy Speaker,I am sorry for my loss of control, but I will not have someone like the honourable member for Isaacs coming in here and telling me what my position is. Thirty years of my life have been devoted to the support of the state of Israel. That does not mean that I am not human enough to understand the problems of the Palestinians. Perhaps the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West) did place a slightly stronger emphasis on the question, but he did not mention the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Not once did he mention it hi his speech.

Mr Bourchier - He has not denied it either.

Mr Barry Jones (LALOR, VICTORIA) - He has denied it.

Mr COHEN - He has denied it. This Party has a proud record in support of the state of Israel. Anyone who is a serious student of the Middle East knows, as do people like Begin and Sadat, that there is only one solution. Final peace in the

Middle East will come when a way has been found to handle the problem of the Palestinians. We can sit and argue about that for hours and hours. But if people like the honourable member for Phillip get up and attack the Labor Party which has a proud record of support for the state of Israel and pretend that there are feelings of anti-semitism and anti-Israel on this side I will get up and have my piece to say. Members of the Labor Party over a long period, have been consistently and persistently in support of the state of Israel. I will not have anyone like the honourable member for Phillip, just because he has a big Jewish population in his electorate, getting up and making these statements and attacking this Party on this subject.

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