Creating a faux firestorm when anybody speaks up for Palestinians

This was a story in Monday’s Murdoch Australian:

Incoming Greens MP James Parker yesterday stayed silent.

He refused to answer claims he had made inflammatory comments about Jewish people when discussing the NSW Greens’s proposed boycott of Israeli goods.

Mr Parker, who on Saturday claimed victory in the seat of Balmain in Sydney’s inner west, was quoted by online magazine New Matilda that the boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS] policy supported by some Greens had made many Jewish people unreasonable, while even “progressive Jews” had failed to have a moderate response. “These Jews provide cover for extreme actions if they occur,” Mr Parker said.

“If there’s a sniff of you being critical of Israel, such Jews will attack you and cut you loose.”

Mr Parker said the BDS policy had provoked aggression among Jewish people and that during the election campaign he received hate mail, his car was vandalised and campaign signs were spray-painted with swastikas.

“One letter said I wanted to turn Balmain power station into a gas chamber and the light rail would take people there,” Mr Parker is claimed to have told New Matilda.

“Lefty Jews told me you can’t be surprised if extreme people do extreme things, but they wouldn’t come out in public and condemn it.”

The national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Paul Howes, writing in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, claimed Mr Parker denied making the statements to journalist Antony Loewenstein.

Loewenstein did not respond to The Australian’s request for comment yesterday.

The Australian has made repeated attempts to contact Mr Parker since Friday, but he has not returned calls, nor did either of the Greens’ key spokeswomen in NSW, Allison Orme and Susie Gemmell, persuade him to do so.

And a story in today’s Australian:

A second NSW Greens politician has been accused of dissembling over the party’s policy towards Israel. Influential union and ALP figure Paul Howes said newly elected state MP Jamie Parker may have misled him over inflammatory remarks about sections of the Jewish community.

Mr Parker, who narrowly won the Sydney seat of Balmain from Labor’s Verity Firth, yesterday did not deny claims he made sweeping remarks about Jews in an interview with online publication NewMatilda last week.

But Mr Howes, the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, yesterday reaffirmed to The Australian that Mr Parker had denied making the comments when the union leader confronted him about the original NewMatilda article.

Mr Howes had aimed to blast Mr Parker in an opinion piece published in the Sunday Telegraph over language he deemed “abhorrent”.

In the NewMatilda article, journalist Antony Loewenstein had quoted Mr Parker as saying the boycott, divestment and sanctions policy (BDS) against Israel supported by NSW Greens had made many Jewish people unreasonable, and even “progressive Jews” had failed to have a moderate response. “These Jews provide cover for extreme actions if they occur,” Mr Parker was reported saying in NewMatilda.

“If there’s a sniff of you being critical of Israel, such Jews will attack you and cut you loose.”

When Mr Howes called to check with Mr Parker about whether the quotes were accurate before publishing his column, Mr Parker told him they were not and he had been misquoted.

“He told me he never said it,” Mr Howes wrote in his Sunday Telegraph column.

When informed yesterday that Mr Parker had subsequently not denied making the statement, Mr Howes told The Australian: “Look, Jamie could be lying to me. I don’t know; I hope not”.

Yesterday, Loewenstein published an article in NewMatilda saying he stood by the accuracy of the quotes of Mr Parker.

“I stand by my original story 110 per cent,” he told The Australian.

Loewenstein added in his retort in NewMatilda that he had taken accurate notes of the interview and checked the quotes with the Greens MP before publishing.

“In the case of Parker, I read back his quotes to confirm what he said,” Loewenstein wrote.

“He was happy for me to publish them.”

Mr Parker refused repeated requests from The Australian to discuss the matter, but Greens spokeswoman Susie Gemmell forwarded a statement he had provided to NewMatilda.

In the statement, Mr Parker does not specifically deny the accuracy of the quotes as attributed to him by Loewenstein.

But he says: “Certain quotes are attributed to me which do not reflect the language that I have always used in relation to the conflict in the Middle East.”

It’s important to understand what’s happening here. This isn’t really about who said what and when. The agenda is clear; find a way to divide the Greens before they assume the balance of power in Canberra in July and try and intimidate anybody who dares speak up for Palestine.

BDS will continue. It’s growing globally and that’s the intent in Australia; crush it before it can strengthen here. But the worldwide trajectory is clear while Israel continues to grossly abuse human rights in Israel and Palestine.