Senator Sterle said the push was really an attempt to render sponsored trips to Israel unviable by increasing travel costs, and amounted to an admission that Israel was seen only within the context of the ongoing Middle East conflict.
“The idea is to learn about the country, not merely the conflicts in which it is involved,” he told The Australian. “To saddle participants with an arbitrary requirement that they cut their time in half would make it almost impossible to learn anything worthwhile ... it is a backdoor attempt at a ban.
“A ban would be tantamount to censorship, and they know that that would be indefensible.”
This weekend’s NSW Labor conference is poised to consider a compromise plan for MPs to spend equal time in Palestinian territories when travelling to Israel amid concern over a push for an outright ban if trips were funded by Jewish organisations.
The push has been condemned by former Queensland premier Peter Beattie, who likened it to a “Stalinist-type approach”, as well as former national president Warren Mundine, who said a push to ban trips was “verging on anti-Semitic’’.
Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman and deputy leader Tanya Plibersek told the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday that she did not support a ban, but said trips to the region were a “wonderful opportunity” for MPs to visit both Israel and the Palestinian territories. ... “I support people travelling to inform themselves ...”
Former Labor foreign minister and NSW premier Bob Carr has backed a system under which MPs would be “obliged to spend an equivalent time” inspecting the conditions of Palestinians on trips to Israel.
...ALP sources confirmed yesterday the motion was likely to be watered down, amid uncertainty on how to ensure “equivalent time” in the Palestinian territories.