Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Chris Minns says NSW MPs shouldn’t talk about Israel. But he does

NSW Premier Chris Minns is among the many politicians, media (and News Corp) figures and anti-Palestinian activists embarrassed by their embrace of what turned out to be false claims that pro-Palestinian protesters chanted “Gas the Jews” at the now-famous protest at the Sydney Opera House in the wake of Hamas’ sickening atrocities on October 7 last year.

As Antoinette Lattouf and Cam Wilson of Crikey have consistently reported, other anti-Semitic chants were made by what protest organisers claim were a minority of those present, but “Gas the Jews” is fundamentally different in being (rightly) a criminal offence as an incitement to murder. Claims that such a phrase was uttered have been found by NSW Police to be without evidence despite the circulation of misleading videos and their amplification by News Corp.

But Minns seized on the claims to savage pro-Palestinian protesters, claimed police would not let them protest again, and attacked one of his own MPs for raising questions about the claims. “It certainly sounds like a despicable and racist chant to me,” Minns said at the time. He then used what he referred to as “advocating for violence or hatred on city streets” as a pretext to review NSW laws on incitement to violence, handing NSW Police direct power to prosecute offences.

In January Minns announced the whole law applying to incitement to violence would be reviewed, saying “there is no place in NSW for hate speech or incitement to violence”. The current law was introduced by the previous government in 2018, with strong Labor support — and no complaint that it, as Minns now says, lacked teeth.

Having used unproven claims of inciting violence as an excuse to further toughen laws around speech offences and hand police yet more power, Minns has also made a habit of attacking his own MPs for daring to criticise Israel. When frontbencher Anthony D’Adam made the simple factual statement that Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent children, Minns — presumably on the basis that Palestinian children were somehow dying of causes unrelated to being bombed incessantly by Israel — dismissed him as someone “most people in NSW would never have heard of” who was being “deliberately inflammatory”.

Last week Minns again used News Corp to attack his own MPs, telling the Telegraph that they should focus on NSW. “We don’t have a foreign policy in the state. We don’t have a minister for foreign affairs … if that’s your passion and that’s where your desires are, your policy interests are, well run for federal Parliament … when we’ve solved all the problems in NSW, then we can move on to the Middle East.”

It’s not a new line from Minns. In 2022 he also attacked D’Adam, saying “he’s not a delegate of the United Nations, he’s a member of the NSW Parliament, his obligations and responsibilities to the people who live in this state and his obligations in my view, are to focus on NSW first. When we’ve fixed everything in NSW then you can focus on the Middle East.”

However, that’s not advice that Minns himself feels bound by. The month before Minns attacked D’Adam in 2022, he gave a speech at an Israel Independence Day event in which he spoke at length about Israel’s history, and the role of the Chifley government in its creation.

In the same speech, Minns boasted of traveling to Israel with Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison in 2001. “I still have the photos of a group of half-naked politicians caked head to toe in black mud, en route to the Dead Sea.

“I’m forbidden from releasing the pictures,” Minns joked with his audience, “due to delegation protocol, and the fact I’m also in the photos.”

Minns also likes to rail at the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement and has done so repeatedly — one of the reasons Minns was lauded in the Jewish community press as a “long-term and strong friend to the Jewish community and Israel and an opponent of the BDS”.

According to Minns, it’s okay to play foreign minister and have a passion for Middle Eastern affairs — as long as you back Israel.


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