Harsh Israel critic quitting Australia politics

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Sep 17, 2009, 12:22:54 PM9/17/09
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Harsh Israel critic quitting Australia politics

September 17, 2009

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) -- An Australian legislator who described Israel’s policies as “ethnic cleansing” and Gaza as a “concentration camp” is quitting politics.

Labor Party lawmaker Julia Irwin, a longstanding critic of Israel, announced this week that she will not run in the next federal election, scheduled for 2010.

Irwin was the only lawmaker to boycott Kevin Rudd’s motion to congratulate Israel on its 60th anniversary last year, saying at the time that she “could not congratulate a country which carries out human rights abuses each day.”

A bete noire of the Zionist community in Australia, Irwin read aloud an e-mail in parliament in 2002 claiming that the Jewish lobby was “the most implacable, arrogant, cruel and powerful lobby in the country.”

She issued an apology for her comments in 2005 about Israel’s “ethnic cleansing” and Gaza as a “concentration camp” after criticism from Jewish groups. 

Paul Howes, the national secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union, said this week that “Comparing the actions of Israel to those of Nazi Germany is the sort of low-rent tactic preferred by those who seek to perpetuate rather than resolve the impasse in the Middle East. It is divisive and intellectually lazy.

“Her legacy to the parliament, her electorate and Labor is not a great one,” Howes said.

Irwin was first elected to parliament in Canberra in 1998.

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