If it is the right thing to locate Australia’s embassy in Jerusalem, we should do so even if terrorists threaten violence in response.
And if it is ok to be white, we should be able to say so even if white supremacists say the same thing.
Our governments and citizens should say and do what is right, regardless of the reaction of terrorists and supremacists. We must never let the terrorists and supremacists win.
Imagine if we decided against locating our embassy in Israel’s capital city for fear of terrorist violence. This would be akin to women deciding against walking home at night or not wearing a particular dress or swimsuit for fear of being assaulted or raped.
Of course, we should take precautions in light of our decisions. Before the Government announced it was considering the embassy move, ASIO warned our agencies to prepare for potential violent protests. And if the Government went ahead and moved the embassy, we would all need to be on high alert for potential violence.
I made a related point in June when I argued that women should be allowed to carry pepper spray if they wish, as this would be a reasonable precaution when making the perfectly legitimate decision to walk home at night.
Whether it is the right thing to move Australia’s embassy to Jerusalem is a complex issue and reasonable points can be made on all sides.
My view is that moving the embassy should occur. For a start, Israel’s capital is in fact Jerusalem. Furthermore, moving it would be an acknowledgment that Israel controls Jerusalem, and acknowledging facts is an important prerequisite for successful negotiations.
I also hold the radical view, perhaps not consistent with the mantra of a ‘two-state-solution’, that Arabs and Jews might be better off if the territory Israel won in response to external aggression remains part of Israel permanently. After all, Israel is the only democracy that respects human rights in the region. Journalists don’t get carved up in Israeli embassies and homosexuals don’t get stoned to death.
But whatever is the right thing to do about our embassy in Israel, the threat of terrorist violence in response should play no part in the decision. Any threat by Indonesia of withdrawal from a trade deal should play no part either. Principles matter.
Saying and doing what is right, regardless of the views of malevolent forces, is not just important in relation to highfalutin government decision-making. It also matters in the more ho-hum, day-to-day choices of everyday Australians.
For instance, because it is ok to white, everyday Australians should be free to say that it is ok to be white. Just as it is ok to be black.
Just because white supremacists say it is ok to be white does not make the statement incorrect or unusable. We shouldn’t reject this truth just to ensure we are always disagreeing with white supremacists. It would still be fine to say “Have a nice day” even if it had been Hitler’s favourite saying.
To do otherwise leads to poor outcomes. For example, labelling the vote of Craig Thompson, former Labor parliamentarian and Health Services Union official, as a tainted vote led other parliamentarians to cast their votes in the House of Representatives not according to principle, but according to whatever side Craig Thompson wasn’t on.
We shouldn’t spend our lives fearing spurious associations with bad people or thinking that bad people are never correct. A broken clock is correct twice a day.
When major party politicians vote down the suggestion that it is ok to be white, they come across to a lot of Australians as weak and stupid. This is a win for white supremacists.
We need to stop interpreting people’s words beyond their plain meaning. If I agree with the suggestion that it is ok to be white, this means I think it is ok to be white. It does not mean that I believe all white people are oppressed, or that all people of different races are not.
But we also need to hold people to account for what they say. If people slander men in general as out-of-control pigs, we shouldn’t excuse this as if they just meant ‘some’ men.
Politicians, and the rest of us, should be free to act with principle and speak truth, and to stop boxing with shadows.
David Leyonhjelm is a Senator for the Liberal Democrats