The Australian Jewish Democratic Society has criticised the decision by the opposition leader Simon Crean to stop MPs with pro-Palestinian views from speaking on a parliamentary motion on the Middle East this week.

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The society’s national secretary, Harold Zwier says backbenchers JUlia Urwin and Leo McLeay have contributed a great deal to the Middle East debate and should have been allowed to speak on the issue.

Mr Zwier says it’s important for all sides to be heard on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I think in a democracy it’s appropriate that areas of public interest and areas that are under discussion generally are able to be aired in parliament. I think the comments that Leo McLeay and Julia Irwin have made are ones that are relevant in the debate on the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel. They’ve contributed stuff on the Palestinian side and I think that it’s totally appropriate that they do so.”

Mr Zwier says he’s nevertheless been concerned about remarks from another Labor backbencher, Tanya Plibersek, who has described the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, as a war criminal.

He says such comments have generated some ill-feeling towards the Labor Party, especially from more conservative Jewish groups.

“I think that there’s quite a diversity of views in the Jewish community and we represent one perspective and there are others with quite different views to our own. But the Labor Party is very supportive of the state of Israel. I think its policy is appropriate. It is pushing for a two-state solution and it’s one that the Australian Jewish Democratic Society very much supports.”

The opposition leader, Simon Crean, will be meeting with Jewish groups in Melbourne on August 31 to discuss Labor’s Middle East policies.

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