By Ali Kazak
The recent debate and resignation of Australian federal Senator, Sam Dastyari, from the opposition front bench for accepting $1670 donation from “a Chinese government-linked” company and his adoption of a “pro-China stance on the South China Sea dispute” uncovers an ugly hypocrisy and prejudice of Australian politics, a type of White Australia foreign affairs policy.
Liberal Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, asked, “Is the Labor party’s foreign policy for sale?”, yet consecutive Liberal and Labor governments have been selling Australia’s foreign policy to Israel for decades with cash and free trips, putting its interests above Australia’s national interests and dancing to the tune of its extremist lobby.
There is no moral, legal, commercial or national strategic interest to justify Australia’s adoption of a biased policy towards Israel. Justice, international law, UN resolutions and human principles are all on the Palestinian side and not Israel’s. Nor is there a “Jewish vote”, and the majority of Australian public opinion has repeatedly shown in surveys taken for more than ten years that they are on the side of the Palestinians.
Australia’s commercial interests are also with the Arab and Muslim countries and not with Israel; so why the biased policy towards Israel? The answer is the bad influence on the government and opposition’s Middle East policies from a well-organized and financed Israeli-linked lobby which works for a foreign government, and uses political donations, free trips and awards given to politicians for their services.
Australian companies and businessmen, some of whom are both Israeli and Australian nationals, who finance the Israeli-linked lobby groups, such as Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) and the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA), donate money to both Labor and Liberal parties in return for both parties adoption of a bipartisan pro-Israeli policy. On many occasions even threats were made to withdraw their donations when there were indications of support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.
Despite the damage this biased policy inflicts on Australia’s national interest, reputation, security and international isolation, Australian politicians put their personal and parties interests above Australia’s national interest.
The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) revealed on 24.11.2012 that AIJAC through its “Rambam program” has sponsored free trips to Israel of “… more than 400 political leaders – including Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott – party advisers, public servants and university students. A separate trip is also run for journalists…”
The strong link and cooperation between the Israeli lobby in Australia and the Israeli government has been known for a long time and admitted by the lobby’s leaders. They work on Israel’s behalf and some get finance from Israel.
The National Chairman of AIJAC Mark Leibler was reported in the Australian Jewish News (AJN) as far back as 9.8.1985, when he was president of the ZFA as saying “We are generally improving our areas of influence. … and our directors interact fairly regularly with politicians, editors and journalists on a national scale and are in contact with officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs. [The Zionist] Federation works in close cooperation with the Israel Embassy in Canberra. We ought to be, and are the leading force in the community on matters of Israel and Zionism.”
An article by Sam Lipski titled ‘Inside the lobby’ (AJN on 13.8.1993) also confirmed the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and ZFA close cooperation with the Israeli government and work on its behalf. He wrote “More or less since the 1982 Lebanon War, the ECAJ and the ZFA allowed, and the Likud government encouraged, a blurring of the roles between the ECAJ/ZFA and the Israeli Embassy. These two bodies became quasi-diplomatic agencies, often filling the vacuum created by an undermanned and remote Israel embassy.”
And on 20.8.1993 Helene Teichmann wrote in AJN “…[the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak] Rabin has praised the ZFA’s work and there has never been an indication from any Israeli government, publicly or privately, that the ZFA is not doing what is good for Israel and our community or that some other organ could do better. Nor does the ZFA act in splendid isolation. The Israeli Embassy and the Federation consult closely and completely agree as to their respective roles.”
The SMH reported Mr Mark Leibler on 3.7.1993 as revealing that “ZFA receives funds from the Jewish Agency in Israel.”
In an article titled ‘Candidly Speaking: Australia’s new PM- a proven friend of Israel’ in the Jerusalem Post on 24.6.2010 the former Executive Council of Australian Jewry Isi Leibler wrote “Jewish leaders have established a long tradition of strong public advocacy on behalf of Israel, and they can take much of the credit for the fact that successive governments have maintained a strong bi partisan support for Israel.”
When the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Gareth Evans criticized Israel’s human rights records during a visit to Israel in 1992 and echoed U.S. support for U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 which calls for the repatriation of the Palestinian refugees ethnically cleansed by Jewish terrorism from their homeland in 1948, the Australian newspaper reported on 13.6.1992 the president of the ECAJ Leslie Caplan in an article ‘Jewish community pressures Evans on criticism of Israel’, saying “Unless the Government stepped back from the views expressed by Senator Evans, it would cost the ALP significant Jewish support at the next federal election.” And Jewish MP, Barry Cohen, said “the Jewish community, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, had always been a strong source of ideological and financial support for the ALP. That will be weakened whenever a government appears to be antagonistic towards the State of Israel.”
An article in the Bulletin on 4.8.1992 titled ‘ALP can’t count on Jewish support’, reported ECAJ’s new president, Jeremy Jones, saying “… It is not so much the Jewish vote that matters – there are fewer than 100,000 Jews in Australia – but rather the vast financial resources of the community’s wealthier members.”
At the time I said in a press release on 15.6.1992 “This is pure bribe, blackmail and a cheap price the pro-Israeli lobby are attempting to buy Australia’s Middle East policy with. Political parties in Australia should reject the use of these financial contributions as a means to buy their silence on Israel’s occupation, violations of human rights and adoption of pro-Israeli policy.”
Also when Labor MPs criticized Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights in 2003, there was the threat of withdrawing Jewish financial support to Labor, leading the former Federal Labor MP Julia Irwin to say as reported in the Australian “The threat to withdraw financial support for the ALP because of perceived anti-Israel comments by Labor backbenchers is worrying. Not because the Labor needs the money, but because it suggests that all party members must toe the line even if their comments broadly agree with Labor policy.”
And When Palestinian political activist Hanan Ashrawi was awarded the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize, businessman Frank Lowy and AIJAC were one of the most vociferous and he pressured NSW premier Bob Carr and the Sydney Peace Foundation from giving the award. Lowy and his Westfield company are big donators to both political parties. He told the NSW parliamentary inquiry into the Orange Grove affair in 2004 that, “the state of Israel, to which I am fully committed, is more important for me than to do a job.”
The late Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, said in an article ‘The isolation of Hamas is impeding peace’, (The Age, 11.8.2009) “Fear of criticism from the Jewish lobby in Australia has so far prevented Australian governments taking effective action.”
Australia as a result of the Israeli lobby’s influence is one of a group of banana republic group of countries such as Micronesia, Costa Rica, Palau and the Marshall Islands, continuously opposing UN resolutions condemning Israel’s occupation, violations of international law and human rights, racial discrimination, the building of Jewish colonies and the Apartheid Wall, which further isolates Australia from the international community at the UN and other international forums.
Liberal and Labor leaders unashamedly crawl and do their best to appease Israel and its extremist lobby, to the extent of making Australia look ludicrous in the eyes of the world.
On receiving the “Torch of Learning” award from Australian Friends of Hebrew University in Sydney on 22.11.2015, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, said “Israel’s struggles are our struggles. Their fight is our fight. Israel’s opportunities are our opportunities. Israel’s values are our values. Australia and Israel – ours is a special friendship, a special relationship and long may it endure. As Australia’s Foreign Minister, I confirm without hesitation, unequivocally, that Australia is, and will remain, a staunch friend and supporter of the State of Israel.”
While Bishop was in Israel early in 2014, in an interview with ‘The Times of Israel’ newspaper, she suggested to the astonishment of even the Israelis that the Israeli settlements “may not be illegal under international law.” And she refrained from condemning Israeli building of additional settlements in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories.
Subsequently we had the outrageous statement from the Attorney-General George Brandis telling a Senate Estimates hearing: “The description of East Jerusalem as ‘Occupied East Jerusalem’ is a term freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful.”
In an article in the SMH on 26.2.2010, Peter Hartcher reported an Australian official saying “the Israeli secret service had probably calculated that, even if it were caught using forged Australian passports, Canberra would not retaliate. It wouldn’t matter whether it was John Howard or Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott in the prime minister’s chair… [the Israelis] know they’ve got us by the balls… partly because of the Israel lobby.” In fact they did forge Australian passports and use them to spy in other countries and carry out an assassination in a friendly country and the Australian government did not genuinely retaliate.
Substitute the words Israel, Jewish and Zionist for China, Chinese and the Communist party, and imagine if China forged Australian passports and used them to spy on other countries and carry out assassinations in friendly countries and think how Australia would have reacted?
-Ali Kazak is a former Palestinian ambassador and head of delegation to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific region. He is an expert in Australian-Arab relations and affairs. He was the publisher and co-editor of Free Palestine newspaper (1979-90), and author of “Australia and the Arabs” (in Arabic) 2012, and other publications. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.