Jewish leaders criticise envoy expulsion 24May10 May 25, 2010

by Belinda Cranston and Steve Lillebuen  -  Nine msn  -  24 May 2010

Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, a senior figure in the militant Palestinian organisation Hamas, was found murdered in a hotel room in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on January 20.

Authorities in Dubai identified four falsified Australian passports with the murder, along with others from the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, and Germany.
On Monday Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told parliament there was no doubt the Australian passport holders were “anything other than innocent victims of identity theft.”

“The government (is) in no doubt that Israel was responsible for the abuse and counterfeiting of these passports,” he added.
Mr Smith has asked that a member of the Israeli Embassy in Canberra be withdrawn from Australia within the week, as a result of the scandal.
Jewish leaders say they are greatly disappointed over the decision.

“We consider that decision to be an over-reaction,” Robert Goot, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said in a statement on Monday.
He expressed concern that Mr Smith did not reveal any evidence to support his conclusions that Israel or its agents were involved in using the fake passports.

“Little good can come from taking punitive action in relation to this matter against Israel, which is the Middle East’s only stable democracy and the only Middle Eastern country that can be relied on to act resolutely against international terrorism,” he said.

Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, described the decision to remove a diplomat over the affair as “unhelpful.”

“We would note in this regard, while Australia followed a British precedent in its over-reaction, no similar step has been taken by Ireland, France, or Germany, all of whom also allegedly had forged passports implicated in the killing,” he said.

Despite the uproar, both groups say they are confident the relationship between the governments can be repaired and continue to flourish.

Jewish-Australian political activist Antony Loewenstein, whose book My Israel Question finds fault with the Jewish state for its part in the conflict with Palestine and ongoing tensions in the Middle East, described the relationship between Australia and Israel as “complicit.”

“Australia has long been treated like fools by Israel, and has often been more than happy to be seen as a fool, in many ways,” he told AAP.

“The bigger question really is, that hopefully this will lead to a debate about how Israel behaves, and how Australia has often accepted that and supports that.
“It shows and hopefully reveals to the wider community that most of the Jewish spokespeople in this country see themselves solely as spokespeople for Israel.”

Australians for Palestine spokesman Michael Shaik said the government’s reaction “was vital to breaking the culture of impunity under which Israel has operated for so long.”

“It would carry even more weight if our government followed the British example and refused to allow a replacement diplomat until Israel commits to no further misuse of Australian passports,” he said.

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