SHAIK: Apologists rally for Israel 27May10 May 28, 2010

by Michael Shaik  -  The Australian -  27 May 2010

“A COMMUNIST, for my purpose here,” wrote George Orwell in his 1945 essay Notes on Nationalism, “is one who looks upon the USSR as his fatherland and feels it his duty to justify Russian policy and advance Russian interests at all costs.”

Though the farcical displays of self-described “internationalists” defending events such as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact are now the stuff of history, recent commentary on Israel’s forgery of Australian passports for the al-Mabhouh assassination would seem to indicate that the phenomenon of what Orwell described as “transferred nationalism” persists in Australia.

In February, when Stephen Smith responded to breaking news of the alleged forgeries by declaring that “Australia would not regard that as the act of a friend”, he was denounced by Liberal Senator Julian McGauran, who called upon him to “stop pointing the finger at Israel” on the grounds that it could “incite anti-Israel behaviour in the public”.

On March 7, Alan Howe, executive editor of the Herald Sun, joined in the attack. Writing in two separate columns, he ridiculed the Australian Federal Police as “Keystone Clowns” for trying to investigate the forgeries and derided the government’s reaction on the grounds that, historically, Mossad’s assassinations had not only made the world a safer place (for Israel) but also provided the plots for some thrilling films.

First prize for loyalty to a foreign power, however, went to the National Secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Paul Howes, who in an opinion piece in The Sunday Telegraph declared he was proud of Australia’s “role” in the assassination and while he conceded that Israel may not have acted as a friend, called upon the government to demonstrate its friendship towards Israel by standing by it “when the going gets tough”.

On March 27, Tony Abbott joined the chorus by calling upon the government not to follow Britain’s lead in expelling an Israeli diplomat.

This week, the Opposition Deputy Leader Julie Bishop dismissed the findings of the AFP, ASIO and ASIS investigations by insisting “there is no actual proof” that Israel committed the forgeries, before apparently fabricating a claim that Australian intelligence agencies also used forged passports. In the storm that followed, her real punchline has been overlooked. ‘The government is facing an election. The government is also seeking to pursue a seat on the Security Council. The government is keen to curry favour with the Arab community,” she declared on Monday.

The Arab community! Who else could have been behind the conspiracy? And who would have thought that what seemed to be a straightforward case of a government defending its passport regime concealed a Byzantine scheme to secure a second term for Labor and win a seat on the UN Security Council by “currying favour” with the voters of Punchbowl, Hosni Mubarak and the royal families of the Arabian peninsula?

It would be an oversimplification solely to blame Australia’s Israel lobby for the extraordinary spectacle of the federal opposition allying itself with a powerful union leader in pleading the case for a foreign power that has wilfully compromised the safety of Australians working and travelling abroad to commit an assassination in a friendly third country. Britain’s Israel lobby is notoriously powerful but was unable to prevent a bipartisan response to the forgery of British passports.

Like the communists of a bygone era, Israel’s contemporary apologists have grown indifferent to reality. When Howe breathlessly describes the murder of an unarmed man by 27 Mossad agents as a “daring, indeed thrillingly bold, assassination”, when Howes makes the totally baseless claim that Mahmoud al-Mabhouh “turned Palestinian children into human bombs to murder and terrorise Israeli civilians”, when Bishop conjures up exotic plots to explain government policy regarding Israel, they are living in a world in which facts can be subordinated to the interests of their adopted fatherland.

Yet while the federal opposition has acted disgracefully throughout the passport affair, the government’s reaction has hardly been an exemplary defence of the national interest. Whereas the British government expelled an identified Mossad agent and has refused to permit his replacement until it receives guarantees that Israel will not abuse British passports again, Australia has allowed Israel to withdraw a diplomat of its choosing and announced only that there will be a “cooling-off period” in intelligence co-operation.

When, on The 7.30 Report, Kerry O’Brien asked what this meant in reality, Smith evaded answering but declared that both countries were concerned about Iran’s nuclear program and so shared an interest in putting the matter behind them.

When O’Brien asked whether revelations Israel had tried to sell nuclear weapons to apartheid South Africa indicated it could be counted on as a “responsible nuclear citizen”, Smith said he would not comment on such findings until he had had them carefully assessed. It would seem that the “cooling-off period” will be very short indeed.

Michael Shaik is Australians for Palestine’s public advocate

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