WAKIM: Expulsion helps end double standards 28May10 May 31, 2010

by Joseph Wakim  -  National Times -  28 May 2010

How ironic that Australia’s decision to expel an Israeli diplomat over Mossad’s identity theft has elicited shrieks of “double standards”.

After a thorough and international three-month investigation by the AFP, ASIO and ASIS, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith announced the findings, exactly as promised. His calm delivery was “much more in sorrow than in anger”.

Yet the professional pro-Israel propagandists churned out the predictable rhetoric: anyone critical of Israel must be “extreme”; the Rudd government is buying Arab votes; this will “license a new round of anti-Israeli activism”; the Foreign Minister is merely playing copycat with his British counterpart, who expelled a Mossad official in the Israeli embassy in London two months ago.

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Ask about Downer’s pilgrimage to place a wreath on the tomb of one Israeli-Australian soldier after the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah clash in Lebanon — yet he sidestepped calls to visit the graves of Lebanese children who perished at the hands of his friends. Under the Downer doctrine, “Australia had been more supportive of the Israelis than 99 per cent of the world”.

Ask about Australia’s silence over Israel’s flagrant breaches of UN resolutions and use of illegal cluster bombs, compared with Australia’s criticism of other Middle Eastern regimes such as Iran.

Ask about Kevin Rudd’s apology to Australia’s indigenous population a month before negating the dignity of the Palestinian indigenous population by toasting Israel’s 60th anniversary of statehood.

The litany of double standards in Australia’s Middle East policies are the subject of my countless opinion pieces for more than 20 years and they are on the public record.

To compound this myopic irony, the pro-Israel apologists are more vocal about this expulsion than the voices within Israeli society. A scan of the major Arab media outlets reveals similar indifference.

This hardly supports the distracting claims by critics that the timing of the expulsion was intended to gain the votes of Arab states for Australia’s bid for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Within the Australian Arab communities, it was widely anticipated that this identity theft scandal would culminate in something inconclusive, such as finger-waving at the Israeli embassy. We knew that passport forgery “factories” are not uncommon among spy agencies and expected this to be conveniently written off as a tool of the trade.

We could be forgiven for predicting double standards — that if Arab spies committed these international crimes, the political and public response would be akin to an iron fist, not velvet gloves. Based on Australia’s cosy and bipartisan support of Israel, we were expecting lip service but no teeth.

Rather than being criticised, Smith should be congratulated for having the courage to protect our national interests, without fear or favour. He would be showered with such praises from his current critics if he expelled an Arab diplomat over a similar scandal. None of us should expect anything less from those charged with protecting our citizens. Indeed, a true friend can speak the truth.

There is a collective sigh of relief that perhaps we are finally witnessing the end of special treatment, double standards and Israeli impunity. It breathes new life into the “new beginning” oration by US President Barack Obama — “seek a new way forward based on mutual respect”.

Joseph Wakim is founder of the Australian Arabic Council and a former Victorian multicultural affairs commissioner.

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