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Permissible Influences: Israel and the Australian Elections

So much hullabaloo; so much pent-up anger and, let’s face it, so much opportunity for the political classes of Australia. The theme since 2016 is electoral interference; the object: whichever power so happens to afford an opportunity to gather support against. Demonising the Chinese has been a speciality of Australian politics since the first members of the middle kingdom began eyeing prospects in the antipodes. When Chinese residents did well on the gold fields, challenged Australian legislatures insisted on punitive reactions, hoping to the curb the wicked success of the Yellow Race. Chinese-made furniture in Victoria needed the special tag of being made by Chinese. The result in the nineteenth century was predictable: sales of Chinese-made products in the state grew.

Now, the terrors are somewhat more refined. There is Huawei with capacities that make Australian 5G technologies look like pygmy newborns taking their first steps. There are pokes and prods from the People’s Republic of China seeking to influence policy making with varying degrees of subtlety. (Hardly shocking given that other mightily righteous states, including the United States, are very prone, and have done, the same thing).

All in all, interference in the electoral process of another country can come in all manner of forms. What matters is whether they are tolerated or not. The hectoring quality of interference from a small, undeclared nuclear state that insists on living, and exploiting, the shadow of the Holocaust, that unspeakable fate that befell the rich Jewish communities of Europe during the Second World War, is singular. The unspeakable has proven to be politically useful for Israel, enabling a disproportionate influence to be exerted in the political affairs of other states.

In Australia, anybody who either defends Palestinians against Israeli policy during their political career, especially prior or during an electoral campaign, or insists that Israeli policy falls well short of humanitarian standards, is deemed a rabid anti-Semite frothing with manifest hatred. To limit criticism of questionable policies, its best to simply limit the terms used: avoid, for instance, a reference to “Israeli policy”, or “atrocities”, or “settlements”. Never mention “lobby” in the same sentence as “Israel”. Importantly, the strategy here is to conflate Jews and the expanse of their history and experience with the hard edged, often harsh features of Israeli policy, thereby meaning that any criticism of policy implies a libel on the Jewish people. Devious, that.

As Australia now moves into another federal election of characteristic, lowbrow tedium, a few sparks are starting to show in that regard. Interest has piqued towards certain members of the Australian Labor Party, targeted for expressing unscripted and inappropriate views favourable to Palestinians. Again, anything favourable towards a Palestinian state or critical of Israel’s approach to it is singled out for special treatment.

Curtin candidate Melissa Parke, deemed by ALP leader Bill Shorten a “star” in the running, became a casualty for remembering “vividly” how the IDF forced a pregnant Palestinian refugee “to drink a bottle of bleach”, an effort that apparently “burnt out all her throat and insides”. She also likened Israel’s settlements to China’s efforts in the South China Sea. The comments were made to pro-Palestine Labor activists at the United Voices headquarters in Perth.

The defensive response is always on cue: the IDF is accountable; the IDF is “transparent”. As the WA Liberal Party’s Policy Committee Chairman Sherry Sufi explains, “Israel is a country with the rule of law. It has sent its Presidents and Prime Ministers to jail.” He cannot believe that an Israeli soldier could engage in the conduct alleged by Parke and “get away with it”. The niggling problem disappears because it could never happen.

Fremantle MP Josh Wilson also caught the eye of the permanently indignant Israeli lobby. At a December event organised by the Australian Palestine Advocacy Network, featuring seven other Labor MPs, Wilson described the checkpoints peppering Gaza as “a series of chokeholds that squeeze Palestinians”. The squeezing took place “on movement and time and dignity and peace of mind”, humiliating, delaying and discomforting Palestinians in the process. The outcome? “They are going to turn Palestine into Swiss cheese and that is what is happening.”

Senator Sue Lines, demonstrating how something is truly afoot in Australia’s western state, has done the unpardonable in mentioning the unmentionable: that the Israel lobby has influence in Australia. In an address to WA Labor Friends of Palestine in March, Senator Lines lamented the tardiness of Labor policy towards the Israel-Palestine issue. “Not so much for those of us who are supporters of Palestine, but because the Israeli lobby is so powerful within the party and outside the party and it really does impact on the sort of movement we’ve been able to make in our policy.”

The Labor leader has had to spring into action to douse any electorally damaging flames. Shorten, on a visit to the seat of La Trobe in Melbourne, assured gathered journalists that Wilson and Senator Lines had “reconfirmed” their support for the official pro-Israeli Labor line. Zionist Federation president Jeremy Liebler could rest easy: “Good on Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen for swiftly clarifying that Ms Parke’s views are inconsistent with Labor’s approach to Israel, and I’m confident the party leadership will issue a similar response to Josh Wilson and Sue Lines.” Ignoring the substance of Senator Lines’ remarks, Liebler put it down to hostility against the Jewish community “having a dialogue with the Labor Party”. Again, never mention the lobby.

Much of this, sadly, comes down to keeping up, and in, with the voters. Crude calculations figure. Votes from Palestinians and their supporters are insignificant and few; votes from Jewish voters, highly prized. The inner-city Melbourne seat of Macnamara, held by Labor, is of interest, given its slim margin and the retiring, pro-Israeli Labor MP, Michael Danby. To that end, negative comments on Israel are not so much niggles in electoral strategy as bombs waiting to go off.

Israel’s Ambassador Mark Sofer has started to engage in what can only be regarded as standard electoral meddling. Those not on script on the Israeli message needed to be called out as ignoramuses who do not understand that they are hurting the cause of Palestinians. “The obsession with demonising Israel, which thankfully is the domain of the few, does not at all help the Palestinians and serves only to hamper possible rapprochement in the Middle East.”

Shorten has preferred to treat the Israeli ambassador with care, insisting that he will keep Labor contrarians in line. “For the sake of clarity, the Israeli ambassador representing the Australian government said they could work with both sides of politics.” Such talk is not so much diplomatic as capitulating. Come May 18, Australia’s meek approach to the Middle East peace process is bound to be affirmed, with Israel unimpeachably dominant.

 

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17 comments

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  1. jim

    bds apartheid israHell.

  2. Josephus

    David do you believe the crazy rubbish on the USA URL you cite?
    As for apartheid yes, it exists still: in China, Iran, Aghanistan, Turkey, Burma, and many other states where ethnic or religious minorities are imprisoned or worse. Israel: There is an anti Netanyahu movement in Israel but sadly the religious of all sorts outbreed the secularists. Religious nutters are the worst. It is a fact too that racist slogans have reappeared in Jewish cemeteries , and synagogues need security staff.As mosques do, now.
    China is our major trade partner, but who cares about the Falang gong, whose organs are harvested for rich white oldies, and Chinese Moslems ?
    By all means criticise the fanatics in Israel, but singling that country out is questionable. Until not so long ago Australian whites repressed the First Peoples – they could not vote for a long time, and still today some Queensland hotels put blacks in dirty, bug infested rooms for the same price as their other, clean rooms, and are not punished for doing this.

  3. New England Cocky

    @Josephus: Yes, apartheid exists:

    1) in the United States of America (United States of Apartheid) where social divisions begin with race and then proceed to wealth;

    2) in Israel where the anti-Palestinian Israeli policies are designed to drive the Indigenous Palestinians from their lands for the benefit of, principally Russian, immigrants;

    3) in Australia where White Australia has a Black history;

    4) in the UK where Commonwealth immigrants have been actively discriminated against by public servants for decades;

    5) then there is the emerging PRC problem discrimination where trade sanctions are used to control Australian public policy.

    The loss of Melissa Parke was unfortunate but given the present MSM bias against progressive government possibly a difficult or unprincipled decision required to ensure election victory, after which the rules may be changed.

  4. Paul Davis

    Yes Josephus apparently it’s not wrong if everyone else is doing it too. In defense of apartheid, racial cleansing, genecide, wholesale slaughter and enslavement, it would appear that these have been practised by almost every race, nation, tribe, religion, etc, throughout human history when one powerful group wanted whatever a less powerful group had. Some of us have rejected this behaviour, some of us haven’t. I guess if you identify with the powerful then your moral compass is not offended.

  5. David Bruce

    @ Josephus
    No, I don’t believe everything I read here or elsewhere.

    Esoteric knowledge in not for the masses. Rules of evidence also apply.

    Right now I am more concerned about our unlawful government wanting us to vote for the Australian Government!

  6. Josephus

    There is no evidence Paul Davis that I prefer the powerful- if so I would not cite all the wrongs I did, and I am also well aware of the false argument from authority. I was merely saying that those who single out one state more than another may have an agenda, or not.

  7. paul walter

    No.

    I can’t be bothered commenting or more Labor gutlessness.

  8. RomeoCharlie29

    Several days ago, after the Melissa Parke issue, was beaten up, I started to write a personal piece for the AIMN but didn’t submit it. The thrust of that piece was two-fold, firstly that Ms Parke’s withdrawal from the electoral race was symptomatic of what I believe is the inordinate influence the Jewish lobby has over Australian politics and, secondly ( confirming that view) the reflexive knee bend by Bill Shorten in his acceptance of her withdrawal. In support of my claim of “inordinate influence” I wanted to make the point that with only between 120 000 and 130 000 Jewish people in Australia ( according to the latest census figures from the ABS) the direct ability to influence elections is minuscule, yet the Jewish lobby can crank up mass outrage at the slightest suggestion of criticism of Israel often with ether overt or implicit suggestions of anti-semitism. I have been disgusted for decades by Australia’s unwillingness to offer any support for the Palestinians in the face of repeated UN criticism of Israel’s expansion of boundaries and settlements. I had hoped a change of Government might have heralded a more even-handed approach but the party response to Ms Parke’s withdrawal doesn’t bode well.

  9. Alcibiades

    Josephus,

    The topic is explicitly Israeli political influence in Australian elections, is it not ? Respectfully, relevance ? Whataboutery & misdirection ? A C for Consistency ?

    The Al-Jazerra undercover investigation into One Nation received major coverage & public debate in Oz.

    An older investigation, released Jan 2017, using the undercover reporter ‘sympathiser’ method with a faux identity by AJ, exposed the Israeli Diplomatic & Intelligence assets of the Israeli State attempts to directly suborn the British Labour party by covertly recruiting ‘assets’ & ‘Agents of Influence’ & directly targeting perceived opponents, within the UK Labour party. No need to do so with the Tories, it’s long been the case …

    The conduct revealed was prima facie in direct breach of criminal UK Laws … by a foreign State …

    It received virtually nil coverage, no debate in Oz at the time. You may well be shocked at how such covert State Intelligence operations work & are conducted, or not.

    The Lobby – Al Jazeera English

    Al Jazeera Investigations exposes how the Israel lobby influences British politics. A six-month undercover investigation reveals how Israel penetrates different levels of British democracy.

    Episode One: In part one, Al Jazeera Investigations reveals how pro-Israel groups are trying to influence Britain’s youth.

    Episode Two: In part two, our undercover reporter joins a delegation from the Israeli embassy at last year’s Labour Party Conference.

    Episode Three: In part three, our undercover reporter witnesses a heated conversation between two opposing activists. The evidence raises serious questions about whether accusations of anti-Semitism are used to stifle political debate.

    Episode Four: In part four, the senior political officer at the Israeli embassy in London discusses a potential plot to ‘take down’ British politicians – including a minister.

    By the self declared ‘Only democracy in the Middle East‘, & the ‘Most Moral Army in the world‘, the Israel Defence Forces(IDF) … both founded on recognised terrorist organisations, the Haganah & the Irgun …

  10. Zathras

    I agree that the so-called Jewish Lobby has an extraordinary influence on not only Australian politics but but world-wide.

    For a religion with about the same number of global followers as the Mormon Church any criticism of the extremist parts of Zionist policy or human rights abuses seem to be off-limits under the mythical umbrella of anti-Semitism.
    By definition that makes any Israeli who voted against Netanyahu an anti-Semite as well, irrespective of their religious belief.

    As Roger Waters said “That accusation can be used as a smokescreen to divert attention and discredit those who shine a light on Israel’s crimes against humanity. I should point out that I support the fight for human rights for all oppressed peoples everywhere. The religion of the oppressor is neither here nor there. If I support the Rohingyas and deplore the Mayanmar persecution of them, it doesn’t make me anti-Buddhist”.

    Why should Melissa Parke’s opinion about a humanitarian issue in another country be so politically damaging while suggestions of Chinese local corporate espionage are so freely expressed.?

  11. Alcibiades

    On 02 November 2018, the Electronic Intifada published the first two parts of ‘The Lobby – USA’, a four-part undercover investigation by Al Jazeera into Israel’s covert influence campaigns in the United States.

    Israeli State Diplomatic & Intelligence assets covertly seeking to further suborn the US. Prima facie criminal & espionage acts in breach of the Laws of the US by a foreign State. Lobbying ?

    Behind the scenes influence, ironically, was exerted by both the US & Israel to prevent the planned broadcast by Qatar, the owners of Al Jazeera, of its own investigation & expose’. Why ?

    To get unprecedented access to the Israel lobby’s inner workings, undercover reporter “Tony” posed as a pro-Israel volunteer in Washington.

    The resulting film exposes the efforts of Israel and its lobbyists to spy on, smear and intimidate US citizens who support Palestinian human rights, especially BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

    It shows that Israel’s semi-covert black-ops government agency, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, is operating this effort in collusion with an extensive network of US-based organizations.

    These include the Israel on Campus Coalition, The Israel Project and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

    Israel gets away with deliberate State sanctioned & directed covert spying & intelligence operations against US citizens & within the United States. Lobbying ?

    The Israel ‘Lobbyists’ exerted every effort to suppress its publication by any means, even its distribution. Why ?

    The Lobby – USA

  12. John

    This incident is straight out of the toxic playbook being promoted by the Golden Haired Golem in the USA.
    See the essay by Yoav Litvin titled the Ilban Omar Gambit Anti-Semitism As A Reactionary Political Tool
    Except that the stakes for the future of humanity are much much worse in the USA. It is all part of a toxic gambit to have the Golem reelected

  13. mark delmege

    I think Josh Wilson might actually win a few votes for his stand. However I do think a two state solution is now impossible. And anyone saying otherwise is either a liar or uninformed. The only reasonable outcome now is to give all residents the vote – all of them and that is a view I am now hearing from Palestinians

  14. Lady Jane Grey.

    Yes, better not comment or the Guardian will call you “anti-semitic”

  15. DrakeN

    “anti-semetism” is routinely practiced by Israel, not only against anti-zionists amongst their own, but against semetic Palestinians as well.

    An acquaintance of mine describes Israel as a Terrorist State and from the evidence available to the general public, he would seem to be quite correct in his analysis.

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