8 Feb 2011

Toeing The Lobby Line

By Jake Lynch
Did the pro-Israel lobby, the US embassy, the mining industry AND the ALP Right plot to bring down Rudd and install Gillard? Jake Lynch joins the dots
A little-noticed casualty of the leadership coup which saw Julia Gillard installed as Prime Minister was the modest progress made by Kevin Rudd to fashion a "principled" position on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Under Rudd, Australia was making a series of steps away from its reflex pro-Israel position under John Howard — and away from the Washington line.

On taking office in 2007, Labor had the political savvy to get controversial decisions made quickly, while its reputation was still unsullied and before resolve could crumble under Canberra's lobbying system. And at the UN, it seized an early opportunity to signal that foreign policy was under new management, supporting a resolution calling on Israel to stop establishing settlements in the Palestinian territories and a resolution calling for the Geneva Conventions to apply there.

These basic tenets of international law and humanitarian law are accepted, notionally, by the entire international community, but a vote is held annually at the General Assembly (GA), if only to isolate and attempt to embarrass those countries sufficiently brazen to make what is, in effect, a public declaration that Israel should be exempt. In 2003, Australia joined the "hard core" of those voting against this declaration: Israel itself, the United States and four Pacific micro-states whose votes have essentially been bought — the US Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and Micronesia.

Under Rudd, Australian officials told the UN in 2008 that the Government had changed its position because it supported a two-state resolution of the conflict to deliver a secure Israel living beside a viable Palestinian state and that Australia believed both sides should abide by their obligations under the Road Map for Peace. Australia said it was concerned that continued settlement-building activity would undermine confidence in the negotiations.

Ominously — in light of the sequence of events that was to follow — the president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Robert Goot, was quoted in the Fairfax media as being "concerned" over the switch. "We are concerned that the vote has changed, we do not understand the basis for the change", he said.

Those concerns, we may assume, would only have intensified with the publication of the Goldstone report, with its detailed consideration of evidence that both Israel and Hamas broke international humanitarian law during "Operation Cast Lead", Israel's attack on Gaza which started at the very end of 2008.

Initially, Australia voted at the GA against referring the report to the UN Security Council. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith complained about Goldstone's "unbalanced focus on Israel [and] insufficient attention to Hamas' actions prior to the conflict, especially rocket attacks".

This was a "holding position": a line hastily lashed together on the assumption — justified, as it turned out — that Canberra would not have to undergo any serious media scrutiny on the issue. (In fact, Goldstone investigated and dismissed the Israeli propaganda claim that Hamas rockets were responsible for breaking the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. The truce had held successfully for six months until a raid in the Strip by Israeli commandoes in November 2008 brought it to breaking point).

Events took a novel twist when a second resolution, amended to demand that Israel and the Palestinians follow up Goldstone's evidence to investigate possible war crimes in the attack, was tabled at the GA. Now, Australia switched its vote, from a "no" to an "abstain".

This was shortly after the "fake passports affair", when a Hamas military commander, Mahmoud al-Mabouh, was killed in a Dubai hotel room apparently by a team of Mossad agents who used counterfeit travel documents including three forged Australian passports. "Australia would not regard that as the act of a friend", Smith said, and later, Canberra expelled an Israeli diplomat in retaliation. This was the "harder" of the two "lines" adopted by the countries concerned: in France and Germany, for instance — countries whose passports were also faked for the exercise — the local Israeli ambassadors were called in by the respective foreign ministries for a dressing-down.

Any one of these steps was small in itself, but, added together, they sent a clear signal in the highly coded language of diplomacy.

Meanwhile, however, Australia's pro-Israel lobby had begun to mobilise. Peter Hartcher, the Sydney Morning Herald's well-connected political editor, recounted how the Jewish community was now declaring itself "too busy" to join in fundraising for Labor's re-election campaign, whereas, in the heady days of Kevin '07, "a single lunch in Sydney raised $100,000. A Toorak tennis court party, attended by Rudd and Julia Gillard, raised more". More recently, a meeting over dinner at the Lodge in June 2010, intended to smooth relations with Jewish leaders, was brokered by Michael Danby and Mark Dreyfus and included leading parliamentary supporters of Israel and luminaries of the Labor Right.

Why risk this cosy relationship? Rudd had other fish to fry, that's why.

Australia had set its cap at winning a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The first attempt had attracted a solitary vote (our own, we must assume) but, undeterred, DFAT pressed on with its campaign for a place at the top table for the session in 2013-14. Indeed, it recently sent round a leaflet extolling Australia's virtues to other foreign ministries appealing for support.

Shortly before the Lodge dinner, Ambassador Hesham Youssef, chef de cabinet to the Secretary-General of the Arab League at its office in Washington, DC, made a visit to Australia. After meeting with MPs and officials, he came to the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, DFAT minder in tow, for a chat with me, and my colleague, Professor Stuart Rees, Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation.

He had informed everyone he met in Canberra, Ambassador Youssef explained, that Australia could look to the Arab countries to support its Security Council bid only if it took steps to distance itself from Washington on issues arising from the Israel-Palestine conflict.

All in all, then, these were optimistic days, for those wishing for a more even-handed line from Australia on this litmus-test issue of international affairs. And the steady accretion of infinitesimal gradations seemed to be in line with public opinion. A poll by Roy Morgan research, conducted for the pressure group, the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine, found that Australians felt more sympathy for the Palestinians, and expressed more support for their position, over the attack on Gaza, than for the Israelis or their position.

But for those opposed to such developments, an alternative strategy was taking shape. At the time of "Cast Lead", Australia's response was given, not by Rudd himself — who was taking a short break between Christmas and New Year — but by Gillard, standing in for him. She characterised the onslaught as no more than Israel exercising its "right to defend itself".

Weeks later, she became the first world leader since the attack to make an official visit to Israel, at the head of a bipartisan political and business deputation (accompanied by former Treasurer Peter Costello for the Opposition) — to fulsome thanks from her hosts for having been "almost alone in sticking by us". A study of the transcripts of her speeches and press conferences reveals that the word, Gaza, never once passed her lips.

And we now know — thanks to Wikileaks — that at the same time in Canberra, another key figure on the Labor Right, NSW Senator Mark Arbib, was briefing his handlers at the US embassy on Rudd's travails, and the credentials of his deputy to take over. Leaked cables reveal Arbib to be a longstanding American intelligence asset. And at some point in this period, the wish became father to the deed: Arbib was not merely discussing the possibility of Rudd's ouster, but playing a leading role in organising it. By the time Labor's leadership spill brought the underlying tensions into the open, Rudd's fate was already sealed by the numbers Arbib had stacked up behind the scenes.

Under Gillard, Australia has reverted to its previous form. At the UN vote last November, we were back with the not-so-magnificent seven, voting against a resolution which "reaffirmed the illegality of Israeli actions intended to change the status of Jerusalem ... Reaffirming its commitment to the two-State solution of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security within recognised borders, the Assembly also stressed the need for Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem".

So, was there an elaborate plot, involving the active connivance of pro-Israel groups, the US embassy, the mining industry and the Right faction of the ALP, and kept successfully secret, to bring Rudd down and install Gillard in his place? To pose the question in those terms is to stretch credulity, but of course there is a way to answer it, which resonates with abundant life experience, and is encapsulated in another question: cui bono? Or perhaps we could simply say: Go Figure.

Log in or register to post comments

Discuss this article

To control your subscriptions to discussions you participate in go to your Account Settings preferences and click the Subscriptions tab.

Enter your comments here

nigeloconnor
Posted Tuesday, February 8, 2011 - 13:24

Gillard and the people surrounding her within the ALP are sociopathic miscreants. Does a country shape its political leaders or do the leaders shape society? Expediency on Israel's treatment of Palestinians and flouting of international law shames us further.

jasonwilson
Posted Tuesday, February 8, 2011 - 16:01

I kept waiting for the Masons to appear in this story. Disappointed.

disbelief
Posted Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 00:44

Have I stumbled upon the Tehran University website? This story is simply incredulous. How many votes in leadership contests in the Labor Party caucus do you think were decided chiefly on Middle Eastern policy?

The reason why so many of Rudd's colleagues turned on him had nothing to do with the Americans, nor the Jews. The majority of the ALP caucus moved against Rudd's leadership because they felt they would lose the next election under his leadership.

Before blaming the Elders of Zion always bank on self-interest. In this case it was a Labor caucus voting against a leader that had not made a support base for himself before a tough election.

- Matt Burke

David Skidmore
Posted Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 09:26

No, the ALP caved in to the mining industry instead of telling them to drop dead. There was no conspiracy nor any need to change PMs. There was just pathetic cowardice on the part of Labor when they should have stuck with a "tough, unpopular decision".

ozjust
Posted Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 13:47

A couple of days ago I saw Gillard on TV saying that she was a supporter of Israel. I could not believe my ears and I could not understand why she was compromising Australia’s position. Thank you for your explanation.

amazingdave
Posted Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 14:00

Who knows why those sneaky Jews do anything?

Honestly, New Matilda - is this the best you can do? If I wanted this sort of thing I'd pop down to the League of Rights bookshop.

macarob
Posted Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 16:30

Whoo hoo, New Matilda you will have the Lobby going into overdrive (Hi Col)

Dreyfuss is the local (invisible) member here, I have asked his office many times for his
views on the Palestine issue, to no avail. I guess he is busy organising more trips with his mate Mick Danby.

Keep up the good work as we sure as hell won't see this type of honest reporting in Murdoch's rags, or the Age.

Robbo

David Grayling
Posted Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 18:02

Webdiary, once a fine forum, is now moribund thanks to its moderators.

I won't comment on any article that is subject to comment moderation. The reason?

Instead of saying what I really think I have to concentrate on trying to second guess what the moderator wants <b> or doesn't want </b>and shape my opinion accordingly.

Surely N.M. wants honest opinions. I mean we're all adults here, aren't we?

http://dangerouscreation.com

PAUL110
Posted Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 19:36

I would invite the author to visit a single Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon (a single one) and describe the conditions in which the Arabs (not the Israelis) keep the Palestinians there, and have kept them (unnecessarily) for the past 60 years. After the visit, it would be nice to see if he can explain that one away.

This loopy article is an abomination and I'm surprised the author is actually a lecturer at a prestigious Australian university.

Of course, only the current editors of New Matilda, the most famous Anti-semitic website editors, in Australia could have run this garbage. It seems that editorial control goes missing at NM when it comes to expressing hatred for Israel and the Jews.

rosross
Posted Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 19:45

I am as ready to believe in 'conspiracy theories' as anyone but I don't see this one as credible. Rudd was as gutless as Julia on Israel and both are no different to all other PM's. Either they have a 'chip' inserted by the CIA while sleeping, shortly after taking office, or they are confronted with the 'photographs' the CIA threatens to use if they don't toe the line; or perhaps it is just Australia's irrational dependence on the illusion that the US will 'save us if we are attacked.....' Who knows or really cares. The reality is that it doesn't make much difference. Israel is doing an excellent job of destroying itself and the boycotts and sanctions movement is far more powerful than the pontifications of Prime Ministers.
p.s. I do still find it sad that NM, like some others, a few, not most, still finds it necessary to toe the line with those who seek to refuse freedom of speech on the Israel/Palestinian issue. There is a whiff of hypocrisy about NM publishing an article about 'cowtowing' to 'pressure' at the government level and yet, through moderation only on this issue... selective censorship ... doing the same thing.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. NeilTolliday
Posted Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 22:11

How refreshing to see justice and truth emerging in the pages of the revived NM.
I value Jake Lynch's analysis of Gillard's fawning attitude to the pro-Israel lobby.
Jake's is a timely reminder that the oppression of Palestine rarely gets space in the Murdoch papers.
I hope that the popular momentum towards democratic government in Egypt will change the dynamics of Israel's malevolent rule of the occupied territories. A just Australia will work for recognition of a Palestinian state.

James-ONeill
Posted Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 22:22

The majority of comments on thjis article have gone off on predictable and may I suggest, irrelevant tangents.

May I suggest there is an important point in this article that has been ignored by your commentators and certainly has received no discernible coverage in the mainstream media. For a period under
Rudd whatever his motives may have been, Australia actually looked like joining the overwhelming majority of UN members and voting against Israel's continuing and blatant disregard for international law and the rights of the Palestinians.

After Gillard became PM Australia's voting pattern reverted to the old ways of being one of literally a handful that voted with Israel on all crucial issues. That in my view is disgraceful. That it should be done without public or parliamentary debate is representative of an all too familiar pattern.

One does not need to "join the dots" or engage in conspiracy theories to see Australia's actions for what they are.

James O'Neill

rosross
Posted Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 23:45

@David Grayling,

Well said. There are actually plenty of forums without such moderating on Israel and I also generally avoid those who do it. I would mind less, and I know I have said this before, if all forums were moderated but the egregious bias toward the moderating only those which discuss Israel is grating. One of the worst is The Guardian in the UK which has such a whimsical approach to moderating and what gets deleted that it is tiresome and should always be avoided. I had forgotten that NM was also leaning in this direction. Not that it matters too much, those who moderate are the exception not the norm so put your thoughts elsewhere

zeroxcliche
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 01:56

I enjoyed this work -great level of research and detail - it would be interesting to ask Julia if she wanted to clearly differentiate herself from Rudd on this issue while visiting Israel - how much do foreign affairs areas/constituencies effect Australian political manoeuvrings? - well you probably try to get money and influence where ever you can - i read this piece as interesting speculation about events that occurred on the periphery of oz politics, perhaps it could have come across with a little more nuisance visa v connecting the dots but then again this was done in a tongue 'n' cheek way so I think the negative comments are a little reactionary. The article does make me imagine the possibility that Rudd intended to use some of his post election political capital and spend it on his favourite hobby- I also recall him making a clear statement in Israel while standing next to the Shas/foreign minister regarding Israel's nuclear program and the Non proliferation treaty which had left the guy a little shocked - a mini Abbott Riley moment - this issue did make me recall the pointed comments Stephen Smith made and perhaps now I can see the reason why - that "there should not be a crack of light between the foreign minister and the Prime minister" - I wonder if we are going to see a few more rays.

ralph.schneider
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 04:40

Israel is a nuclear-armed rogue state which behaves internationally precisely as dictatorships of all persuasions always do: anyone who dares criticise its leadership is pilloried - in Israel's case, they are conveniently branded "anti-semitic". Yet there are many Israelis and other Jews who are appalled at what they know of Israel's atrocities. Our local astute and courageous commentator Anthony Lowenstein is one strong critic but, as he is Jewish, he is instead branded a "self-hating Jew".

This is like branding anyone who criticises any Australian politician "anti-Australian". It seems that throughout most of the world, we are allowed to criticise anyone - unless they are Jewish, in which case we are automatically "anti-semitic". The horrific dangers of this are obvious. The biggest swindle of all time - that by Bernie Madoff - was quickly dropped by the media for such reasons, as were the rape conviction of the former Israeli PM and the case of the Israeli whose long forced imprisonment of several people in his home far exceeded that of the widely-reported Austrian.

This is a big subject, but it is safe to say that no-one can attain high office in this country, as in the USA, if they are pro-Palestinian, as Hawke, Keating, Howard, Rudd and Gillard well know - they know on which side their bread is buttered. The media and the US will not allow it. Howard left his post for 2 days specifically for a whirlwind trip to the US, to receive a cricket bat from a Zionist organisation, who dubbed him "the Don Bradman of Australian politics", which chuffed him no end. Perhaps that says it all.

An excellent article by Jake Lynch.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. DrGideonPolya
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 10:50

Excellent article. My guess is that while the Gillard Coup was led by notorious pro-Zionists, the real impetus came from the Mining Lobby who had invested tens of millions into an anti-Mining Tax Campaign (see "Pro-Zionist-led Coup ousts Australian PM Rudd", MWC News: http://mwcnews.net/focus/politics/3488-pro-zionist-led-coup.html ).

For an account of indisputably pro-Zionist-led Coup against an evidently insufficiently pro-Zionist Rudd see this article by outstanding Jewish Australian writer Antony Loewenstein entitled "Does the Zionist Lobby have blood on its hands in Australia?": http://mwcnews.net/focus/politics/3488-pro-zionist-led-coup.html .

Anti-racist, humanitarian, Australian patriot Antony Loewenstein observes: ""It is reasonable then to assume from what Sheridan [The Australian] has written that, to one degree or another, Australia’s Israel lobby was a factor in, or even perhaps a player in, Rudd’s removal from the prime ministership. If so, this is a truly extraordinary and deeply disturbing development in Australia’s political history and merits the closest possible examination. "

The racist Zionists (RZs) are endlessly dishonest, racist, genocidal, traitorous, anti-democratic, Islamophobic, anti-Arab anti-Semitic and also egregiously anti-Jewish anti-Semitic and egregious anti-Jewish anti-Semitism through falsely identifying decent, anti-racist Jews with the appalling crimes of race-based, racist Zionist-run Apartheid Israel, a nuclear terrorist rogue state according to outstanding Jewish Israeli scholar Professor Avi Shlaim of Oxford University (see Professor Avi Shlaim "How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe", UK Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/07/gaza-israel-palestine ).

The racist Zionists are not just a huge threat to Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, Asians and non-Europeans, they are also a huge threat to decent Jews and to Judaism which is dead opposed to the evil of racist Zionism (see UK writer Alan Hart's recent book “Zionism: the Real Enemy of the Jews. Volume 1. The False Messiah"” (Clarity Press), racist Zionism represents an immense threat not just to the Arab and Muslim World but also to decent, anti-racist, humanitarian Jews throughout the World (see: http://www.claritypress.com/Hart-I.html ).

The Australian Labor Party (ALP) has become an Apartheid Labor Party and an Apartheid Israel-supporting Labor Party . No decent, anti-racist Australians whether Jewish or non-Jewish can possibly vote for the ALP (not that the Libs are any better, but then the ALP has betrayed decent anti-racist labor voters while the Libs have always been racists).

The evil, traitorous, genocidal racist Zionists (RZs) must be excluded from decent public life as have been like racists such as the the Nazis, neo-Nazis, Apartheiders and KKK.

Peace is the only way but Silence kills and Silence is complicity.

BlackPearl
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 17:36

Great essay. Using MSM references, Francis Enden comes to a similar conclusion in the essay, 'Treating Australia with contempt' (http://www.countercurrents.org/enden041210.htm).

Now the ALP is mysteriously cashed up (with an extra $3 million)for their next election (see Josh Gordon's Age article on 21/11/2010 - Boost to Labor's campaign finances) Could this be contected?

alanb
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 23:34

To Matt Burke,

I'm afraid the middle East policy will mean a lot to who becomes PM

Matt, spare us the "learned elders" rant. Fact is to be PM here you must support Israel to get the party funding to run an election, from the Jewish lobby

Allie
Posted Friday, February 11, 2011 - 14:58

Allie

I only ever heard from the Newscorp papers that Rudd was 'on the nose' with the average Australian punter. Here in the real world we were finally ( after 11 1/2 years of fear) relaxing and 'believing in' an Australia with a future.
We saw within a space of 2 years Rudd fulfill more promises than any leader had done before him in such quick succession.
Typical Australians began to see that is was possible to be socially aware and compassionate without the sky falling in.

Finally we had a 'real' leader, one who worked hard, had a vision and faced up to the hard decisions.

We who 'believed' were not aware that 'behind the scenes' things were being muddied and manipulated. This nonsense that 'the Labor Party didn't believe they would win the next election under Rudds' leadership' misread the people's sense of ' safe hands'.

And now this. First we heard that Rudd was a 'bully' at work. Then we heard that his fellow representatives did like that he had learnt from Howard that to take the helm to steer the policies inevitably in a new direction takes strength character and determination and VISION.

But we did not hear of the influence of the monied few, the ambitious fewer still and the anti democratic power pussie, Arbib.

Where is my vote now? It really has no substance, nor any worth if this article is half way correct ( and I suspect it is).

Thank you for it.

Markob
Posted Saturday, March 5, 2011 - 15:49

Interesting theory, but mostly what is interesting about this piece are the cries of 'anti semetic' that it provoked.

One of the abiding strengths of the jewish people throughout history is their intellectual ability, their willingness to discuss, to argue, and dissect the others' arguments.
Somehow in the traumatisation that occurred in Europe, and which will haunt Jewish people and inform their mindsets and opinions for generations, this has been lost, and so anyone who comes up with criticism of Israel is labelled anti Semetic, as tho he/she were brownshirts.

Many (and the numbers internationally are growing) Jewish people, such as Antony Lowenstein are distancing themselves from Israel while being very critical. Are they anti semetic?

There may have been pressure exerted by Jewish leaders that ultimately lead to Rudd's downfall, maybe not, but to castigate someone for theorising such a thing as anti semetic is pathetic and to then lambast NM for publishing it as anti Semetic is unworthy of the Jewish intellectual heritage.

Business people know too well their power and how to wield it. Murdoch loves advertising with editorial quid pro quos, who knows what arrangements were made, or not.

I have no answers to Israel/Palestinian story other than my life has taught me that if it waddles, quackes, swims, has feathers, it is more than likely a duck.

pathina
Posted Monday, March 28, 2011 - 13:48

Gillard's weak character were evident when she said the infamous words "Israel has to protect itself" as it dropped white phosphorus bombs on occupied men, women and children. Nothing she can ever do can eradicate the memory of that shameful comment. Then there are the many- taxpayer funded- trips to Israel...it is appalling to have a Zionist as PM.
And yes, even blind Freddy could see the work of the mining magantes behind her being foisted on the Australanian taxpayer.
When we finally rid ourselves of this weak, unprincipled person, we should never forget what she is like...and the people behind landing us with her,

pathina
Posted Monday, March 28, 2011 - 14:01

Ah, the old anti-Semitic ploy Paul. What nonsense. It is not anti-Semitic to criticise a nation that is persecuting a real Semitic people, the indigenous Palestinians; in fact, it would be anti-Semitic not to criticise Israel, given the crimes committed by Israel against the Semitic Palestinian people.
As to the refugee camps- they are there because of Israel's refusal to abide by international law and let the people come home. The countries where the camps did not cause this tgragedy; Isreal did.

When will Gillard be held to account for supporting a nation that committs war crimes? She is a disgrace that shames all Australians.

pathina
Posted Monday, March 28, 2011 - 14:02

Oh, and thank you so much for articulating here what many, many people have been saying for a long time.