The government’s plans to tackle foreign influence in Australian life provide an opportunity for the first time to define the level of Israeli activity designed to influence the making of our foreign policy. George Brandis didn’t plan this. But it is likely to be an outcome.
The Israel lobby in Australia boasts about its influence on Australian Middle East policy. It congratulates itself on its success. Now it will be required to register. This is a good thing.
Australian companies and businessmen, some of whom are both Israeli and Australian nationals, finance the Israeli-linked lobby groups. These include the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) and the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA). They also donate money to both Labor and Liberal parties.
The Sydney Morning Herald revealed on 24.11.2012 that AIJAC through its “Rambam program” has sponsored free trips to Israel of “… more than 400 political leaders – including Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott – party advisers, public servants and university students. A separate trip is also run for journalists…”
As far back as 9.8.1985, Mr Mark Leibler, as president of the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) said in the Australian Jewish News “We are generally improving our areas of influence. … and our directors interact fairly regularly with politicians, editors and journalists on a national scale and are in contact with officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs. [The Zionist] Federation works in close cooperation with the Israel Embassy in Canberra. We ought to be, and are the leading force in the community on matters of Israel and Zionism.”
Sam Lipski wrote about lobbying for Israel in an article in Australian Jewish News on August 13, 1993. He confirmed the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and ZFA were linked with the Israeli government and work on its behalf. He wrote “More or less since the 1982 Lebanon War, the ECAJ and the ZFA allowed, and the Likud government encouraged, a blurring of the roles between the ECAJ/ZFA and the Israeli Embassy. These two bodies became quasi-diplomatic agencies, often filling the vacuum created by an undermanned and remote Israel embassy.”
Imagine for a moment the angst of ASIO if a Chinese community leader had referred to Chinese associations in Australia becoming “quasi diplomatic agencies” to help the understaffed Chinese embassy.
On 20.8.1993 Helene Teichmann wrote in AJN “…[the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak] Rabin has praised the ZFA’s work and there has never been an indication from any Israeli government, publicly or privately, that the ZFA is not doing what is good for Israel and our community or that some other organ could do better. Nor does the ZFA act in splendid isolation. The Israeli Embassy and the Federation consult closely and completely agree as to their respective roles.”
The SMH reported Mr Mark Leibler on 3.7.1993 as revealing that “ZFA receives funds from the Jewish Agency in Israel.”
In the Jerusalem Post on 24.6.2010 the former Executive Council of Australian Jewry Isi Leibler wrote, “Jewish leaders have established a long tradition of strong public advocacy on behalf of Israel, and they can take much of the credit for the fact that successive governments have maintained a strong bi partisan support for Israel.”
One case study says it all.
Former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Gareth Evans criticized Israel’s human rights records during a visit to Israel in 1992 and echoed U.S. support for General Assembly Resolution 194 which calls for the repatriation of the Palestinian refugees forced out of their homeland in 1948. The Israel lobby went into over-drive. The Australian newspaper reported on 13.6.1992 the president of the ECAJ Leslie Caplan had denounced Evans in an article headlined ‘Jewish community pressures Evans on criticism of Israel’. Caplan said, “Unless the Government stepped back from the views expressed by Senator Evans, it would cost the ALP significant Jewish support at the next federal election.”And Jewish MP, Barry Cohen, said “the Jewish community, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, had always been a strong source of ideological and financial support for the ALP. That will be weakened whenever a government appears to be antagonistic towards the State of Israel.”
An article in The Bulletin on 4.8.1992 titled ‘ALP can’t count on Jewish support’, reported ECAJ’s new president, Jeremy Jones, saying “… It is not so much the Jewish vote that matters – there are fewer than 100,000 Jews in Australia – but rather the vast financial resources of the community’s wealthier members.”
Imagine if a Chinese community leader had said, it’s not the number of Chinese voters in Australia that counts but rather the vast finances of its wealthier members.
When Labor MPs criticized Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights in 2003, there was the threat of withdrawing Jewish financial support to Labor. The former Federal Labor MP Julia Irwin said in The Australian “The threat to withdraw financial support for the ALP because of perceived anti-Israel comments by Labor backbenchers is worrying. Not because the Labor needs the money, but because it suggests that all party members must toe the line even if their comments broadly agree with Labor policy.”
The late Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, said in an article ‘The isolation of Hamas is impeding peace’, in The Age (11.8.2009) “Fear of criticism from the Jewish lobby in Australia has so far prevented Australian governments taking effective action.”
As a result of the Israeli lobby’s influence, Australia has joined a group of banana republics such as Micronesia, Costa Rica, Palau and the Marshall Islands, continuously opposing UN resolutions condemning Israel’s occupation, violations of international law and human rights, racial discrimination, the building of Jewish colonies and the Apartheid Wall, which further isolates Australia from the international community at the UN and other international forums.
On receiving the “Torch of Learning” award from Australian Friends of the Hebrew University in Sydney on 22.11.2015, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, said “Israel’s struggles are our struggles. Their fight is our fight. Israel’s opportunities are our opportunities. Israel’s values are our values. Australia and Israel – ours is a special friendship, a special relationship and long may it endure. As Australia’s Foreign Minister, I confirm without hesitation, unequivocally, that Australia is, and will remain, a staunch friend and supporter of the State of Israel.”
When Bishop was in Israel early in 2014 she suggested in an interview to the astonishment of even the Israelis that Israeli settlements “may not be illegal under international law” and she refrained from condemning Israeli building of additional settlements in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories.
Not to mention the outrageous statement from the Attorney-General George Brandis telling a Senate Estimates hearing:“The description of East Jerusalem as ‘Occupied East Jerusalem’ is a term freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful.”
For years the Australian media has been reporting Israel’s spying activities forging Australian and New Zealand passports and recruiting Australians from the Jewish community to its army and spy agencies.
For example, New Zealand’s security agency arrested two Mossad agents in mid-2004 while attempting to obtain New Zealand passports under false names, Mossad’s spy cell operated under the nose of ASIO from its headquarters in Sydney which was the base for its spying activities in Australasia for more than ten years.
Mossad used forged Australian passports to spy in other countries and carry out the assassination of a Palestinian Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Mabhoh in Dubai, UAE, a country friendly to Australia. This was a serious violation of Australia’s sovereignty and the undermining of international confidence in Australia’s passports.
The Israeli media also reported the expulsion from Canberra of Israeli diplomat Amir Laty who was linked to the Mossad spy cell, which the Australian government tried to keep secret in order not to embarrass the Israeli Government. Another example is Ben Zygier, better known as “Prisoner X”, worked for Mossad and spied on fellow students at Monash University. He also used his Australian passport to spy in Arab and Muslim countries and “committed suicide” in an Israeli jail.
Imagine the front page hysteria if Chinese spies had ever forged Australian passports to carry out a targeted assassination in a third country with which Australia had cordial relations. Nothing remotely as serious and specific was uncovered by the recent 4 Corners-Fairfax attempt, assisted by ASIO, to find Chinese intrusion on Australian sovereignty.
In an article in the SMH on 26.2.2010, Peter Hartcher reported an Australian official saying “the Israeli secret service had probably calculated that, even if it were caught using forged Australian passports, Canberra would not retaliate. It wouldn’t matter whether it was John Howard or Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott in the prime minister’s chair… [the Israelis] know they’ve got us by the balls… partly because of the Israel lobby.”
Ali Kazak is a former Palestinian ambassador to Australia.