Exposing Israel’s violations upset the Israeli lobbyApr 5, 2023
The main Israeli lobby operating under the name of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), a well-financed private group, is worried.
Having a huge influence on the mainstream media, either through close relations with proprietors, such as the ideological alliance they have with media mogul Rupert Murdoch, or through bullying and intimidation, they are not happy to see the public policy journal Pearls and Irritations, a respectable media outlet, free from their influence and having the courage, principles, and ethics to publish articles exposing Israel’s colonial polices, apartheid policy and gross violations of UN resolutions and international law.
In a recent article the lobby’s mouthpiece “Australia/Israel Review”, targeted Pearls and Irritations for publishing such articles.
It is interesting that Zionists get annoyed when writers refer to their project in Palestine as colonial which the early leaders of Zionism including the father of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, outlined at the time as a colonial project. Herzl wrote: “Shall we choose Palestine or Argentina? …In both countries important experiments in colonisation have been made…We shall take what is given us, and what is selected by Jewish public opinion.” And Ze’ev Jabotinsky, another Zionist leader, said, “Zionism is a colonising adventure and, therefore, it stands or falls on the question of armed forces.”
AIJAC was established in 1997 by a few Zionist leaders to serve Israel’s interests. It is recognised as an extreme right-wing propaganda group and the most influential Israeli lobby in Australia. It is a strong ally of conservative right-wing politics in Israel, Australia and the world over.
A Jewish academic, Geoffrey Brahm Levey, wrote, “By far the best resourced of Australian Jewish lobby groups, AIJAC is an independent body with no official status within the Australian Jewish community. Though its spokesmen like to claim bipartisanship in Australian politics, this means only that AIJAC is perforce willing to work with, and on, the government of the day. National Chairman Mark Leibler, a prominent Melbourne tax lawyer and Executive Director Colin Rubinstein both have close links to either Howard or the Liberal Party. Leibler, [is] a long time Likud supporter and conservative activist on the local and world Jewish scenes.”
Another Jewish academic wrote the Council’s budget is larger than any Jewish and Zionist institution in Australia. And the then Director of Community and International Affairs of AIJAC, Jeremy Jones, described AIJAC as “independent and specialist”.
AIJAC has direct relations and coordination with the Israeli government and embassy and with ministries and propaganda departments in Israel and is their right hand in Australia. It is run by a Board of Trustees, chaired by Mark Leibler; two of his children immigrated to Israel with their families and served in the Israeli army. AIJAC has a full-time team of professional staff, with its main office in Melbourne employing 17 employees, and it has a branch in Sydney with six employees. In addition, two employees work on its mouthpiece publication Australia/Israel Review (AIR).
AIJAC’s chairman, Mark Leibler, admitted when he was president of the Zionist Federation of Australia in 1985, his cooperation with the Israeli government and embassy, and work on their behalf, saying, “… The [Zionist] Federation works in close cooperation with the Israeli Embassy in Canberra… We ought to be, and are the leading force in the community on matters of Israel and Zionism.”
While the Government Relations Officer of the Zionist Federation, Helen Teichmann, admitted the Federation’s work under his leadership on behalf of Israel, saying, “… 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.” And the editor of the Australian Jewish News at the time, Sam Lipski, wrote, “… the ECAJ [the Executive Council of Australian Jewry] 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.” Jeremy Jones, AIJAC’s chief officer in Sydney, wrote, “Those of us who have worked with representatives of the ministry in Israel and abroad, [they] have always appreciated the extraordinary efforts made to serve their country.” And Solomon Lew, a businessman, a donor, and a major figure at AIJAC, said, “AIJAC represents Australian Jewry and it represents Israel. We are recognised by more politicians in Australia from all sides. They never make a speech without checking with us.”
AIJAC is therefore an arm acting for the exclusive benefit of a foreign government and covers its activities by claiming to represent the Jewish community. President of the State Zionist Council of Victoria, Johnny Baker, said, “It may come as a surprise for some to learn that in effect, the ECAJ president is elected by no more than 10 people in a secret vote behind closed doors. These people are answerable to exactly nobody in relation to whom they will support. The ECAJ president is then free than to select anybody he wishes as his chief office bearers. Without casting aspersions on the current ECAJ leadership, this electoral process is hardly an overwhelming mandate for an exclusive claim to communal representation!”
AIJAC’s activity is spread over several fields, in addition to disseminating propaganda, lobbying, public relations and acting as a pressure group for Israel.
It monitors the government, political parties, Members of Parliament, churches, academics, media, unions, ethnic communities (especially Arab and Islamic communities) and civil society institutions regarding the policy and position they take on Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East. It collects information and opens files for every person and institution that takes a position on the Middle East; this is clear from its reports in its publication AIR and the campaigns it conducts.
They don’t even spare Jews who oppose them. Academic, writer and former director of Monash University’s Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation Mark Baker said, “AIJAC tried to silence people, their criticism of people who held views they didn’t like was almost always extreme and sometimes personal. …AIJAC wounded people. They have created an organisation that represents the far right in Israel. Every word that comes out of AIJAC is of the far right.”
They regard accurate media reporting of Israel’s violations and crime, contrary to the Israeli position and narrative, as biased against Israel, regardless of how accurate and objective it is, hinting implicitly or explicitly that the reporter must have hidden anti-Semitism. They launch campaigns against reporters and mainstream media which show objectivity and impartiality in their coverage of the Arab Israeli conflict. In these campaigns, they use ministers, parliamentarians and their pro-Israeli friends in the media to exert pressure and silence critics.
So the equation Zionists adopt is, you either follow the Zionist and Israeli line, or you are an anti-Semite.
Australian journalist John Lyons said, in describing the tactic used by the Israel lobby, “Having lived with these sorts of attacks for many years… I believe that they are a deliberate tactic. I think the aim is to make journalists and editors decide that, even if they have a legitimate story that may criticise Israel, it is simply not worth running it because it will cause ‘more trouble than it’s worth’. As Agency France-Presse correspondent Philippe Agret says, the aim is to ‘exhaust’ journalists and editors so they think twice before writing anything critical of Israel.”
Given the AIJAC, the Australian Zionist Federation (AZF), which is a branch of the World Zionist Organisation (WZO) headquartered in Israel, and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), admit their lobby activities on behalf of a foreign government, people are asking, shouldn’t the Australian authority be concerned of the strong relations of this lobby with the Israeli government, the powerful influence it developed through its political donations and free trips to Israel? Isn’t it in Australia’s national interest to see such organisations registered under “The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme”, and why are they not?
We all know if there were such groups and organisations with a strong connection to China, Russia or any other country, working on their behalf, how the government and media would have reacted, so why are Israel and its lobby exceptional? Is it because they became so powerful that they are so intimidated?