Friday, April 18, 2014

Baruch O'Farrell's Other 'Memory Lapse'

That deadly bottle of 59 Penfold Grange Hermitage was not the only example of Premier Baruch O'Farrell's 'memory lapses.'

Time to re-read my 29/1/13 post, Not So Fast, Baruch O'Farrell.

The Carr Diary 10: Reflection 4

Carr writes on October 17:

"So far there's been no evidence of the Arabs mobilising because we've failed to reply to the Palestinian letter [asking how we intend to vote]." (p 193)

This failure of the (retarded? slumbering?) Arab states to raise the issue of Palestine with Australia comes as a relief to Carr. Surely, you think, that's an end of the matter for him. Why not read it as a sign that the Arab states don't give a toss about Palestine, that our bid for a SC seat is therefore effectively in the bag, and simply fall in line with the PM's resolve to vote down the Palestinian's bid for upgraded status in the UN?

But no, an odd thing happens. Carr begins to brood. Deep in the recesses of his deeply pragmatic being, something stirs. A sense that something still isn't quite right? Dare I say it, a conscience?

It's November 10, 2012:

"Flying from Singapore to Sydney. Our stance on the Middle East is shameful, in lockstep with the Likud, designed to feed the worst instincts of Israel and encourage it to self-destruct, placing us with the Marshall Islands and Canada and rejecting the entire Arab world and the Palestinians. First the Prime Minister stopped a message to the Palestinians before the UN vote that we would 'not oppose' enhanced Palestinian status. She was right tactically because not responding did not destroy our chances... I readily concede all that. But it would have been the better course to have told them it was our intention to abstain, the better policy, the honourable one, the position in Australia's interests. Then she swiftly overruled my approval for our UN mission voting in favour of an Egyptian motion on non-proliferation in the Middle East. We had to tell the Egyptians the reversal had been made 'at the highest level'. In other words, the Prime Minister had overruled her Foreign Minister. I'm advised by our UN mission that Egypt and the Arab League are forming the view that having been elected to the Security Council, Australia has now walked away: 'after you got elected this is all we get.' This made me wince. Netanyahu is spreading more settlements and this week I wanted to issue a statement using the word 'condemn', as the UK did... But all statements on the Middle East have to be threaded through the Prime Minister's office. Back came the reply: one, we don't use the word 'condemn'; two, it must go past her staffer Bruce Wolpe and Cabinet Secretary Mark Dreyfus; and three, whatever we do, advise the Israeli ambassador first. But this morning I ring James from the airport lounge in Singapore to move things along and I get the advice that any statement on settlements - even that 'we express concern' - is vetoed by the Prime Minister. He was told this by Richard Maude, her foreign policy adviser, the diplomat on her staff. Extraordinary. We can do nothing." (pp 212-13)

He concludes, in as succinct and accurate a summing up of Australia's Middle East policy as it's possible to make:

"We are not running an Australian foreign policy. It's not even pro-Israeli, in the deepest Rabin-style understanding of the country's survival; that is, an acknowledgment that without a Palestinian state, Israel will morph into an apartheid state with a burgeoning captive Palestinian population denied civil rights.... Subcontracting our foreign policy to party donors is what this involves. Or appears to involve." (p 214)

To reiterate his earlier words: "Extraordinary. We can do nothing."

To be continued...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Carr Diary 9: Reflection 3

A clearly frustrated Carr resolves to face the Prime Minister:

"But the Arabs all know that on Palestinian entry to UNESCO last year we didn't even abstain; we voted 'no'. So all this effort for nothing? I quietly resolve that back in Australia I'm going to have to persuade the Prime Minister we need an abstention on the resolution on Palestinian status." (p 177)

On October 10, 2012:

"I went to the Prime Minister's office... I sat down with her, Hubbard and Richard Maude. I made the case on the Palestinians. She grew uneasy as I explained it was coming to a head; we could lose all 21 votes of the Arab League and more from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. I told her I'd spoken to Yuval Rotem, the Israeli Ambassador, yesterday and urged him to cut us some slack, to accept we could abstain and not kick up a fuss. He said he'd speak to Netanyahu. I explained to the Prime Minister our intelligence confirmed that earlier this year the Israelis were expecting us to abstain. We wouldn't surprise them in going this route. So abstaining would be no big deal. We'd be part of a small minority if we didn't - that is, if we voted 'no' - and we would blow our support from all those Arab states, and that would cost us the Security Council election. Her eyes shifted worriedly. At least she allowed me to explore the idea of the Israelis agreeing to let this slip through." (p 187)

Those prime ministerial eyes say it all. Fear! But of what, exactly?

I'm reminded of the words of the anonymous Australian official quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald's Peter Hartcher earlier in the same year: "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." (Betrayed PM should not be taken for granted by Israel, 26/2/10) What gives here?

The day after. There's a dawning awareness that having Israeli hands on your balls is, well, frankly undignified, not to mention downright uncomfortable:

"The issue dominates my life. Yuval hasn't got back to me to give me the decision I want, namely advice that he's spoken to Netanyahu and Netanyahu thinks in the greater good he can live with Australia moving from opposition to the abstain column. For God's sake, I repeat to him, you get us on the Security Council for 2 years where we can do you some favours. Parliamentary Secretary Richard Marles, who's part of the pro-Israel Victorian Labor Right, agrees with me and likes the strategy of getting Yuval's consent (pathetic though I think this is). Mark Dreyfus, an intelligent supporter of Israel and Jewish to boot, takes some more arguing. I have a minor explosion of anger and frustration and point out that it's an appalling position if Australia allows a group of businessmen in Melbourne to veto policy on the Middle East." (pp 187-88)

Exactly! The penny finally drops for Bob Carr.

To be continued...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Carr Diary 8: Reflections 2

As I sought to show in my last post, when it comes to Palestine/Israel, former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr is no radical critic of the Israeli apartheid status quo.

So the question arises: what caused this amiable, mild-mannered, overly-pragmatic, pro-Israel pillar of the Labor establishment to blow the whistle on Australia's Israel lobby?

Let's begin by pointing out the bleeding obvious: Carr's whistleblowing Diary of a Foreign Minister is no comprehensive critique such as Mearsheimer & Walt's seminal study, The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy (2006). Nor is it in any way an Australian version of US Congressman Paul Findley's They Dare to Speak Out: People & Institutions Confront Israel's Lobby (1985). In fact, I can guarantee that this widely-read Americanophile has neither of these superb books on his shelves. Still, I give him his due here merely by mentioning those two great works in relation to his.

Without detracting in any way from the importance of what Carr has done - shining a light on possibly the darkest corner of Australian politics - it should be kept in mind that Diary focuses on only the most overtly Likudnik wing of Australia's Israel lobby, the Melbourne-based Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC). The influence and modus operandi of the other Australian Zionist organisations which make up the lobby, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, and the Zionist Federation of Australia, are nowhere touched on.

Nor, it should be pointed out, did Carr set out with an axe to grind. His concern is always for the preservation of Israel as a Jewish state. In fact, he's so comfortable with the idea and all that flows from it, namely that millions of Palestinians can remain forever warehoused in refugee camps just so his Australian Jewish friends can call Israel home.

For example, early on in Diary he writes:

"I had told a Jewish delegation that without a Palestinian state they would see Israel bursting with an Arab population; and in 20 years' time it would be young Jews in America leading a campaign to brand Israel an apartheid state and boycott and isolate it." (p 76)

Carr's initial brief as foreign minister was to ensure that Australia beat Finland and Luxembourg to a seat on the United Nations Security Council, and it is in this particular context that his problem with AIJAC begins. Anything to do with Palestine or Palestinians, he makes clear, is a potential stumbling block:

"To win the vote in October... we can't afford to have a vote on some irritating Middle East issue that sees us put our hand up for Israel and lose the support we've carefully cultivated among Arabs and Africans. One vote coming up at the UN is on a motion that criticises Israel for the conditions of Arabs in the occupied territories and I want to support it but I need to manage the local Israel lobby and its faction - 'the falafel faction' as they self-mockingly call themselves - in caucus." (p 95)

There's no anger in Carr at this point. As bizarre as it may seem to a disinterested observer that a foreign lobby should be operating a cross-party faction in Australia's federal parliament, he accepts the 'falafels' merely as a management issue. And how's this for revelation number one; Carr knows that, when the need arises to manage Labor's 'falafels', it's best to ignore the monkeys and go straight to the organ grinder himself:

"I saw Yuval Rotem, the Israeli Ambassador, and asked him to cut us some slack, to watch us vote for the motion without a fuss. I told him we could do some good for Israel as a member of the Security Council for two years. On Tuesday he said he'd take advice on it and today he was back in my office saying he'd cleared it with Jerusalem. Smart politician, he even told me he'd seen Liberal Senator Glenn Searle from Western Australia who, with Labor Melbourne MP Michael Danby, heads the pro-Israel faction." (p 96)

There you have it, straight from the horse's mouth: in a supposedly independent Australia, Middle East policy must first be vetted and approved by Israel, a most extraordinary state of affairs by any reckoning.

Carr even felt the need at the time (June 2012) to flail what passes for a Palestinian lobby in Australia with Zionist propaganda tropes, apparently by way of recompense for discomforting Israel's ambassador:

"I want to meet a Palestinian or Arab delegation for every Jewish or Israeli delegation. So I ticked off a meeting with the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, whose president, Reverend James Barr, is said to be a political realist... I tell them we oppose settlements but, but I said as long as rockets are launched from Gaza at Israeli towns, support in Israel for a peace settlement will shrink. 'Will you condemn the dividing wall?' they asked. I said if bombs had been going off in central Sydney while I'd been Premier, I would have built a dividing wall." (pp 95-96)

To be continued...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Carr Diary 7: Reflections 1

Having now read just over half of Bob Carr's Diary of a Foreign Minister, I'll venture, in this and the next few posts, some preliminary observations on the man and his motives.

Deep thinker he is not.

He can sit opposite the appalling Condoleezza Rice and listen to her repeating "her argument from our earlier meeting in her office that it would be better for the US to bomb Iran... than leaving it to Israel" without blinking.  (p 114)

Or write of the warmongering Republican senator John (Wayne) McCain (who has just told him that "we've got the Saudis wanting to get involved [in Syria]") that he "is confirmation of my notion that when America produces a public-policy athlete he or she is first class." (p 44)

Of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Carr can write that he "is forceful, even bossy, but more intellectually supple than I had expected... for example, he said that even before the civil war in Syria, their cities were dilapidated, with few signs of shops or cafes. It was an impoverished society, degraded by dictatorship."  (p 134)

The overweening arrogance of the leader of Ersatz Israel pronouncing on the existence or non-existence of shops and cafes in one of the world's oldest civilizations is lost on Carr. As is the deeply settler-colonial register:

"The Arab countries have moved away from pan-Arabism - secular Arab nationalism - to Islamic regimes without missing a beat... 'How could one stabilise the region given the lack of basic conceptions of individual rights as developed by Locke and Montesquieu?' he asked. 'Politics in the Arab countries were based on tribal or ideological grounds, not on the foundations of economic enfranchisement and freedom." (ibid)

The profoundly Eurocentric Carr, gulled by Netanyahu's pseudo-intellectual name-dropping, is simply blind to the colon's racist discourse.

Then there's the sickening spectacle of the regional bully playing the victim:

"[H]e did not want a new [Palestinian] state that would set out to eradicate Israel. Israel could not rely on anyone else to provide security if it was besieged by 'manic weaponry'. That's when he asked someone to draw aside the curtain of his meeting room in the Knesset and pointed at the horizon. 'I don't want Iran on that hill'." (p 137)

Carr swallows it all:

"While I warned about settlements I didn't even bother registering opposition to a strike on Iran. Who am I to tell them how they should deal with a regime of apocalyptic religious leaders?" (p 137)

Any maniac is good enough for Carr, presumably, providing he can reference Locke or Montesquieu. The fact that said maniac has just been babbling on about Israel being a "Jewish democratic" state switches on no bullshit detector.

Oh, and Carr's reading material? Simon Sebag Montefiore's Jerusalem FFS.

To be continued...

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Carr Diary 6: Carr Gets a Caning

The Sydney Morning Herald's handling of Bob Carr's outing of the hold of the Israel lobby over former prime minister Julia Gillard has been either to ignore it or make light of it. (Needless to say, Carr's other revelation, that around one fifth of the money stashed away in party coffers came from Jewish sources, is completely overlooked.)

Nowhere is the subject even mentioned in the Herald's editorial of 11 April. Instead, donning the mantle of an irate schoolmaster, the editorialist gives Carr a thorough dressing down, as though he were an errant schoolboy:

"Bob Carr has let down his party, his former cabinet colleagues and his country..."(Carr memoir: a triumph of self over selflessness)

And notice who, by contrast, gets Master's approval:

"Carr's successor, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, has said that 'his gratuitous personal observations and revelations of confidential discussions are unworthy of any Australian politician let alone a foreign minister'."

You've been a bad, bad boy:

"He was premier of NSW for 10 years and did not leave behind a decade's worth of major infrastructure development or public sector reform. Creating national parks was his main legacy..."

It's a wonder Master didn't call him a tree-hugging greenie.

"A triumph of self over selflessness," concludes Master in a statement of the bleeding obvious applicable, I would've thought, to just about all Australian politicians.

Fortunately, Master's pomposity didn't fool all of its readers:

"Passing strange that your editorial makes no mention of Bob Carr's revelations concerning the modus operandi of the Israel lobby and their disproportionate influence over Australia's foreign policy in the Middle East." Sue Daniels, Balmain, 12/4/14)

The verbal caning of Carr continued in Saturday's edition, in a two-page feature by the Herald's political editor, Peter Hartcher. Needless to say, the issue of the lobby was raised only in passing:

"Carr made one strong stand on a matter of policy. He challenged Gillard over her decisions to take Israel's side in its arguments with the Palestinians. He led a cabinet revolt that forced her to reverse her decision. He does us a favour by drawing attention to this. It's not because he's right that Israel is omnipotent. Carr's successful rebellion, self-evidently, proves that it isn't. It's that Carr's position is a marker of change. He was co-founder of Labor Friends of Israel; today he is a leader of pro-Palestinian opinion in Labor. His shift reflects the surging Muslim population in western Sydney. Labor's NSW Right faction, Carr's factional home, is now pro-Palestinian because electoral arithmetic demands it."  (Bob Quixote was no world-beater)

Hartcher, of course, ignores the fact that Carr's testimony relates to Israel lobby group AIJAC's influence over Gillard and her office, not the party as a whole.

As for his bizarre description of Carr as "a leader of pro-Palestinian opinion in Labor," a simple perusal of his Thoughtlines blog reveals Carr as nothing more than a common and garden defender of Israel ("a benchmark of pluralism and democracy"*) who merely has a problem with Israel's colonization of the land necessary for the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank. IOW, as someone in the party who takes its rhetoric about a two-state solution seriously, unlike Gillard who only ever paid lip service to the notion.

Furthermore, I challenge Hartcher to produce any statement of support for the Palestinians from the NSW Labor Right, apart from NSW MLC Shaoquett Moselmane.

Finally, Hartcher's linking of Carr's 2012 'rectification' with "the surging Muslim population of western Sydney," whatever that means, is tenuous in the extreme.

Now if the Herald editorialist thinks Bishop is the very model of a modern Australian foreign minister, just look who Hartcher's got the hots for:

"[T]he pointlessness of Carr's tenure, by contrast, shows the purposefulness of Abbott's trip to the three great capitals of north-east Australia. Abbott... has shown that a serious leader can achieve serious outcomes for his country."

And isn't this bloke an interesting choice for an opinion on Carr?

"For Labor, it's the betrayal of a man who was given everything by the party. A Labor MP, Anthony Byrne, says: 'If you ever wanted an example of the narcissism, self-indulgence and immaturity that ran through the labor Party during its 6 years in government, Bob Carr is it."

We're not told, of course, that Byrne is a mate of Michael Danby's, nor that he was rambammed in 2010.

It's hard to believe that Hartcher is the journalist who penned one of the most telling reports on the hold of the Israel lobby over the Labor Party - for which see my 22/6/10 post The Best Israel Policy Money Can Buy. But then the guy's been rambammed, of course - for which see my 18/11/09 post No Hidden Agenda.

Finally, check out Annabel Crabb's dismal contribution in yesterday's Sun-Herald:

"In geopolitical terms, Carr's remarks about the Israel lobby are by far the most actively inflammatory. The Jewry's out on that one, understandably, and will likely remain so for some time." (Carr best taken with a grain of sugar)


[*West Bank settlements always illegal,, 14/2/14)]

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Carr Diary 5: One Who Only Gargles

If all the letters ever written on the subject of Israel and the Palestinians were laid end to end they'd circle the earth - again and again and again and...

Most, of course, are simply regurgitated Zionist propaganda tropes by the usual suspects and their dupes. The rest try to inject a little balance into the debate, some more successfully than others. A few, however, are so off the wall that they make the informed reader wince. These are the kind of letters that remind us that, while some drink deeply from the fountain of knowledge, others only gargle. Here is one such from Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald:

"There is an alternative explanation to that suggested by Mark Hawthorne for Bob Carr's views on the Israel-Palestine conflict. During the 1970s many people in the Labor Party and broader left became partisans of one or other side of the conflict... Bob Carr was a partisan for Israel, and in 1979 I became a partisan of the Palestinians. Since then the more thoughtful people on both sides came to recognise the conflict was between two peoples who both had national and democratic rights that must be upheld, and that it was in their mutual interest to achieve a political settlement based on two states for two peoples. Carr and I have both made this journey from our respective sides of the argument. The real bigots in this debate are not people like Bob Carr, but the unreconstructed partisans like the Australia-Israel & Jewish Affairs Council on one side, and the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions movement on the other, who have not had a single new idea between them since the days when the Bay City Rollers were topping the charts." Paul Norton Nerang (Qld)