As the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh continues to reverberate, the penny is ever so slowly starting to drop at the Sydney Morning Herald. Journalist Hamish McDonald ventures a rare criticism - well, sort of - of Israel, its local lobbyists and their dupes in Canberra:
"The coolness didn't last long... [O]ur politicians find it hard to maintain any indignation, let alone anger or rage, against Israel." (True friends must tell the truth, 20/3/10)
Labor MP Julia Irwin, who launched a devastating attack on union leader and fan of Israeli death squads Paul Howes in the House of Representatives on March 15, is virtually the only exception to this depressing truth.
"This week the Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, was buttering up Israel and its local lobbyists again, by staging a special press conference and media opportunity at Parliament House to 'receive' a written report and set of recommendations on boosting relations. This was handed over by Albert Dadon, the new mover and shaker in Australia's Jewish community, on behalf of the Australia Israel Leadership Forum, a second-track diplomacy venture started two years ago on the model of businessman Phil Scanlan's longer-running Australia America Leadership Dialogue... The Israeli forum seems already to be well into the uncritical boosterism of which Scanlan's group gets accused in some circles. It has chosen this time to suggest that, along with more trade, agricultural and scientific exchanges and so on, Australia develops military-to-military ties with Israel.* Smith said he was 'very happy' to receive this report, which would get 'serious consideration' from the Prime Minister, adding: 'The friendship between Australia and Israel is longstanding and it is enduring, and that will continue. Despite recent events, which have been the cause of public commentary between Australia and Israel, that friendship will endure'. The, ahem, recent events include the use of forged copies of Australian passports in the recent assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai, and the 'insulting' (US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's word) action of Benjamin Netanyahu's government in announcing more Jewish housing in disputed [!!!] East Jerusalem as the US Vice-President, Joe Biden, arrived in Israel and US-brokered 'proximity talks' between Israel and the Palestinians were about to start. Australian Federal Police agents have been to Israel to inquire about the passports, and ASIO has been put on the case too. But no-one is expecting the AFP to find a link to Mossad, unless the Israeli intelligence agency has been very careless indeed. Some longer coolness about East Jerusalem would have been in order. Netanyahu, who included a smarmy letter in Dadon's report, has been trying to weasel his way out of the row with Washington by blaming the timing, but not the substance, on his interior minister and the Jerusalem mayor. Australia's rebuke was mildly worded. 'I share the view that this is a bad decision at the wrong time and it's not a helpful contribution to the peace process', Smith said, adding that Israel was undoing the 'very hard work' of the US and others to get the two sides working towards a 'two-state' solution... Behind its profession of undying support for Israel, the Rudd government has put a bit more detachment into our policy, ending our previous lining up with a bunch of tiny American client states in UN votes on the Middle East... It doesn't seem to be having any impact on Netanyahu and has opened Rudd to opposition sniping that he's selling out Israel to win Arab votes for the UN Security Council seat. Both sides of our politics could do well to adopt the Rudd-Confucian doctrine of the 'zhengyou', the 'true friend' (in Chinese) who can point out shortcomings."
OK, I know this is hardly Meirsheimer/Walt standard but maybe we can at least agree that it's a start.
[*See my 19/3/10 post Crazy Love]