To rephrase Orwell: All refugees are equal, but some refugees are more equal than others:
Paul Howes, AWU national secretary, anti-Rudd conspirator, Murdoch columnist, and Israel luvvie, believes, correctly, that Australia's refugee policy should conform strictly to the requirements of international law, it being crystal clear on the subject:
"I have always been a strident (some would say overly strident) believer in our responsibility to welcome refugees, regardless of how they arrive in this country. I don't hold this belief because I'm some bleeding-heart lefty. I believe this because I feel it is our responsibility, as human beings, to demonstrate compassion to the most vulnerable people on the planet. But I'm in the minority on this. Most Australians, if we look at the polls, want to take a firm stance against those refugees arriving by boat. Most people, despite international law being crystal clear on the subject, still incorrectly believe that if you arrive by boat, you are an illegal immigrant. In my opinion, I think it's sad that we, as a nation of immigrants, are unable to feel more compassion and be more welcoming to those who arrive here after us." (Our sad boat policy, The Sunday Telegraph, 11/7/10)
International law, as our learned friend (we are talking law here) says, is crystal clear on the subject of refugees. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), for example, says unambiguously: "Article 14 (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution."
Now I'm assuming that Article 13 (2) is equally crystal clear to our learned friend: "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country."
At the risk of giving my learned friend a bad dose of cognitive dissonance, can I therefore assume that he supports the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands in what is today known as Israel, but was then (1948) known as Palestine?
Orwell again: All refugees are equal, but some refugees aren't even refugees:
Interestingly, Julia Gillard made her first official statement on the issue of refugees on July 6 at Frank Lowy 's think tank, the Lowy Institute. Of Mr Lowy, Australia's second richest man, she had this to say:
"I am very thankful to the Lowy Institute for hosting me today. This Institute has established a reputation for independent, robust and forceful analysis of our nation's place in the world. It is exactly the right place to make today's address: Moving Australia Forward. I first would like to acknowledge the enormous contribution of the Institute's benefactor, Frank Lowy. Frank Lowy is a great Australian. He was a refugee who escaped to Israel after World War II in a crowded boat full of asylum seekers. After fighting for Israel, he arrived on our shores as a very determined 21 year old. He worked hard and went from factory worker to milk bar owner to Blacktown shopping centre developer and, in time, to the largest retail property group in the world - truly great achievements, and what a remarkable story... But moving forward means we must agree on the organising principles for developing policy, and believe we can agree on most principles. That we should be prepared to accept people in legitimate need just as a young Frank Lowy was accepted 60 years ago." (From the Prime Minister's speech Moving Australia Forward)
So, according to Gillard, Lowy was a refugee who escaped to Israel after World War II in a boat crowded with asylum seekers, and in legitimate need when he later reached Australia.
A refugee? Escaping to Israel? After the war was over? Really?
The 16-year old Frank Lowy left Hungary in 1946 and boarded the Mossad* vessel Yagur in France, part of a Mossad people smuggling racket (to use the term much beloved of our polly-waffles these days) to transfer as many displaced European Jews to Palestine as possible, despite the British Mandate blockade on illegal Jewish immigration. The Yagur was intercepted by the British and its passengers detained in Cyprus, before being moved to a detention camp in northern Palestine.
Lowy eventually ended up in the Haganah's Golani Brigade which played an integral role in the ethnic cleansing of the Galilee area in 1948.
Israeli historian Ilan Pappe affords us a taste of what the Golanis got up to: "The first targets of the Israeli forces in the 10 days between the two truces were the pockets within the Galilee around Acre, and Nazareth. 'Cleanse totally the enemy from the villages' was the order that 3 brigades received on July 6, two days before the Israeli troops - straining at their leashes to continue the cleansing operations - were ordered to violate the first truce. Jewish soldiers automatically understood that 'enemy' meant defenceless Palestinian villagers and their families. The brigades they belonged to were the Carmeli, the Golani and Brigade Seven, the 3 brigades of the north that would also be responsible for the final cleansing operations in the upper Galilee in October. The inventive people whose job it was to come up with the names for operations of this kind had now switched from 'cleansing' synonyms ('Broom', 'Scissors') to trees: 'Palm' (Dekel) for the Nazareth area and 'Cypress' (Brosh) for the Jordan Valley area." (The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, 2006, p 158)
After fighting for Israel, as Gillard spins it, Lowy migrated to Australia in 1952. How he could be described, as Gillard does, as being in legitimate need at this time is beyond me.
[*Yes, a Mossad vessel. See Idith Zertal's From Catastrophe to Power: Holocaust Survivors & the Emergence of Israel, 1998, p 237. See also my 17/6/10 post Cannon Fodder for Zion: Exodus 1947]