I was thinking only the other day: 'I hope (retiring, pro-Palestinian Labor MP) Julia Irwin writes her memoirs'. I had no idea, however, that we'd be party to her experiences as a supporter of the Palestinians in a thoroughly Zionised Australian Labor Party (ALP) so soon. We have the redoubtable freelance journalist and blogger Antony Loewenstein to thank for that scoop, and the complete version of his interview with her may be found at his website. What Irwin has to say, as a party insider, is dynamite, and it will be interesting to see to what extent, if any, it is drawn on by the mainstream media. Needless to say, I won't be holding my breath.
What follows are some of the juicier bits of Irwin's testimony (along with a few of my own comments in square-bracketed bold):
"With a few exceptions, the great majority of the Caucus have strong pro-Israel views. Many have visited Israel as guests of various groups. You would find a check of the Register of Members Interests worth reading as it discloses who has been to Israel and who paid for the trip. Many members and senators from right-wing unions have had close links with the Israeli union movement over the years and have maintained entrenched views."
[For a regularly updated list of these polliewaffles, both federal and state, as well as journalists and others (along with some of their recorded 'impressions') see my 30/3/09 post I've been to Israel too.]
"While ALP officials, Eric Roozendaal and Mark Arbib have spoken to me and requested that I should have my speeches vetted, visit the Holocaust Museum, visit Israel and meet with members of various Jewish organisations, these requests have not been followed up. After one speech on Palestine, the ALP chief whip tore up my application for leave from the House when I was to attend an Inter Parliamentary Union meeting in Geneva. This was later approved but not before some emotional displays on both sides."
[For the first reported inkling of Arbib's role as an urger for Israel see my 30/7/10 post Get Thee to Israel!]
"Until very recently... Kevin Rudd... [had not] spoken to me on [the Israel/Palestine conflict]... Then, strangely, at the Caucus meeting on the Tuesday before he was deposed as Prime Minister, I had gone up to Kevin to ask him to sign a hardback edition of 'The True Believers' which had been signed by all party leaders from Gough Whitlam [on]. Kevin was surprisingly friendly and inquired about the reaction of supporters of the Palestinian cause to the government's handling of the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat over the theft of Australian passports and his statement calling for an inquiry into the Mavi Marmara incident. His remarks led me to believe that there had been some change in the government's position with regard to Israel even if it was only a small step from being totally uncritical."
[The question is to what extent that small step was a factor in Rudd's downfall. My posts, The Best Israel Policy Money Can Buy (22/6/10) and If Only Rudd Hadn't Expelled That Israeli Diplomat... (1/7/10), marshal the available evidence.]
"Without naming names, I could point to at least one ALP member who receives big donations from Palestinian interests but is silent on the issue. (I should add that I have never been offered financial support for my re-election campaigns from groups outside my electorate and none with direct links to Palestinian interests)."
"There is certainly a belief that support for Palestine will swiftly end any prospect of a front bench position. Even a hint of offence can result in an immediate, unconditional apology. For all MPs there is the desire to 'play it safe'. Why make enemies over an issue which does not directly affect your local community? And I have to add that many Labor members have an intense dislike of Arabic people. That's something that comes across in their less guarded moments. They will talk about human rights abuse in every corner of the world, but not Palestine."
[This is a damning insight into the parliamentary wing of the party: a bunch of racists whose leaders are vetted and approved by pro-Israel enforcers.]
"On the Labor side (and as far as I know the same applies to the Liberals), a newly selected member for a winnable seat is hosted to a private fundraising dinner. A table full of Jewish businessmen are happy to hand over $10,000 for the candidate's first campaign. That's a big bonus for a new member and many never forget the generosity. I was never afforded such an honour, but I can say that I would have been suspicious of the motive."
[For a description of the same phenomenon in the UK's Conservative Party see my 12/5/10 post Ziocons Rule.]
"And then there are the trips to Israel. The chance to see the achievements of 60 years of Zionism, and to look down on the depressed Palestinian villages is hard to pass up for some. How could any member not be impressed by such achievement, and how could they not share the fear of the backward Arabs threatening such an enlightened society? Any check of the Register of Members Interests reveals how Tel Aviv is such a popular destination, especially when it's free. A visit to Israel is almost a rite of passage for new MPs and senators."
[Again, a damning insight into mainstream politics in this country and one that's barely caused a ripple of interest in the corporate media - largely because it too is caught up in the same corrupting practice.]
"Shortly after my motion on the Israel/Palestine conflict in 2002, the Israel Lobby sprang into action. 'Jewish Friends of Labor' was formed and no doubt has been a rich source of support for Labor candidates ever since. As I have told Michael Danby, Julia Irwin has been the best electoral asset he has had. The Jewish Lobby needs support from both sides of politics. It cannot afford to snub Labor even if most Jewish voters live in blue ribbon Liberal seats. Personally, while I have survived 4 terms, I have no doubt that senior ALP figures have promised to end my career on more than one occasion. At the grass roots level, in the branches and the wider electorate the lobby has no influence. Only at the highest levels can a member be threatened. But a party which allows that to happen is not worthy of public support."
It is devoutly to be hoped that Julia Irwin will find time while retired to pen a fuller account of these goings on.