Judging by the account at jwire.com.au, Yachad-Unity-Israel, Australia & Education (29/10/11), the National Australia Bank Yachad Scholarship Fund Luncheon in Melbourne on November 25 was a surreal experience.
There was Mark Leibler, Deputy Chair of Yachad, who talked about his, the NAB's, and his community's "passion for redressing the disadvantageous circumstances faced by Indigenous Australians."
(In that case maybe he could put the hard word on the Chair of NAB, Michael Chaney, who doubles as Chair of Woodside, to drop its plan for a gas hub at James Price Point on the Kimberley coast which is the location of a song cycle sacred to the Goolarabooloo and other people of the Dampier Peninsula. (See Sacredsong-cycle site disturbed by gas hub plans, Paddy Manning, The Age, 5/12/11)
Needless to say, nothing was said of Israel's passion for creating and maintaining the disadvantageous circumstances faced by indigenous Palestinians.
There was PM Julia Gillard, who gushed:
"We do gather as friends today - friends of the great republic of Israel whose peace and security is so dear to Australian hearts and to mine. We are two countries separated by distance but united by values. Liberal democracies that seek freedom and peace. A just and secure Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people is an indispensible part of a just and secure world. In the Common Era there has never been a century when the Jewish people have known safety. May this century be the first. May this be the time when people of good will, Israelis and Palestinians alike sit together and find a lasting peace. A century when understanding overcomes hate."
Which, if you took her seriously, could only mean that Australia too is an apartheid state. Still, how can you think straight when you've got an election to fund in 2013, if not sooner, and the usual suspects are scrutinising your every word and then some? So on she went:
"On my visit to Israel I was struck repeatedly by the depth of commitment amongst Israel's people to solving problems, for innovation and ingenuity in the face of adversity. It is a quality that we can all benefit from. Strength in partnerships through education and social action is a vital part of any society."
The rest of us tend to be struck repeatedly by the hole Israel has been digging for itself ever since its creation in 1948, but no matter, for an Australian PM trailing in the polls, and for whom nothing matters more than hanging on to power, the show, as they say, must go on.
There was Dr Ron Weiser, Honorary Life President of the Zionist Council of NSW, who chimed in with: "Despite the certain sacrifices and risks that any negotiated peace would entail, Israel still relentlessly pursues that peace and mutual recognition."
Which makes for high comedy when paired with this little item from this week's Australian Jewish News on Netanyah's relentless pursuit of peace: "In light of regional unrest, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset on Wednesday last week that Israel must now move slowly and cautiously in peace moves with the Palestinians, and those who urged otherwise had their heads 'buried in the sand'... We can't know who will end up with any piece of territory we give up. Reality is changing all the time, and if you don't see it, your head is buried in the sand', Netanyahu said." (Netanyau warns against rushing into peace deal, Herb Keinin, The Jerusalem Post/AJN, 2/12/11)
Finally, there was Dr Jakelin Troy, "2011 NAB Australian Friends of Tel Aviv University Yachad," and "an indigenous academic" who researches "indigenous social and cultural well-being at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies based in Canberra."
This was surely the most surreal touch of all - an indigenous Australian set to sit at the feet of the mob who, in 1948, ethnically cleansed Palestine of most of its indigenous inhabitants, and who, since 1967, have occupied the rest.