Monday, December 3, 2012

While You Weren't Looking 2

Further to my post on December 1, While You Weren't Looking, new details have emerged in the extraordinary story of how the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was effectively dragged, kicking and screaming, from the clutches of the Israel lobby by leading members of her own party and forced to see reason, or at least some measure of same, on the Palestinian bid for observer status in the UN.

These are contained in the following report by Dennis Shanahan & Joe Kelly, Fears PM isolated on UN vote, in the December 1 issue of the Australian. The highlightings (and interleaved commentary) are, of course, my own :

"After Julia Gillard announced on Tuesday afternoon that Australia would abstain from a UNGA vote on state observer status for the Palestinians, two things happened. Our most important ally, the US, decided to make its 'disappointment' clear to the Australian ambassador in Washington, Kim Beazley, and the Prime Minister's 'special emissary to the Jewish community', Bruce Wolpe, was fingered as having an inordinate influence on Ms Gillard, who had intended to vote against the UN motion."

Yes, you heard correctly: the PM's special emissary to the Jewish community...

"During the previous 48 hours Gillard had been defied by her cabinet, rolled by caucus, abandoned by key supporters in the NSW ALP Right, put her leadership on the line and was accused of giving too much access and influence to Melbourne Jewish business leaders through Wolpe, a Jew, a former Fairfax executive and US Democrat adviser, and her special business and Jewish affairs adviser. It was no small matter for Gillard to defy advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, the strongly held view of Foreign Minister Bob Carr, previous policy positions, lobbying from Bob Hawke and his foreign minister Gareth Evans, most of her backbench colleagues and the 'demographically challenged' NSW Right, including her staunchest cabinet supporter from that faction, Water Minister Tony Burke. As one cabinet source told The Weekend Ausralian last night: 'The Prime Minister turned this into a leadership issue herself by demanding cabinet follow her and a failure of process and consultation beforehand'. The opposition to Gillard cut across factional boundaries and went beyond supporters of former prime minister Kevin Rudd. The success of the party in rolling the Prime minister will have reverberations into the election year and has diminished her authority.

"While it should have been apparent for months - indeed it was a year since Rudd, then foreign minister, wrote suggesting an abstention on the Palestine issue, that now Labor overwhelmingly favoured a less dogmatic approach to Israel - Gillard insisted Australia oppose the move for Palestinian observer status, which was carried at the UN yesterday. On Monday evening, cabinet convened for what was to become an exceptional meeting and an eventual decision that may set various benchmarks in Australian political history. It changed a basic tenet of Australian foreign policy, it broke longstanding bipartisanship on Israel, it ditched a tradition as old as 'Doc' Evatt, disappointed the US, Israel and the local Jewish community and may yet prove to be a more potent leadership issue for Gillard than the Australian Workers Union affair."

Shanahan and Kelly could well be correct here, although the idea that uncritical bipartisan support for Israel and all its works has been a tenet of Australian foreign policy since the days of Evatt completely overlooks the era of Australia's 'even-handed' approach to the Middle East conflict. As former Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam said in 1973: "Australia has a bi-partisan policy, a policy of neutrality in the Middle East. The ALP policy is substantially the policy which governments have pursued for the last quarter of a century in Australia." (Quoted in Bob Hawke: A Portrait, Robert Pullan, 1980, p 159)

"Before Monday's meeting DFAT and Prime Minister and Cabinet prepared an options paper - not a cabinet submission - which set out the pros and cons of the 3 UN vote choices for Australia; a vote against with the US, Israel and half a dozen small states, abstain on the basis of a principled position to get Israel to negotiate, or vote for Palestinian state observer status. Carr's position, spelt out to the Prime Minister, was to abstain at least, as was the majority position in cabinet, the outer ministry and the Labor backbench. Carr committed to Gillard before the meeting that he would not speak because it would be obvious the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister were at odds. After the cabinet meeting began and Gillard made it clear she intended to go for the minority position all hell broke loose in the windowless room opposite her office suite in parliament. Minister after minister lined up to tell her - some forcibly - her position was wrong on policy and political grounds. The opposition included Burke and fellow NSW Right minister Chris Bowen, with Burke's contribution particularly significant as the last of the NSW faction's cabinet ministers supporting Gillard's leadership. Even Trade Minister Craig Emerson, derided for his public loyalty to Gillard, was opposed. Only Victorian Right Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, later backed by fellow Victorian right-winger Bill Shorten, spoke up for Gillard's position. Carr couldn't contain himself after 10 ministers had spoken in his portfolio area and made it clear he was at odds with his leader.

"Carr's opposition was significant not only because he was Foreign Minister but also because he had been hand-picked by the NSW Right to replace Rudd in the ministry and will always be seen as a safe fallback as leader should Gillard fail. What's more, Carr, who founded the NSW Labor Friends of Israel, has assiduously worked with Palestinian groups for 17 years and is aware of the plight of Christian groups throughout the Middle East who want peace. After Gillard insisted the cabinet had to agree to her minority position and demanded 'cabinet solidarity', there was a bemused and sullen response, with Carr ringing backbenchers to foment rebellion and government whip Joel Fitzgibbon defying the Prime Minister's request to lock in the Right behind her. Fitzgibbon yesterday said that if Australia had adopted the Prime minister's initial position it would have looked like Australia was acting as a puppet of the US.

"Carr informed Gillard minutes before Tuesday's Labor caucus meeting that she needed to change her position or face a humiliating defeat that would undermine her authority. Gillard conceded and backed a compromise of abstention. In the face of Gillard's initial demand for support, cabinet ministers began to complain there was no real explanation for the position, arguing the US was not overly exercised, many Labor seats were affected by Middle Eastern populations, Christian and Muslim, and there was a policy argument for sending Israel a message 'as a friend'.

"Ministers believed Wolpe was providing 'inordinate access' to the hardline pro-Israeli elements of the Melbourne Jewish community who were having an undue influence on Gillard."

IOW, they felt that Australia's foreign policy stance on the Middle East conflict had effectively been contracted out to a bunch of apologists (as much by omission as commission) for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose real goal, a Greater Israel covering the entirety of historic Palestine 'from the river to the sea', runs counter to the 'two-states for two peoples' solution espoused by Labor.

"As a hard left-winger in her younger days..."

A truer picture of Gillard the student politician may be found in my 25/7/10 post Me, A Zionist? How Very Dare You!

" ... Gillard was not seen as a natural supporter of Israel or the US, but has worked hard at links with both, and her partner, Tim Mathieson, worked for Jewish Melbourne developer and Labor benefactor Albert Dadon. As deputy prime minister, Gillard visited Israel and was feted by the Israeli leadership. In Perth last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had indicated to Gillard that the US would prefer a vote against the Palestinian UN motion. It is understood Gillard's decision was determined from her own views and that Wolpe hadn't arranged a prime ministerial meeting with the Melbourne Jewish community for some time. Labor MP Michael Danby, who in Melbourne Ports represents the biggest Jewish community in Australia, said yesterday: 'I hope I am wrong and the UN resolution turns out to give the Palestinian Authority the confidence to begin direct talks with their neighbours, the best outcome that may result.'"

Such is the surreal level of misrepresentation of the true nature of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians by Zionist apologists such as Danby that he can get away with spinning a dispossessing colonial power, engaged in a decades-old process of screwing a dispossessed and colonised people, as a neighbour with whom the dispossessed and colonised need only to sit and have a chat with for a satisfactory solution to their 'differences' to emerge.

Just as you cannot, so the adage goes, fool all of the people all of the time, could it be that the reality of Israel's relentless colonisation drive in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem (indeed, a new round of settlement construction has just been announced in retaliation for the Palestinians' upgraded status in the UN) is beginning at last to dawn on Labor politicians? Hard to believe, I know, but I'd like to think that the cabinet/caucus revolt against Gillard, described here and in the Australian's earlier report, reflects, at least in part, a more realistic understanding by the ALP of what is actually taking place on the ground in occupied Palestine.

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