Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Carr Diary 8: Reflections 2

As I sought to show in my last post, when it comes to Palestine/Israel, former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr is no radical critic of the Israeli apartheid status quo.

So the question arises: what caused this amiable, mild-mannered, overly-pragmatic, pro-Israel pillar of the Labor establishment to blow the whistle on Australia's Israel lobby?

Let's begin by pointing out the bleeding obvious: Carr's whistleblowing Diary of a Foreign Minister is no comprehensive critique such as Mearsheimer & Walt's seminal study, The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy (2006). Nor is it in any way an Australian version of US Congressman Paul Findley's They Dare to Speak Out: People & Institutions Confront Israel's Lobby (1985). In fact, I can guarantee that this widely-read Americanophile has neither of these superb books on his shelves. Still, I give him his due here merely by mentioning those two great works in relation to his.

Without detracting in any way from the importance of what Carr has done - shining a light on possibly the darkest corner of Australian politics - it should be kept in mind that Diary focuses on only the most overtly Likudnik wing of Australia's Israel lobby, the Melbourne-based Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC). The influence and modus operandi of the other Australian Zionist organisations which make up the lobby, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, and the Zionist Federation of Australia, are nowhere touched on.

Nor, it should be pointed out, did Carr set out with an axe to grind. His concern is always for the preservation of Israel as a Jewish state. In fact, he's so comfortable with the idea and all that flows from it, namely that millions of Palestinians can remain forever warehoused in refugee camps just so his Australian Jewish friends can call Israel home.

For example, early on in Diary he writes:

"I had told a Jewish delegation that without a Palestinian state they would see Israel bursting with an Arab population; and in 20 years' time it would be young Jews in America leading a campaign to brand Israel an apartheid state and boycott and isolate it." (p 76)

Carr's initial brief as foreign minister was to ensure that Australia beat Finland and Luxembourg to a seat on the United Nations Security Council, and it is in this particular context that his problem with AIJAC begins. Anything to do with Palestine or Palestinians, he makes clear, is a potential stumbling block:

"To win the vote in October... we can't afford to have a vote on some irritating Middle East issue that sees us put our hand up for Israel and lose the support we've carefully cultivated among Arabs and Africans. One vote coming up at the UN is on a motion that criticises Israel for the conditions of Arabs in the occupied territories and I want to support it but I need to manage the local Israel lobby and its faction - 'the falafel faction' as they self-mockingly call themselves - in caucus." (p 95)

There's no anger in Carr at this point. As bizarre as it may seem to a disinterested observer that a foreign lobby should be operating a cross-party faction in Australia's federal parliament, he accepts the 'falafels' merely as a management issue. And how's this for revelation number one; Carr knows that, when the need arises to manage Labor's 'falafels', it's best to ignore the monkeys and go straight to the organ grinder himself:

"I saw Yuval Rotem, the Israeli Ambassador, and asked him to cut us some slack, to watch us vote for the motion without a fuss. I told him we could do some good for Israel as a member of the Security Council for two years. On Tuesday he said he'd take advice on it and today he was back in my office saying he'd cleared it with Jerusalem. Smart politician, he even told me he'd seen Liberal Senator Glenn Searle from Western Australia who, with Labor Melbourne MP Michael Danby, heads the pro-Israel faction." (p 96)

There you have it, straight from the horse's mouth: in a supposedly independent Australia, Middle East policy must first be vetted and approved by Israel, a most extraordinary state of affairs by any reckoning.

Carr even felt the need at the time (June 2012) to flail what passes for a Palestinian lobby in Australia with Zionist propaganda tropes, apparently by way of recompense for discomforting Israel's ambassador:

"I want to meet a Palestinian or Arab delegation for every Jewish or Israeli delegation. So I ticked off a meeting with the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, whose president, Reverend James Barr, is said to be a political realist... I tell them we oppose settlements but, but I said as long as rockets are launched from Gaza at Israeli towns, support in Israel for a peace settlement will shrink. 'Will you condemn the dividing wall?' they asked. I said if bombs had been going off in central Sydney while I'd been Premier, I would have built a dividing wall." (pp 95-96)

To be continued...

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