Saturday, June 7, 2014

Lap Dancing for Israel?

Attorney-General Senator George Brandis has just this week gone on record as refusing to recognise the bleeding obvious, namely that the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories are in fact... well, occupied (and even managing an impersonation of legendary US Senator Joe McCarthy at the same time). In fact, Brandis' words on this subject belong up there in flashing neon lights with the Prime Minister's "Climate change is absolute crap," and Treasurer Joe Hockey's "You can call [the Medicare co-payment] a tax. You can call it anything you want. You can call it a rabbit."

Here's the relevant excerpt from ABC Radio National's PM program of June 5:

Alexandra Kirk: Today... George Brandis delivered a statement clarifying the government's stance on the question of Israeli settlements after independent Senator Nick Xenophon tried, without success, to find out about legal advice to the Government and probing by Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon at a Senate hearing last night.

Lee Rhiannon: Why did the Australian Ambassador to Israel attend a meeting in occupied East Jerusalem with the Israeli minister for housing and construction; the same minister who is forecasting a 50% increase in settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the next 5 years?

Brandis: Well, I think I should say... that the rather tendentious way in which you've put that question, and in particular the use of the word 'occupied' is not something that the Australian Government of either political persuasion acknowledges or accepts.

Rhiannon: So you don't use the term 'Occupied Palestinian Territories', even though it's a United Nations term used widely by a number of international agencies, European members etc...

Brandis: Well, it's used by a lot of people. It's used by a lot of communists too. Weren't you a member of the Communist Party once?

Alexandra Kirk: After consulting the Foreign Minister overnight [MERC: who, you may recall, has publicly doubted the illegality of Israeli settlements] Senator Brandis returned to the hearing this morning to explain the Government's position.

Brandis: The description of areas which are the subject of negotiations in the course of the peace process, by reference to historical events is unhelpful. The description of East Jerusalem as 'occupied East Jerusalem' is a term freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate, nor useful. It should not and will not be the practice of the Australian Government to describe areas of negotiation in such judgmental language.

Frankly, if this is the Abbott government's current position, it appears that Australia is no longer merely perched, with Israel, the United States, Canada and a handful of Pacific Island micro-states, out on a United Nations' limb, in inglorious isolation from the rest of the world, but is actually in the process of climbing onto Israel's lap.

It was precisely this kind of isolation from the international consensus on Palestine/Israel, you'll remember, that former Labor Foreign Minister Bob Carr fought so hard to avoid when, in 2012, he bravely put Australia's international reputation before loyalty to Labor's Israel-entranced leader, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, by refusing to vote against the upgrading of Palestine's status in the UN As he put it in his recent Diary of a Foreign Minister:

"The column of 10 nations, die-hards, glued on Israel supporters - Micronesia and the Marshall Islands - had just been reduced by one. A message to the settlers and the fanatics in Israel, a message to the noble Israeli liberals and moderates, a message to a suffering West Bank population, battered and trapped, a message to the UN membership about Australia, the country they just elected to the Security Council." (See my 20/4/14 post The Carr Diary: Reflections 6.)

The message being sent by the Abbott government to those same parties is now the reverse of the previous government's.

I draw your attention to Senator Rhiannon's initial question to Brandis about the Australian ambassador to Israel's mysterious meeting in East Jerusalem with Israel's Housing Minister, Uri Ariel, to my knowledge simply brushed aside by the Attorney-General. Considering that this particular fanatic, a member of Israel's far-right Jewish Home party, has just invited bids for 1500 new homes in Jewish settlements - 400 of them in occupied East Jerusalem - as, to quote him, a "Zionist response to the establishment of the Palestinian [Fatah-Hamas] terror cabinet," we may now legitimately speculate that ambassador Dave Sharma* was reassuring him of Australia's backing in the UN when the matter of Israel's ever-expanding settlements next came up in the General Assembly.

Unfortunately, with Australia now positioned on Israel's lap, something a little more erotic and enduring than a cuddle, a kiss, and a few whispered endearments could well be in the offing, a possibility I'll be canvassing in my very next post.

[*For a look at the Gillard government-appointed Sharma's extraordinary work for Israel, simply click on his label below.]

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