I always thought Mark Dreyfus, Australia's Shadow Attorney-General, was elected by his Australian constituents to look after Australia's national interests.
Silly me! It seems that for some of us out there his primary political responsibility is - or should be - to defend Israel whenever they think the occasion demands.
Of course, their baying and yapping over his refusal to reflexively fall in with their peculiar Israel first obsession wouldn't much matter if Dreyfus had the inner fortitude to simply shrug it off and get on with the Australia first business for which he and his fellow parliamentarians were elected.
But no, Dreyfus, for reasons best known to himself, takes the concerns of the Israel first crowd very seriously indeed. So seriously, in fact, that he feels he owes them an explanation for not frothing at the mouth and going for the jugular whenever Israel is critiqued in his vicinity. Hence his letter in The Australian Jewish News of October 10:
"Several people have written to me and The AJN regarding my participation in the ABC's Q&A program on September 22, and in particular my decision not to directly respond to a comment made by another of the panellists, Randa Abdel-Fattah, that was highly critical of Israel in the context of the recent conflict in Gaza."
Just to remind you what Ms Abdel-Fattah said on Q&A that night, by way of contextualising the phenomenon of Muslim youth radicalisation: "... the one thing we never address is the role of Western foreign policy and the grievances - the legitimate grievances - that cause [radicalisation]... Why is it that we choose to ignore that elephant in the room? The role of Western foreign policy in creating the mess in the Middle East that we see... the fact that we had the decimation of Gaza by Israel two months ago, and the conspiracy of silence - in fact, I'll go even further, the legitimating and justification giving Israel a licence to kill, does that not fuel anger? Does that not plant the seeds? We go around in the West trying to cut down the trees of terrorism even as we plant seeds of terrorism and we do that when we allow Israel to get away with its war crimes..."
A mere statement of the bleeding obvious, I would have thought. But not to Dreyfus:
"One thing on which I and all the letter writers agree is that all the views expressed by Ms Abdel-Fattah were wrong."
All the views?
So Gaza wasn't decimated?
So Israel doesn't get a free pass to kill and maim over and over and over again?
So Israel doesn't do war crimes?
So the sun doesn't rise in the east and set in the west?
But I digress.
Here are Dreyfus's (heavily pruned) reasons for not taking Ms Abdel-Fattah down, Israeli-style:
"I will briefly explain my reasons for not engaging Ms Abdel-Fattah in a debate on Israeli actions on Q&A. First, the recent conflict in Gaza was not the topic of Q&A... Secondly, Ms Abdel-Fattah's views clearly reflected a well-known perspective, and I find it hard to believe that her statements could convince anyone who did not already subscribe to her views on this topic... Finally, I respect the right of Australians to hold and express a diversity of views, including views with which I vehemently disagree."
Well and good. But then he concludes: "I will continue to take real opportunities to sensibly discuss Israel's future security."
Oh, really? Is that your job?
So, readers, next time you hear the Australian shadow attorney-general going in to bat for Israel, think of the Israel first pack snapping at the poor man's heels, and keep in mind that in Mark Dreyfus we have a shadow minister seemingly afraid of his own shadow.
Oh, and contemplate too the delicious irony of Dreyfus representing the seat of Isaac, named after former Governor-General Sir Isaac Isaacs, who had no problem whatever, bless him, with putting the boot into Zionism and its dirty deeds in Palestine.*
[*See my 29/10/11 post Greg Sheridan's Worst Nightmare.]