Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Breakfast at Joe's

Please spare a thought for 'Diamond' Joe Gutnick in his hour of need:

"Mining magnate 'Diamond' Joe Gutnick was once ranked among the wealthiest men in the country, with a fortune totalling more than $300 million. Now the former Melbourne Football Club president has declared himself bankrupt, with debts totalling more than $275 million, after a deal with one of India's biggest fertiliser groups turned sour." ('Diamond' Joe Gutnick bankrupt owing $275 million, Mark Hawthorne & Sarah Danckert, Sydney Morning Herald, 12/7/16)

What a cruel blow! Now I know what you're thinking: Joe Gutnick is just some rich prick who deserves what he gets. But you'd be wrong. Sure he may have been rich, even filthy rich. But if truth be told, the wretched of the earth were never far from Joe's mind:

"If there is one thing about his political activity in Israel that Joseph is touchy about, it is the perception - especially in the wider Australian community - that he is a political extremist. In his December 1998 interview with Peter Ellingsen, he initially described himself as a 'hardline right-winger'. But he was clearly uneasy with this, and a few days later he called Ellingsen back to say: 'I'm not really a hardliner A lot of people think I'm an extremist, but I'm not. You shouldn't get the idea that I'm a belligerent, non-tolerant person'. Ellingsen took this on board, but with something of a raised eyebrow. He noted that Joseph had answered his question 'How many Palestinians are there in Israel?' with a flip but none too-tolerant: 'Too many!' And when asked about the Gypsies, who, like the Jews, had been the target of Hitler's extermination program in Europe, he replied: 'We have a message for the world. I don't know what message the Gypsies have'." (Diamonds & Demons: The Joseph Gutnick Story, David Bernstein, 2000, pp 109-10)

And as (an extended) family man, Joe is a legend. If even his most distant rellies needed a new settlement house, Joe was always there to help out. So much so that one lot, in Israeli- liberated Hebron, thought it only fair that his name should go up in lights. Hence the Gutnick Center. Vibrant Israel doesn't get much more vibrant than this welcoming 5-Star of David establishment:

"Occasionally I patronised the Gutnick Center, hoping to get into conversation with a few settlers - so unapproachable on the street. 'Diamond Joe' Gutnick, an Australian mining tycoon and enthusiastic funder of settlements, is commemorated by this small cafe-cum-souvenir shop between Shuhada Street and the Street of Prayer. Above the entrance a misleading notice says 'All are Welcome!' On my first visit, at opening time, the dreary cafe was empty. A teenage boy, made girlish-looking by long curly ear-locks, scuttled away to find the 'in-charge', a puny little man who wore a striped apron and had hardly enough hair left to accept his kippa's paper-clips. He was distantly polite, with downcast eyes. From the microwave he served instant coffee and a chocolate pastry, then disappeared into the kitchen until another customer arrived, a tall young man wearing prayer gear and a stern expression. He sat with his back to me, as far as possible from the gentile. An appeal leaflet came with my order - 'Dear Visitor, you have an opportunity to ADOPT A SOLDIER. Buy a coupon in the cafeteria for a Family Size Pizza & Bottle of Drink for just 65 nis and give the coupon to a soldier. On behalf of the soldiers we thank you'." (Between River & Sea: Encounters in Israel & Palestine, Dervla Murphy, 2015, p 284)

1 comment:

MERC said...

Sorry, G, I can allow the first sentence of your 13/7 comment - "I don't suppose those settlement properties he helped to construct will be sold to pay off his debts" - but with regard to the second I'm going to have to defer to the precautionary principle.