John Lyons, former Middle East correspondent for The Australian has reported in his new book that:
"Soon after I arrived in Israel, I asked an Israeli military commander, Lieutenant Colonel Eliezer Toledano, the operations officer for the Israeli Army in the West Bank, whether he regarded the West Bank as 'occupied'. He looked puzzled. I explained that for years the pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne had insisted to me that the West Bank was not 'occupied'. 'If this is not occupied then the media has missed one of the biggest stories of your time, our withdrawal from the West Bank,' the commander responded, laughing." (Balcony Over Jerusalem: A Middle East Memoir, 2017, p 279)
The aforementioned "pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne" is, of course, the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), organisers of the 'Rambam study visit' to Israel in which Anne Aly and several other federal Labor politicians (Meryl Swanson (NSW), Milton Dick (QLD), Julian Hill (VIC), Steve Georganas (SA) and SA senator Alex Gallacher) participated in March this year.*
Just how successful the visit was in Rambamming home AIJAC's 'not occupied' propaganda line is particularly evident in the report-back responses of Rambamees Meryl Swanson, MP (Paterson, NSW) and Milton Dick (Oxley).
"Like a lot of people, I had watched documentaries and read things and thought, these people [Palestinians] are occupied. I've come home feeling that [view] has somewhat shifted, and that my perspectives are far broader now... I'm now thinking about what I can do in my electorate to form [agricultural] linkages with Israel." (Israel trip empowered MPs, The Australian Jewish News, 4/4/17)
And here's Dick:
"I think terms that are often bandied about - like settlements, occupation, apartheid and the wall - these are all easy catchphrases and cliches to use, and often there isn't a counterbalance given to a lot of those arguments." (ibid)
[*For the record, in addition to the above flock of Labor sheep, AIJAC was also shepherding around, at the same time, a flock of their Liberal counterparts: Tony Pasin (SA) ("Sadly... too much of what we read [in newspapers] is written through a villain and victim prism, and not through the prism of peace."), Nicole Flint (SA), Andrew Hastie (WA), Andrew Wallace (QLD) and SA state shadow minister Corey Wingard.]