It is in the nature of political lobbies to operate behind closed doors, away from the public eye. Australia's Israel (or Zionist) lobby is no exception. In fact, it is probably true to say that most Australians are simply unaware of its existence, let alone its powerful hold over our elected representatives, not to mention its relentless policing of the corporate media. And that lack of awareness, to be sure, is just the way the lobby would have it.
Be that as it may, given the Israel lobby's hugely successful impact on Middle East policy formulation by governments from both sides of the political divide, as well as its equally successful role in shaping and managing mainstream media discourse on the Middle East, any inside account of its modus operandi is more than welcome. Recent memoirs, by former foreign minister Bob Carr, former prime minister Kevin Rudd, and journalists John Lyons and Mike Carlton, have helped expose the lobby's interventions and manipulations in these two key areas. Indeed, judging by their revelations, it could be said that we are approaching critical mass here - to the point where no truly sentient Australian can any longer feign ignorance of either the Israel lobby's existence or its clout.
I've already mined Carr's Diary of a Foreign Minister (2014) and John Lyons' Balcony Over Jerusalem for their insights. As time permits, I'll move on to Carr's Run for Your Life (2018) and Carlton's On Air (2018) in later posts. For now, I'll deal here with Rudd's Kevin Rudd: The PM Years (2018), annotating where necessary:
"Then there was the question of Israel. Back in 2003, under the Howard government, the Israeli intelligence services had taken it into their heads to use forged Australian passports in one of their operations abroad. They had been found out. Dennis Richardson, the director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation at the time, had hauled them over the coals. The Israelis had been forced to sign an agreement with us that if we were to continue intelligence cooperation with them in the future, they would never do this again. Obviously the Israelis had not taken us seriously, because they did it again - this time in a botched intelligence operation which culminated in the assassination of a Hamas leader visiting Dubai. Mossad had left their paw prints all over the operation. The Israeli authorities plainly did not care that by using and abusing Australian passports, they were placing at risk not just the integrity of our passport system but, more importantly, the safety and security of hundreds of thousands of Australians who travelled on these passports through the Middle East each year.
"The matter was brought to the National Security Committee of the cabinet. Dennis Richardson, who had recently been appointed secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs by our government, was an experienced senior diplomat of the old school. His advice to us was unequivocal: unless Australia wished to be seen as a 'soft touch' by the Israelis, we had to act firmly and decisively. We should expel the Mossad representative at the Israeli embassy in Canberra, and make public our reasons for doing so. Only then would it be considered a significant enough issue in Israel to force the political arm of the government to rein Mossad in.
"I looked around the room. Everyone was nodding in agreement - except Julia [Gillard]. I asked her explicitly whether she supported the recommendation. She grunted her assent. I knew for a fact that Julia had been cultivating a close relationship with the Israeli lobby in Australia. There was nothing wrong with that, particularly given her own pro-Palestinian background from her days as a left-wing political activist. I was also conscious that her partner, Tim, had gone to work for a prominent member of the Jewish community in Melbourne. I didn't want any fractures in the government on this one."
Just how close Gillard's relationship with the Israel lobby was is explored in some detail in Carr's Diary of a Foreign Minister. For the details, I refer you in particular to my posts The Carr Diary: Reflections 4, 5 & 6 (18-20/4/14) and my 18/1/13 post The Prime Minister who Put Her Job on the Line for Israel.
With respect to Rudd's assertion that Gillard had a "pro-Palestinian background from her days as a left-wing political activist," he is mistaken. Just the opposite is the case. (See my post 14/8/10 post The Real Julia Gillard.)
"When [foreign minister] Stephen Smith made our position public, the Israeli government was less than impressed. Their ambassador, Yuval Rotem, came in to protest. And that's when the complaints from the Australian Jewish lobby started to come in thick and fast. I had no qualms about saying publicly that the decision by Israeli intelligence services to use and abuse the Australian passport system was not the action of a friendly government. I then said as much to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I told him I expected him to take action against Mossad.
"Colin Rubenstein, a leading conservative political activist from Sydney, and Mark Leibler from Melbourne went off their heads. How could Australia have the temerity to treat our friend and ally Israel in such cavalier fashion? How could we be certain that Mossad had done this? Surely we were mistaken... And even if Mossad had done it, weren't such things done on a regular basis in the ugly world of intelligence? I was then lobbied by our own Jewish members of parliament, led by Michael Danby and Mark Dreyfus. They came to see me, demanding that I 'do something'. My response was to ask what they would have done if they were either foreign minister or prime minister of a country and another country had forged their passports in order to assassinate someone who at that stage was under the protection of another country (the UAE) with whom Australia also had a close relationship."
Rubenstein is the executive director of Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) and Leibler is its national chairman. AIJAC is based in Melbourne.
"However, out of respect for my parliamentary colleagues, I suggested that we invite leading members of the Jewish community to the Lodge for dinner to discuss the matter further. The dinner was held on 3 June, and I remember the evening well. I sat there politely as Mark Leibler berated me for having committed a hostile act. I found this remarkable as I had been a strong defender of the state of Israel from the earliest days of my diplomatic career and had always been a vigorous campaigner against all forms of anti-Semitism. And for Leibler to attack the democratically elected prime minister of his country as he sought to argue the interests of another country was beyond the pale.
"'You do realise that this is Israel's second offence?' I said. 'What do you mean?' he asked. 'They did exactly the same under Howard, got a gentle rap over the knuckles, and promised never to do it again.' Leibler looked stunned. 'I don't believe you.' 'Then why don't you sit down with the head of Foreign Affairs, who is the former head of ASIO, and I'll authorise him to brief you on exactly what has happened here,' I countered. 'I think you'll find that our response to Israel's actions has been entirely reasonable under the circumstances.'
"Leibler still stared at me in disbelief. And then disbelief turned to anger. Apropos of nothing, he said, 'Julia is looking very good in the public eye these days, Prime Minister. She's performing very strongly. She's a great friend of Israel. But you shouldn't be anxious about her, should you, Prime Minister?' It was Leibler at his menacing worst." (Kevin Rudd: The PM Years, 2018, pp 282-84)
Rudd's dinner at the Lodge is the subject of a most interesting report by Peter Hartcher, the Sydney Morning Herald's international editor, for which see my 22/6/10 post The Best Israel Policy Money Can Buy. See also the account of same in The Australian Jewish News, quoted in my 11/6/10 post Those Irresistable Zionist Pheromones Again 2.
Sadly, "Leibler at his menacing worst" was not the wake-up call that Rudd needed on the matter of Israel, because just over a year later we find him, with Danby, in a Melbourne Max Brenner outlet condemning those advocating its boycott. A more disillusioned Rudd can be seen later in Carr's 2014 Diary of a Foreign Minister, for which see my 20/4/14 post The Carr Diary Reflections 6. Finally, we have the Israel critic of later years, for which see my 23/2/17 post Rudd & Netanyahu Cross Swords, as well as the following passage from his memoir:
"Elsewhere on the international front there was good news to be had. In October 2012, nearly five years after I had launched the initial campaign, the news finally came through of Australia's extraordinary win for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Gillard was never an enthusiast. Through the influence of her 'Middle East Advisor', Bruce Wolpe, Gillard had already begun unravelling a number of Australian votes on UN General Assembly resolutions on Palestine in order to appease the far-right Jewish lobby in Melbourne. When I was prime minister and foreign minister, Australia's voting profile on Israel had changed from one of unquestioning compliance with US and Israeli interests, to one which was much more aligned with British voting patterns in the UN. Our votes were still more sympathetic to Israel than those of the rest of Europe. But this was not good enough for Gillard. The far-right Jewish lobby in Melbourne wanted to go back to the good old days of the Howard government. And Gillard wanted to deliver. This would be coordinated through her loyal operative Wolpe to ensure that Australia would once again join the likes of the US, Palau and maybe two or three other Pacific micro-states, in voting against UN General Assembly resolutions that were critical of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. It was no surprise that Gillard would later be awarded, together with Abbott, an honorary doctorate at an Israeli university for her services to the cause. The only problem was that these were not services to Australia's cause. They were services to the Israeli Government's cause under prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his total opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state." (pp 508-09)
Of course, Rudd still hasn't broken through his childhood/religious/Labor Party conditioning to arrive at a real understanding of the dark apartheid heart of the Zionist project in Palestine, and probably never will, but at least he's experienced a learning curve of sorts.