My following article is published on the Huffington Post:
Israel is facing a revolt from the Jewish Diaspora.
“Intifada” is an Arabic word meaning “shaking off”, as one would violently discard a scorpion. Israel is managing its own “intifada” from within.
I write as a 36-year-old Australian Jew who has recently signed, with 37 Australian Jews, a petition in which I renounced my right of return to Israel. I simply couldn’t accept the dispossession of Palestinians while my rights were deemed more important than the indigenous inhabitants.
Following similar initiatives in America and Britain, Australia – a country long-counted as a major supporter of Israel – now sees prominent Jews, including world-renowned ethicist Peter Singer, claim in the statement that the right of return is a “form of racist privilege that abets the colonial oppression of the Palestinians.”
This could not be more different from the atmosphere surrounding last December’s Australia-Israel Leadership Forum, the largest contingent of Israeli politicians and journalists to ever visit Australia. They found a very receptive audience. The Liberal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was effusive: “I’d like to think that nowhere in the world [does Israel] have stauncher friends than us.”
Israel has always found bi-partisan support in Australia. Ever since 1948 – when the United Nations chairmanship was held by the pro-Zionist, Australian Foreign Minister “Doc” Evatt – Israel has taken Australia’s unquestioning friendship as a given. The current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Labor government is no exception. Rudd once said that support for Israel was in his DNA.
This history makes the current strain in diplomatic relations between Israel and Australia all the more unusual. When it emerged in late February that Israel’s Mossad had allegedly forged Australian passports – as well as those of other foreign nationals – for its assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January, the Rudd government was publicly livid.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith called in the Israel Ambassador Yuval Rotem and used uncharacteristically harsh diplomatic language. If evidence was found that directly implicated Israel, Smith averred, “then Australia would not regard that as the act of a friend.”
A headline in the Sydney Morning Herald captured the mood: “Betrayed PM [Prime Minister] should not be taken for granted by Israel“. The Melbourne Age’s Diplomatic Editor Daniel Flitton argued that, “a long friendship is on the line“.
I was saddened to see the leaders of the Australian Jewish community remain either silent or incapable of condemning the abuse of Australian passports. They will defend every Israeli action like a mantra.
There was almost no precedent for navigating these choppy waters. Australia’s cast-iron backing for Israel in the United Nations began to falter, with the country abstaining from a resolution about the Goldstone Report that demanded Israel and the Palestinians investigate possible war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. Australia had wholeheartedly backed the original invasion with vigour.
But any short-term troubles in the relationship won’t last. Canberra is too intimately tied to the US alliance to seriously undermine one of Washington’s other key allies. During President Obama’s upcoming Australian visit, the Mossad hit is unlikely to be discussed. Believing in Israeli infallibility is almost a matter of faith within Australia’s governing elites.
One rare example of an ally of Israel pushing back was New Zealand, which suspended diplomatic ties with Israel from two years in 2004 after it was discovered that Israeli citizens were trying to steal the identity of a man with severe physical disabilities. Two Mossad agents were sentenced and imprisoned for conspiring against the country’s sovereignty.
New Zealand until recently had a history of diplomatic freedom. In 1984, then Prime Minister David Lange banned the arrival of American nuclear-armed war-ships, causing a rift with Washington but signalling a world-leading example of fierce independence.
Media coverage of the Dubai scandal has been devastating. London’s Guardian was scathing: “Our government seems to be fine with letting the Israeli secret service wage its war with Hamas under a British flag.”
This incident strikes at the heart of Israel’s declining reputation, benefits the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against individuals and corporations that profit from Israel and highlights frustration over Israel’s intransigence in the West Bank and Gaza.
I am a Jew who feels deeply implicated in Israel’s reckless behaviour and cannot remain silent anymore.
While a recent Gallop poll in America found that for the first time since 1991 more than six in ten respondents said their sympathies in the Middle East lay more with the Israelis than the Palestinians, these figures are deceptive. Studies of young American Jews finds a growing disillusionment with the Jewish state and inter-marriage is contributing to the Zionist brain-drain. The internet has opened my eyes to these trends, a rejection of the post-Holocaust reliance on blind adherence to Israel.
The extra-judicial murder in Dubai merely adds fuel to the growing voices of Jewish dissent. Jewish writers Yossi Melman and Dan Raviv claimed in the Atlantic Monthly that, “Mabhouh’s passing definitely sets Hamas back, at least for a few months.”
I suspect the cost to Israel’s image will last far longer.