There’s no indication that the current political theatre between Australia and Israel will end soon. Jews are upset, conservatives are fuming that Israel can’t just keep on killing anybody it wants and some rational players are calling for an even stronger reaction.
Here’s the Herald Sun’s Andrew Bolt, never short of fury at, well, anybody really who isn’t white, right-wing and pro-Israel:
Is there anything Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will not sacrifice to his manic vanity?
Take his decision this week to expel an Israeli diplomat – a reckless over-reaction that has privately outraged key figures of the Labor Right.
And see who, in capitals around the Middle East, is cheering Rudd most, having dangled before him the bribe of a vote his ego craves, but which this country cannot afford.
It is beyond serious doubt that it was Israeli spies who used forged Australian passports in Dubai in January when assassinating the leading weapons buyer of Hamas and co-founder of the terrorist group’s military arm.
That deserved our condemnation, but only on the grounds that Mossad is now so slack that its agents got caught out with our documents in their hands.
The killing itself hardly deserved comment – and certainly should not have been described by Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith as “murder”.
After all, knocking off a jihadist boss on an arms-buying mission is morally no different from what SAS soldiers do every week in Afghanistan, hunting more jihadists there. Or do our soldiers “murder”, too, Mr Smith?
The assassination was also a lot more clinical than we tend to get when an American drone drops a bomb on a group of suspected Taliban in some Pakistani village.
Still, these were Australian documents, so some level of protest was called for. But this much?
Seems like Bolt simply believes any Western government that say it’s engaged in a struggle for freedom, liberation and the Zionist way.
Meanwhile, back on planet rationality, here’s the letters in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:
As someone of Jewish heritage, I am sympathetic to Israel’s situation and history. But no matter what the provocation, state-sanctioned forgery of Australian passports is a serious matter (”Move catches Israel by surprise”, May 25). Especially when those passports were then used to gain entry to another country in order to commit murder.
If the Australian government has reasonable evidence it is right to expel any diplomat involved. We can still be friends with Israel, while letting it know it must act within international laws and, particularly, not compromise our national security.
The opposition spokeswoman, Julie Bishop, has overturned decades of tacit bipartisanship on such matters to openly criticise the government. She obviously feels it is fine for our national sovereignty to be abused in this way.
Alex Kemeny Wahroonga
The basic calculation looks something like this: Israel has claimed no responsibility, nor has conclusive proof emerged that Israel was responsible for the hit; the world is rid of a murdering terrorist (found dead with multiple forged passports of his own); the Rudd government continues its relentless push for a UN Security Council seat at all costs, against a backdrop of known diplomatic violations such as Iranian nuclear proliferation and Chinese imprisonment of Australian citizens, all of which are consistently ignored.
Adding these three apparently equals justification for the expulsion of a diplomat of one of this country’s closest friends, and the loss of a strategic ally and expert in Australia’s continued fight in the war on terrorism.
Evan Guttman North Bondi
In opposing the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat Tony Abbott has described Israel as a country under ”existential threat”. The opposition’s credibility is facing a similar threat.
Instead of offering alternatives the Coalition has opted for mindless opposition to almost everything. In the ”passports for murder” expulsion Australia followed a British precedent, but was promptly criticised by Julie Bishop because there was no proof that Israel forged the passports. Presumably she expected the intelligence reports to be tabled.
To cap it all, Alexander Downer called the expulsion an overreaction, although he was the foreign minister in 2004 when an Israeli diplomat was expelled by the Howard government with 48 hours’ notice.
It’s fair enough for an opposition to be competitive, but slipshod criticism weakens its claim to be an alternative government.
James Moore Kingsgrove
Did Julie Bishop get “absolute proof” from John Howard and Alexander Downer about weapons of mass destruction before she agreed to us invading Iraq?
Rog Cooper Boambee East
If Australia had been aware that there was a planned bombing of a nightclub in Bali which hundreds of Australians regularly frequent, and we forged a British passport to send an ASIO agent to intercept the terrorist attack, would Britain expel our Australian representative? And would we care?
I think not.
Robert Krochmalik Pearl Beach
Australia, unlike the US, allows people to retain dual citizenship. Maybe we need to follow its example and maintain that you are either Australian or something else, not a bit of both. Our passports would not then be quite as freely available when people visit Israel.
It would also be interesting to know how many Australians are sent by their families to do national service (military or civil) in Israel, and whether this really is what Australian citizens should be taking part in.
Terry Beath Surry Hills
And the letters in the Melbourne Age:
THE forged Australian passports saga is teaching Australians what Palestinians have known for years – the Israeli government and army do whatever they like, whenever they like, to whomever they like, regardless of international law and morality (”Israeli envoy expelled on identity theft”, The Age, 25/5). Israel is a classic example of the formerly oppressed becoming the oppressors. Tragically, Western nations have rarely spoken out against Israeli oppression.
The Rudd government is to be commended for at least officially letting Israel know that what it did to our citizens was wrong. Much more international pressure needs to be placed on Israel to prevent it from committing further atrocities against innocent civilians.
Robert Van Zetten, Highton
PATRICIA Philippou (Letters, 25/5) is correct that the world is finally coming to terms with the monster created by allowing Israel unfettered abuse of international law.
Israel was born out of acts of terrorism and the dispossession and suffering of the Palestinian people. It has demanded and received sympathy and support from the world due to the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust. But, by its continued persecution and dispossession of the Palestinians, it has forfeited any right to this support.
I don’t consider any country that lies and flouts international law a friend of Australia.
Roger Bau, Richmond
ONCE again the Rudd government is using the Dubai passport affair to deflect attention from its own domestic failings (“Mossad’s man in Canberra has to go”, 25/5).
Coupled with this attempt to sideline the major issues confronting Australia by announcing the expulsion of an Israeli intelligence official is a blatant and desperate bid to curry favour with anti-Israel groups in the electorate.
This government would do well to remember that expelling an Israeli diplomat did not help Gordon Brown in the UK and it won’t help Kevin Rudd in Australia.
N. Balkin, Rose Bay, NSW
IT’S only right that Australia has a very strong and important relationship with Israel. However, this is not the first time Israel has wilfully disrespected that relationship by risking the security of Australian citizens (and those of other friendly countries) to further its own cause. It does only harm to Israel’s reputation and reduces Australian goodwill towards Israel. I hope the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council remember that it’s not Australia that is at fault here and, for a change, condemn this dangerous action by Israel.
B. Cavanagh, Moorooka, Qld
I FELT some pity for the poor Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith as he spoke in obvious discomfort about the unjust expulsion of Mossad’s man in Canberra. No doubt his action was forced on him by the extremist fringe of the Labor Party.
As Smith’s bottom lip quivered, I could almost hear the peels of laughter from Osama bin Laden and his minions. No honour will be bestowed upon timid rulers who act against friends to appease aggressive foes.
Barry Walters, Subiaco, WA
A RARE bit of praise for the Rudd government and especially Stephen Smith. The expulsion of an Israeli intelligence official over the forging of our passports is justified. Israel is smart enough not to forge US passports, and similarly, it should realise our friendship is more important to it than to us.
If democratic Israel asks us to support its moral existence in its terrorist-ridden part of the world, we should demand that it does the right thing by coming clean and signing the UN Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. True democracies have nothing to hide.
Vivian McDonnel, Cook, ACT
WHETHER the government’s decision to expel an Israeli diplomat over forged Australian passports was appropriate may warrant further debate. Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop’s statement that it was taken to gain support in Arab nations, on the other hand, would seem both rash and short-sighted. I wonder if she has considered whether Britain, which took the same action, was motivated by similar reasons. I wonder if she would have been so outspoken if the offence had been committed by another nation. The fact is that Israel has insulted our nation by its actions. Bishop might consider Australia’s interests before jumping to the defence of a foreign government to score a few political points.
George Crisp, West Leederville, WA
WOULD it be too much to expect the Canberra press gallery, which so enthusiastically savaged Joe Hockey last week, to have asked Stephen Smith one simple question: “Are you wrecking our relationship with Israel because internal ALP polling is showing you are in trouble in Western Sydney where you need to shore up the Arab vote?”
Bryan Connor, Cloncurry, Qld
ONE might assume from its adverse reaction to the government’s expulsion of an Israeli intelligence operative that the Jewish Board of Deputies’ allegiance is not to Australia but lies elsewhere.
Graeme Noonan, Phillip Island, Vic
Weirdly, amidst all this noise, Fairfax has published online a rather pathetic article rejecting Elvis Costello’s refusal to play in Israel. And the reasoning? Israel may do terrible things but its neighbours are far worse. And seriously, to continue calling Israel a “democracy” when it occupies millions of Palestinians is both an affront to truth and simply not believed by millions around the world. Truth in advertising is appreciated.