Australia’s Israel lobby are like little sheep

The role of religious lobbies in Australia isn’t new (witness the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader last night trying to impress the Christian lobby and its mates across the country, saying things about gay marriage, climate change and refugees). There needs to be far more sunlight into the relations between governments and lobby groups. Who gets access, when and how?

The Zionist lobby is seemingly oblivious to how the wider community views its action. Witness this article by Peter Hartcher in today’s Sydney Morning Herald (written in his typically sympathetic way for a group of old men who have nicely sent him to Israel on a number of charming trips).

But how does this look? Wealthy Jews are upset and demand the Rudd government only show blind dedication to the Jewish state.The Prime Minister asks them to dinner to explain his positions. Some are pleased and some are not. But once again we have the sight of old, connected Jewish men demanding our leaders follow every action of Israel. Not playing into stereotypes at all. And what does it say about their real attitudes towards Israel and its never-ending occupation? They care about nothing other than their own power:

When Kevin Rudd sat down to dinner in the Lodge with six leaders of the Jewish community this month, several remarked at the trouble he’d taken; the Prime Minister had ordered kosher food, flown from Melbourne, for the event. It was a nice touch, but not enough.

Rudd convened the dinner as a reconciliation with Australia’s Jewry. He was the first prime minister to invite the Jewish leadership to address a crisis in relations since Malcolm Fraser after the outbreak of the first Lebanon war in 1982. But it was going to take a lot more than a kosher dinner to allay the anxiety, anger and frustration around the Lodge dining table.

The Jewish community was deeply disturbed by the abrupt change in the government’s Israel policy. And Rudd’s treatment of the local Jewish fraternity, too. He had always been strongly pro-Israel. A former chairman of the World Jewish Congress Isi Leibler last year described him as “a Christian Zionist – he understands and has some sympathy for us”.

The Jewish community was an important source of Labor funds for the 2007 election. A single lunch in Sydney raised $100,000. A Toorak tennis court party for 200, attended by Rudd and Julia Gillard, raised more.

Labor values? More like wanting Jewish money.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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