Same old story rehashed

Australian columnist, Glenn Milne, is never one to shirk a government or opposition leak. In fact, he’s best known for channelling Howard government propaganda as his own musings.

Today, he writes of the ALP’s supposed antagonism towards Israel. Following recent comments by Labor backbencher Julia Irwin in federal Parliament, “an understandably furious Australian Jewish community believes Irwin is engaged in dangerous moral relativism, putting forward the phony proposition that Israel is acting in the same way as Hitler.”

Irwin said the following:

“Gaza is now a Palestinian ghetto; a prison for its one million people. All flows of people and goods must pass through Israeli border controls, which has resulted in the World Bank’s reporting that unemployment and poverty will rise in Gaza. Now Israel will rule Gaza like a walled ghetto, a giant penal colony, a concentration camp.

“We are witnessing the ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem, the heart and soul of the Palestinian nation. The world must not allow this to happen.”

Irwin’s comments – except perhaps her use of the word “concentration camp” – are reasonable and factually accurate. If Milne doubts Irwin’s veracity, perhaps he’d like to read this on Israeli settlement expansion in occupied Palestinian territory and attempts by Israeli authorities to marginalise and ghettoise Palestinians in East Jerusalem. I saw it with my own eyes earlier in the year. If Milne ever goes to Israel, of course, he’d be on a Zionist lobby paid jaunt.

For Milne however, “Labor’s overall credibility on the Middle East” is in question. The comment is ludicrous. During an interview with the Australian Jewish News in June, Beazley completely agreed with the extreme positions taken by the Howard government in relation to Israel. There were no quibbles or disagreements. Surely a mature political party can stomach dissent from the official line? It’s clear, however, that neither Labor nor Liberal are evolved enough to hear anything other than “Israel is always right”.

A number of Australian Zionists including AIJAC’s Martin Guenzl – a man who used to write abusive emails to me in years past, chastising my less than acceptable Zionist credentials – accept nothing less than complete subservience to the pro-Israeli and pro-American line. If they do not receive that from either Labor or Liberal, except propagandists like Milne to stand up for what’s “right”.

Milne suggests that any debate daring to suggest Western actions contribute to Islamic fundamentalism is almost tantamount to treason. After all, he writes, “anti-US sentiment necessarily equates to being anti-Israel.”

Milne’s “you’re either us or you’re with the terrorists” worldview fits perfectly with the Murdoch line as well as the established Zionist perspective. Surely with the Iraq war beyond its tipping point – ably supported by “pro-US” types like Milne and the Zionist lobby – the days of lecturing us are well over.

Never expect a propagandist to admit he’s wrong. Milne isn’t a journalist, he’s a useful mouthpiece for various factional interests in the Liberal and Labor teams. And his understanding of the Israel/Palestine conflict is as nuanced as Binjamin Netanyahu.

When former Labor minister Barry Cohen claimed in late 2004 that anti-Semitism was rife in the ALP, he had people like Irwin in mind. I interviewed Cohen for my forthcoming book on the Middle East and his view of Israel was far removed from reality; a perfect, democratic paradise amidst evil Arab states, he thought.

Milne’s column rehashes old prejudices and attempts to shut down legitimate debate around the most sensitive of subjects.

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

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