Howard and Rudd show their love for Israel

My following article appears in today’s edition of Crikey:

Before every federal election, Australia’s leading Zionist lobby, Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), poses questions to the Prime Minister and Opposition leader. In 2004, both John Howard and Mark Latham discussed Israel, the UN, Iraq, terrorism and immigration.

This year AIJAC has again engaged the leaders and the answers reveal two men determined to outdo the other in terms of displaying uncritical love for the Jewish state and toughness in the “war on terror.”

In relation to the Israel/Palestine conflict, both Howard and Kevin Rudd have taken their talking points from the Bush administration. The words “occupation” and “settlements” are entirely absent. They are determined to support the international isolation of Hamas-controlled Gaza, despite the over one million Palestinians living there in squalor.

Howard and Rudd demand that Hamas “recognise Israel”. A fine rhetorical point, but which Israel is Hamas being asked to recognise? The 1948 borders, 1967 borders or all of the West Bank settlements? When the Saudi Foreign Minister recently asked Israel to cease building more settlements to show its “seriousness” before the proposed November peace conference, it was ignored. When Israel hasn’t itself decided its own borders, why should any Palestinian group be asked to recognise anything?

The Iraq war is unsurprisingly defended by Howard as a “key front of the global war on terrorism” and again he refuses to implement a timetable for withdrawal (AIJAC was a key cheer-leader for the war and is now making similarly bellicose pronouncements against Iran.) Although Rudd advocates removing the 520 combat troops from southern Iraq, there is no acknowledgement of the real Bush administration agenda, namely a long-term presence in the country, akin to other Arab client states.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the AIJAC interview is the response from Rudd about Iran’s “undesirable activities.” While Howard merely mouths that his government is committed to the “diplomatic” route – investigative journalist Seymour Hersh told CNN a few days ago that the White House had received “expressions of interest” from Australia to support a military strike against the Islamic republic – the Labor leader calls for the initiation of “legal proceedings against President Ahmadinejad on charges of incitement to genocide.”

It’s an extraordinary suggestion, not least because it shows a profound ignorance about the ways in which Iran functions (namely that the Revolutionary Guard and Supreme Leader hold the keys to military decisions, not the President). Furthermore, by citing former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton as a key participant in the legal manoeuvres – a man who again called over the weekend for the bombing of Iran – Rudd is aligning himself with the “crazies”, those neo-conservatives and Zionist lobbyists itching for a fight against Tehran.

The recent best-selling Israel Lobby book correctly states that candidates for the US presidency “will go to considerable lengths to express their deep personal commitment to one foreign country – Israel.”

Our political leaders are not immune from the same disease.