Labor MP Michael Danby has a history of loving Israel as only a married man can. Today he unleashes his glorious literary skills in the Murdoch tabloids to denounce Foreign Minister Bob Carr for daring to have an independent thought over Israel:
As NSW premier he [Bob Carr] awarded the Sydney Peace Prize to Palestinian ideologue Hanan Ashrawi. As the only major figure in the Australian Jewish community to defend his actions, I used the Voltaire argument, namely his right to say things with which others disagreed.
After his departure as premier I didn’t pay much attention to Carr, except to lament to other Labor moderates around the country about the absence of beliefs in some NSW “comrades”.
There are clever and capable Labor figures in NSW, such as Paul Howes, Tony Burke, Chris Bowen and Luke Foley, but any examination of some state MPs shows a debilitating quality of most of the NSW Right in the post-Keating era.
Parliament last month saw a switch in Australia’s stance at the UN creation of a Palestinian state after Julia Gillard’s pro-Israel position was challenged and then overturned by Carr and others.
Yet when Carr was premier he would never have permitted treasurer Michael Egan ringing around trying to get the numbers to sell NSW power stations.
Such action would not have been tolerable – even if Egan was right. It is unacceptable in a cabinet for a minister to act – to use Gough Whitlam’s immortal description – like Tiberius on the telephone, organising numbers against his or her leader.
Some caucus members worry about every Palestinian – who is, by aid dollars per capita, the most highly subsidised minority in the world, including $350 million of Australian taxpayer funds.
By contrast, poor gentle Tibet gets little sympathy. More than 80 Tibetans have burned themselves to death in the past 18 months as a result of Chinese oppression.
Tibetans launch terrorist attacks on no one. They acquire no Iranian missiles to attack Chinese cities; they strap on no suicide vests to blow up no children on school buses.
Yet the Tibetans can’t get a meeting with our Foreign Minister and they don’t get a dollar from the UN.
We avert our eyes when a real power like China crushes under its boot an ancient people like the Tibetans. Yet our Foreign Minister asks of the Palestinian vote at the UN: “How will I explain this on the steps of the mosque at Lakemba?”
Everybody like that charming, implied racism directed at the Palestinians? They’re all terrorists, hadn’t you heard?
Carr responded strongly today on ABC Radio. His words speak for themselves:
TONY EASTLEY: The Labor backbencher Michael Danby has accused the Foreign Minister Bob Carr of orchestrating a rebellion against the Prime Minister over last month’s controversial vote on giving greater recognition to the Palestinian Territories at the United Nations.
Mr Danby has written an op-ed piece in today’s News Limited papers saying that Senator Carr used unacceptable tactics to phone Caucus colleagues to rally numbers against Ms Gillard’s position.
The Prime Minister had originally wanted to support Israel and the US position and vote against greater recognition.
But in the end Caucus prevailed and Australia abstained from the vote.
Senator Carr though has rejected the allegation that he ‘acted liked Tiberius’ to organise the numbers against his leader.…
The Foreign Minister is speaking here to our chief political correspondent Sabra Lane.…
SABRA LANE: Bob Carr, Michael Danby has accused you of behaving in an unacceptable manner and he’s used a Gough Whitlam phrase, ‘acting like Tiberius on the telephone’, organising the numbers against Julia Gillard.…
How do you respond?
BOB CARR: Well Michael Danby is a passionate supporter of Israel – Israel right or wrong. I describe Michael, who’s a great friend of mine, as being a stronger Labor Zionist than Ben Gurion, the founder of the state of Israel himself.
But my view as a friend of Israel is that we are doing nothing for Israel if we fail to register a criticism when Israel has got it wrong, as Israel has got it wrong on the remorseless spread of settlements on the West Bank – half a million settlers, new plans for Israeli settlements – that will make a two state solution all the harder.…
And it was that spirit that I think over 90 per cent of the party, the Cabinet, the Caucus subscribed to when it endorsed the approach we were taking at the UN on the vote on non-state status of Palestinians.
SABRA LANE: But it’s an extraordinary lashing of you. How do you respond to his attack? He’s accused you of behaving in an unacceptable manner.
BOB CARR: Well it’s just untrue. I mean Michael, as I said, has got passionate views that I respect. But I’ve got a very different concept of how a friend of Israel should behave.
SABRA LANE: But is it untrue? You did ring around and talk to Caucus and Cabinet colleagues on this issue.
BOB CARR: I made very few phone calls. Tiberius with his telephone on the Isle of Capri was much more active.…
SABRA LANE: Getting back to the points that Michael Danby made, he said that you would never have allowed your own deputy Michael Egan to have done a ring-around like this when you were the New South Wales premier. Would you have?
BOB CARR: I said earlier that Michael is simply wrong when he attributes to me that sort of active engagement. I thought it was extremely important that Australia abstain on this vote…
SABRA LANE: Why do you-
BOB CARR: ..instead of voting with a tiny minority of nations, failing to send a message to Israel about the spread of settlements and the awesome consequences that has got for negotiating a two state solution.
SABRA LANE: If Mr Danby got it so wrong, why has he gone to print in such a spectacular way to give you such a backhander this morning?
BOB CARR: I don’t think it was spectacular and I think, again, the starting point is that Michael’s approach, he is a passionate supporter of Israel, is that Australia must back Israel, right or wrong.…
I’m a friend of Israel but I’ve got a different approach and that is you’ve got to have a”¦
SABRA LANE: Specifically on his allegation levelled against you this morning that it was unacceptable behaviour for the Foreign Minister.
BOB CARR: His allegation is absolutely wrong. And I understand it in terms of his passionate position on Israel and the Middle East. But he’s got to understand this: The vast majority of his colleagues, like the vast majority of the Australian people, take a different view. And that is you will only have peace in the region if you have a two state solution and that is being rendered very difficult by the spread of settlements, including the settlements that were announced as a punishment it seems for Palestinians after the UN by that big majority, with Australia and 40 other countries including the United Kingdom abstaining, on Palestinian status.…
And you will never, you will never provide security for the state of Israel – which is something all friends of Israel, I’m included – want to see if you fail to deliver the Palestinian state. And the Palestinian state is threatened by the settlements like E1, which would end forever the prospect of a contiguous Palestinian territory.…