Media Microscope: Carr’s Ride
May 27, 2014 | Allon Lee
On balance, most commentators rejected the accusation Bob Carr made in his published diary of his stint as Australian Foreign Minister – alleging that Melbourne’s Jewish leadership, in particular AIJAC, exercised an “unhealthy” influence on Prime Minister Julia Gillard regarding Australia’s Israel-Palestinian policy.
AIJAC national chairman Mark Leibler recounted a breakfast he hosted in April 2013 attended by Carr and Jewish community leaders in which “Carr praised the manner and tone in which views were exchanged and described them as a model of effective engagement with government. Carr now claims he was frustrated that he couldn’t express his concern about Israeli settlements. Nevertheless, he managed to do so at every opportunity, loudly and clearly. What he is really upset about is that his view did not always prevail,” Age online (April 11).
AIJAC’s executive director Colin Rubenstein challenged “Carr’s claim that we take an extreme view on Israel,” noting AIJAC supports a two-state solution “on the vast majority of the West Bank and Gaza augmented by equivalent land swaps from within Israel’s 1967 borders” – which concurs with the position of all Australian and US administrations since 1993, Australian (April 15).
Federal Labor MP Michael Danby wrote of the antisemitism he had experienced subsequent to Carr’s book promotional interviews. He attacked Carr – “that supposed struggler for justice” – for being selective in his outrage, writing that he “offered nothing when I ran an international conference on the 300,000 people incarcerated in concentration camps in North Korea,” Australian (April 19).
Describing Carr as “unhinged in so far as Israel is concerned”, Gerard Henderson recounted that a week after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, Carr told him that Israel’s creation was a mistake and the Arabs would never accept it, Australian (April 19).
Greg Sheridan stated that “Carr overestimates the power of the Melbourne-based pro-Israel lobby and writes about it in a way that is needlessly hurtful,” Australian (April 11).
On the Ten Network‘s “Bolt Report” (April 13) Cassandra Wilkinson spoke of her 15-year association with the Labor Party and her experience that “the Jewish lobby is polite, largely quiet. It has some friendships. It is certainly not powerful in the way it’s been misunderstood through some of these comments.”
Janet Albrechtsen, also on the program, expressed concern that Carr was playing “into really sinister stereotypes… David Duke, the infamous anti-Semite in America… is now prominently featuring Bob Carr’s argument on his website.”
Andrew Bolt noted that “there is a Jewish lobby, just as there are other ethnic and religious lobbies. True also, it’s more organised than most, and richer. But also true is that many supporters of Israel – like Gillard, like me – reach their opinions on the arguments, not as quo for Jewish quids,” Daily Telegraph/Herald Sun (April 14).
Also sceptical of the power of the “Israel Lobby” was Chris Uhlmann who noted, “they were trying to influence the PM and failed. If they’re as powerful as people said they’re a failure at what was very important to them,” ABC TV “Insiders” (April 13).
Similarly, the book’s revelations on the cabinet revolt against Gillard on the upgrade vote for the Palestinians at the UN was evidence of a shift in the NSW Labor right, Peter Hartcher wrote, but it also undermined Carr’s assertion “that Israel is omnipotent,” Sydney Morning Herald (April 12).
An Australian (April 16) editorial dismissed former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans’ claim, in backing Carr, that to vote against an upgraded UN status for Palestinians would have isolated Australia “from every friend we had in the world” – pointing out that Canada “also voted no and has suffered no retaliation.”
Chris Kenny argued that the conduct of the Palestinian Authority since the upgrade vote is evidence of the “folly” of “rewarding the Palestinians even before a return to the negotiating table without preconditions,” Australian (April 12).
Reviewing the book itself, anti-Israel devotee Greg Barns found much to like, writing that “Carr…reveals the extent to which the hard-line Zionist lobby from Melbourne duchesses politicians in Australia to be rabidly anti-Palestinian.” Apparently supporting a negotiated two-state solution makes one “rabidly anti-Palestinian” – but then Barns also wrote that Russia has been a “positive influence” in Syria, Hobart Mercury (May 12).
Offering more context, Lowy Institute analyst Sam Roggeveen noted that “there are two major policy themes running through Diary of a Foreign Minister: the Israel-Palestinian dispute and the rise of China. The first gets more pages…and it pre-occupied the serious media… But the latter is infinitely more consequential for Australia and the world,” Interpreter (April 30).