Some years ago, I read an article in a major Australian broadsheet which described, in some detail, the alleged nefarious influence I exercised personally, and on behalf of Jewish Australians, over the Parliamentary Labor Party.
My super powers included an ability to be in Sydney and Canberra simultaneously, browbeat a political leader into changing policy through having coffee with a friend who worked for him and discussing a completely different policy area, and supposedly knowing an item would be brought to caucus before it was even a matter of public interest.
Needless to say, the references to me and my lobby were the result of inventions by the columnist, but they evaded fact-checking or even common sense review as they fitted in with a particularly pernicious, but not uncommon, political narrative.
This malicious spin on Australian politics has been revived in recent days in discussion of how the Australian Government reacted to attempts by the Australian Greens, and their echo Senator Nick Xenophon, to reshape Australia’s pronouncements regarding the status of parts of Jerusalem.
Antony Loewenstein, who incidentally republished the misrepresentations I referred to above even after the newspaper published a correction, suggested the the Attorney-General may have been playing up to a lobby in Australia willing and able to trade some form of “quid pro quo” on anti-racist legislation for support for a statement it appears no one knew was coming.
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser joined the chorus of those alleging a “lobby” acting against Australia’s interest brought about these events – although he didn’t explain what it had done or how it had done it.
In the Australian Financial Review, we read that “many people in politics and business drew a pragmatic line from the shift of position to money” – which might confirm the columnist knows “many people” who are ignorant bigots but does not conform to minimum standards of journalism.
There is not a shred of evidence that a coordinated lobbying effort played any part in the chain of events.
Indeed, it seems the conspiracy theorists are alleging “money” and its wielders – the Jewish community supporting Israel – influenced the Greens and their hanger-on to harangue an Australian civil servant to the extent that a Minister felt it necessary to confirm an Australian policy position. The way in which he did so, critics then alleged, represented a policy sea-change.
The “money” then led to various commentators throwing in their bucket-loads of twisted legal opinions, cherry-picked history and raw vitriol, inciting a group of Arab diplomats to bully and threaten the Australian Government.
Given the upshot was to expose a number of political commentators as all froth and no milkshake, plus have diplomats from the Middle East play up to the prejudicial caricatures of standover men and women who seek to dictate policy to Australian governments and finally provide a platform for supporters of Israel to address a series of misperceptions, one could say it was money well spent.
The irony, of course, is that there was no evidence of the influence of a Jewish or pro-Israel lobby, but plenty of an anti-Israel lobby.
While the Government repeated its belief that the most desirable future for Israel and the Palestinians is two states side by side, the anti-Israel lobby didn’t even pretend it supported an outcome where Israel was treated as an equal member of the international community of states.
While the Australian Government argued its case in terms of a just and fair future, the anti-Israel lobby eschewed any consideration of morality but simply insisted that their muscle could be called on to support their demands.
The whole episode also exposed the priorities of the anti-Israel activists – at a time when Iraq and Syria are riven by inhumanity shading into utter barbarity, and the Muslim Brotherhood subgroup, Hamas, is positioning itself to bring even more hardship to Palestinians via its revolutionary nihilism.
In terms of public debate, we have witnessed unpleasant and unedifying behaviour. In policy terms, however, we have ended where we began.