You Can’t Touch This – The Issue of Israel in Australia

This last few weeks should have resolved once and for all why the issue of Israel and its relationship with Palestine should be a no go for political parties, media outlets and people wishing to engage with the issues involved. The issue brings up such astonishing levels of spin, poison and propaganda that no-one wins from bringing up the issues.

Before I begin, I am not saying in all this that I support things Palestine have been up to in the recent past – the recent antics from Hamas just boggle the mind. I keep thinking they need a Malcolm Tucker style figure to come in and say to their leadership “What the fuck are you doing??? You sent what to Tel Aviv? Fucking rockets? What do you think Israel is going to do in return? Send fucking flowers?” Perhaps he could also tell Fatah and Hamas to get their act together.  I’m also not against the fact Israel is a state and that the state needed to be formed after the events of WW2. What I am saying is that in the mine field of our provincial, narrow minded Australian media landscape, Israel is a no go zone. A paradise of hypocrises and illogical partnerships. Where Paul Howes and Gerard Henderson are friendly with each other, drinking mediocre hot chocolate. Where Andrew Bolt and Julia Gillard are buddies. It’s a funny old world.

In her time as Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has expressed a relative disinterest in foreign affairs (though this may have something to do with the fact Kevin Rudd was the FM) but now, on Israel, she suddenly decided to express an opinion of her own and attempted to put her foot down.  It should have come as no surprise, however, to people that unstinting support for Israel would be Julia Gillard’s position.  As Deputy PM, she visited Israel on what now former ALP member for Fowler, Julia Irwin called an “unnecessary public relations exercise” accompanied by such people as Peter Costello, Michael Danby, Greg Sheridan and Andrew Bolt.  Those were the days when Bolt was very enthusiastic about Gillard. This is why it’s really not a shock when Bolt supports Gillard when she speaks out against Palestine and for Israel.  We haven’t seen Gillard, et al, being shown the Palestinian side of the dispute by an equivalent organisation. The 2009 trip also puts into perspective Michael Danby’s strong objection to the recent vote.

The idea of having politicians and journalists over on a study trip to “learn” about one side of an issue isn’t new. The Soviet Union did the same thing with Australian writers and journalists in the 1920 and 30s.  The Jewish Board of Deputies continue to fund such trips, with journalists like the Daily Telegraph’s Simon Benson posting one sided reports about the recent conflict, not disclosing who was paying for the trip in that particular article.  In the middle of this trip, Benson was also on the Adam Spencer Breakfast Program on 702, talking about the situation in Gaza, admitting that he didn’t know a great deal about the details of Middle East politics. It looks as though from the articles he produced that he received a decent enough one sided account.

It’s therefore little wonder that the Daily Telegraph decided that the Government’s response to the UN’s enhanced recognition of Palestine is worth a front page screamer. Note that the article is written by the now educated Benson.  It’s a curious choice for a front page screamer, because most ordinary punters who read the Tele, like Benson, wouldn’t have much of a clue about Middle Eastern politics.

Agreeing to abstain in a UN vote is hardly “ditching Israel”. Nor is agreeing with the parliamentary party a “save yourself” situation. Logic isn’t a strong suit in all this.

As the Greens in NSW found out by trying to enact a fairly innocuous boycott against goods made by Israeli companies in order to raise awareness, bringing up Israel / Palestine will rain all sorts of derp on your heads. Media outlets like the Australian are STILL talking about the Marrickville Council’s actions. Maybe only Wollongong Council’s shenanigans gained as much long term attention.  And there was no lurid sexual details in the Marrickville “story”. The Greens’ BDS campaign, however, gave us this marvellous picture of the Secretary of the AWU, Paul Howes, drinking Max Brenner chocolate with his new friend, Gerard Henderson.  Oh, and Michael Danby.

I can’t imagine Gerard really enjoying the chocolate Max Brenner serve up (I have never boycotted Brenner for the fact they are owned by an Israeli company. I just don’t like their chocolate).  Shows, though, that Howes and Henderson would do anything in order to make a comment against the Greens.  When you have people from these diverse a set of beliefs against you, it’s time to just give up. Don’t bring it up. It will get people nowhere. On the issue of Israel, we can remain curious onlookers, but we will not have any kind of logical, calm, reasoned discourse.  Might as well just do the Hammer dance, because we can’t touch this.


N.B. Thanks to Kath Crosby for giving me a quick lesson in Hamas / Fatah, hence helping me understand precisely how to phrase my Malcolm Tucker reference.


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