A recent report released by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel exposed shocking racism in the Jewish state. 50 per cent of Israelis said they would not live in the same buildings as Arabs or allow Arabs to enter their homes. Also, Israel announced the building of more illegal settlements in the West Bank this week.

These facts must have made Prime Minister Kevin Rudd proud yesterday when he praised Israel as a “custodian of freedom” in the Middle East.

The bipartisan motion to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary was a predictably tawdry affair. Meaningless platitudes about “democracy”, “freedom” and a “two-state solution” were reminiscent of any speech by US President George W. Bush or The Australian Greg Sheridan’s recent foray into Israeli Foreign Ministry talking points, “Deep inside the plucky country“.

For a PM who has called himself “passionately pro-Israel“, Rudd was never likely to question the appropriateness of endorsing a position that offends the majority Muslim population, many Jews, myself included and millions of other Australians. Barely a few weeks after Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations, his compassion towards another people who suffered dispossession and ethnic cleansing, the Palestinians, was glaringly absent.

Hundreds of concerned Australians appeared in a Palestinian-initiated advertisement in The Australian yesterday – unionists, academics, journalists and Jews – and stated that “Australia and Australians should not give the Israeli people and its leaders the impression that Australia supports them in their dispossession of the Palestinian people.” I was a signatory of the petition.

Paul Howes, National Secretary of the Australian Worker’s Union, offered the most infantile response. He claimed those who supported the petition “lined-up in support of Hamas.” He presumably thinks the Israeli people are equally enamoured with the democratically-elected Hamas government, as a majority recently polled said they wanted to negotiate with the Islamist group.

The most disturbing aspect of the incident were the attempts by the local Zionist lobby to disseminate false information about an initiative I co-founded last year, Independent Australian Jewish Voices (IAJV). Jewish dissent challenges their claim that there is only one Jewish “voice” on Middle Eastern issues.

Some of the signatories of the original petition also signed up to this current one, but now a hoax has made it appear that all the original signatories have endorsed the new statement. Crikey has seen emails on letterheads of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies that claims IAJV has associated the original signatories to the new petition.

However, the letter is a clumsy cut and paste job altering the original list and the Board of Deputies have uncritically disseminated this misinformation. IAJV organisers were not sponsors of the statement, had nothing to do with this deception and merely forwarded names of those who explicitly asked to sign the current statement, as was clear when it appeared.

Score another own goal for the Zionist lobby.

Antony Loewenstein is a journalist and the author of My Israel Question (Melbourne University Publishing, 2007).

Peter Fray

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