Three young Australians go to the Middle East and become spokespeople for an organization that has killed over 800 people, including numerous innocent men, women and children in the space of a few short weeks. And they are defenders of an organisation that is using dangerous tools of chemical warfare, and which is, prima facie committing war crimes by targeting schools and other infrastructure where the UN flag is flying, and where civilians are sheltering from the constant violence.

I speak of course of Mark Regev from Melbourne who is spokesman to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Benjamin Rutland from Sydney who is, along with fellow Sydney sider, Guy Spigelman, a spokesman for the Israeli Defence Force. All three have been prominent in denying that Israel has acted in violation of human rights standards and international law as it continues its pounding of the world’s largest refugee camp — the Gaza Strip. All three are strident and unapologetic in their defence of Israel’s conduct. They are articulate and their English is word perfect — they are part of the well oiled Israeli propaganda machine that relentlessly spins its way through every difficult situation, such as the targeting of a school flying a UN flag last week.

If these Australians were members of, or spokespeople for say Hamas, or the Iran or Syria, the media in this country would have a field day in running front page headlines like ‘Aussie terror fighters.’ The Rudd government would be contemplating whether or not they should be charged with criminal offences. They would be castigated by politicians for supporting an organization or cause that causes so much bloodshed and suffering.

Australians who are propagandists for Israel in relation to its conduct in the Gaza Strip should be subjected to the same scrutiny and if appropriate, criticism by the Australian media as any Australian citizen who actively backs any illegitimate cause pursued by an organization or country in the world.

So how did Regev, Rutland and Spigelman become such prominent members of the well oiled Israeli propaganda machine? They are not simply hired guns doing a job, but committed members of the cause of Israel:

Regev, born in 1960 and the son of Holocaust survivors, was educated at Melbourne University and was active in Jewish student affairs there as a member of an idealist, socialist Zionist movement. He has impressive American academic credentials and emigrated to Israel in 1991. He was born Mark Freiberg, but changed his name to that of his adoptive Kibbutz parents because he was troubled by having a German surname. Regev is a seasoned PR flack — he was the spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington for a number of years.

Spigelman and Rutland are an interesting pair. Not only are they Israeli Defence Force spokesmen but both are heavily involved in Israeli politics. Spigelman, who has lived in Israel since 1994, ran for the Israeli Labour Party in the 2006 general election and Rutland helped to run his campaign.

In short, Regev, Rutland and Spigelman are not your average flacks or talking heads. They are true believers in the Israeli cause in the same way that their opponents in Hamas or in the Palestinian camp are fervent in their support. It’s just that the former trio do not attract the same headlines from the Australian media.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey