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Jul 29, 2014

Israel still pulls business heavy hitters, but Palestine off the table

The Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce has some big connections in the business world -- and they are far too polite (and politic) to mention the current unpleasantness in Gaza.


Lately it seems nobody has as much pulling power with the business community as the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce … but don’t mention the war.

In recent months in Sydney alone the AICC has hosted Business Council president Catherine Livingstone, Qantas chief Alan Joyce and Telstra chief David Thodey — star attractions at mega-lunches — with hundreds of business types turning up for a decent three-course meal, glass of wine and good-humoured promotion of Israel’s attractions.

The audience hears from high-powered delegates who have recently returned from one of the trade missions hosted constantly by the chamber, and publicly at least, their impressions are highly favourable. Venture capital funding and R&D are recurring themes as Israel touts its credentials as a technology investment destination — the “start-up nation”, with the second-most NASDAQ-listed firms outside Silicon Valley.

The pro-Israel commercial message is softened by the good-humoured shtick of bow-tied MC Kim Jacobs, the chamber’s longtime state president, with self-deprecating charm.

Palestine is not mentioned, in my experience, and perhaps that’s to be expected at a business lunch where politics is touched on lightly, if at all. Now, however, there is a war on in Gaza, Australians are watching the shocking images nightly, and the casualties and destruction are overwhelmingly on the Palestinian side.

Perhaps there would be a drop in numbers? Some discussion? Not a bit of it.

UniSuper chairman and former head of Colonial Chris Cuffe made an oblique reference to how his recent tour of Israel with the chamber had been useful in understanding the “current tensions”. Very polite. Arguably too polite, given what is going on in Gaza has already triggered a United Nations war crimes investigation, and ceasefires are not holding.

When I asked Jacobs and Livingstone at the event about the possible impact of the war in Gaza on business relations between Australia and Israel — for example through boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), they demurred at the time.

Today Jacobs, speaking as managing director of corporate strategy business Inteq Ltd, told Crikey it was a valid question but one he and Livingstone chose not to answer yesterday, given the AICC was “apolitical”.

Jacobs says the chamber’s members have not raised concerns about the war in Gaza, and he was not surprised by the strong turnout yesterday. “Why would Catherine Livingstone speak at our function as an opening address if she thought there was an issue? We really appreciate the support.”

On the prospect of BDS, Jacobs points to an opinion piece published in The Jerusalem Post by former Business Council president Graham Bradley in 2011, when he led a mission to Israel, which said BDS had “no credibility … none of it has any traction in senior government or business circles in Australia”.

Jacobs came back last week from a five-day trade mission led by NAB chief Cameron Clyne. For most of the 26 people who went, it was their first time in Israel. “Some were concerned at the situation,” said Jacobs. “When they arrived they were pleased we were mainly in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Sirens went off once or twice a day, but the Iron Dome was very effective. Everyone felt very safe and secure, and quite a bit of business was done between the two countries.”

Jacobs says the trade missions try to give people a people a balanced view, but of course it is not safe to go into Gaza. “All we, as any organisation would want, is for no one else on either side to be injured and for there to be at least a ceasefire, if not a peace. Economic trade and business is the way to continue to ensure that there is a reason to work towards a peace.”

Livingstone is also chair of Telstra, which has important contracts in Israel. In his March speech, chief Thodey described Israel as the “epicentre of world innovation”.

Thodey said:

“It’s interesting when you look at Telstra, and you look at the number of software companies that we actually use that come from Israel. We’ve already talked about Verint, all our provisioning systems come from a company called Amdocs, which is critical to the operation of Telstra every day. And I could go through a list of about 10 companies … that had their genesis in Israel, some of them now based in New York, that we use and are absolutely dependent on, on a daily basis.”

There is no such business support for Palestine, which has no chamber of commerce here.

Suzannah Moss-Wright, chief executive of the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry, did not even have a figure for our bilateral trade with Palestine, but said Australia has exports worth $8 billion to the 22 Arab League countries, compared with imports of $2.3 billion — a trade that runs heavily in our favour — and she added, “if there is one thing that unites the Arab world, it’s support for Palestine”.

By contrast, Australia’s exports to Israel in 2013 were $228 million, while imports were $619 million.

Moss-Wright says conflict between Israel and Palestine has been going on since 1948, and anyone doing business there would have factored in the risk of war. “Those people who have engaged in trade with the region have already calculated that risk.”

It will be increasingly impossible to avoid the discussion.


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27 thoughts on “Israel still pulls business heavy hitters, but Palestine off the table

  1. Bill Hilliger

    The Israel and American governments would liken the latest Gaza incursion to shooting fish in a barrel. The Palestinians cannot escape.

  2. Kevin Herbert

    Note to Paddy Manning:

    The current conflict in Gaza is not a war.

    It is the mechanized slaughter of a lightly armed Palestinian civil militia & their unarmed civilian supporters by the world’s 4th most powerful armed forces.

    The latest death toll is:

    Gazans 1088 – including 143 children – 6445 seriously injured

    Israelis 46 – including 3 civilians – 43 soldiers – 10 injured.

    Definitely not a war wouldn’t you say.

  3. Bill Hilliger

    Downing MH17 …our government says is a war crime. What Israel and the United States (supplying endless money and weapons of mass destruction) are doing to Gaza …our government says nothing.

  4. CML

    What an outrageous article. Business as usual with Israel, while Palestinian children and civilians are being blown to smithereens.
    Don’t mention the war indeed. A gathering of very sick minded greed freaks!
    You all make me want to vomit!!!

  5. Malcolm Street

    Have I got this right? Our trade with the Arab world is an order of magnitude higher than that with Israel yet our business community is bending over backwards (or forwards?) for Israel.

  6. Kevin Herbert


    I know why Israel is feted…if only Crikey will let me tell you.

  7. Kevin Herbert

    My senior executive contacts at the 2 of the BIG Four Aussie banks have confirmed that the only reason for the BIG 4’s involvement in the AICC is that they were unofficially warned that if they didn’t join, they would face unspecified penalties in the global capital markets.

    Who said Zionists haven’t got the US Federal Reserve & Wall St on a short leash.

    The AICC is a disgraceful farce, and should be seen as such.

  8. Ian

    There are protests against Israel coming up in all major cities on Saturday 2 August. Be there. Remember doing what you can to resist injustices does not necessarily mean you will win but doing nothing will ensure you don’t. Attending a peaceful protest is the very least anyone can do.

  9. dazza

    Kevin Herbert. AICC doesn’t think there’s an issue ..
    Jacobs says the chamber’s members have not raised concerns about the war in Gaza, and … “Why would Catherine Livingstone speak at our function as an opening address if she thought there was an issue? “

  10. Kevin Herbert

    Ian: will be there

    Dazza: Livingstone is yet another Zionist stooge…as the whole of the Australian Federal & State Parliaments…and ther reason is that they fear for their capital raising abilities if they offend Israel & its Wall St boosters

  11. MJPC

    Why do we find this article so surprising. Capitlaists of all hues will support any regime, war crimes or not, if there is a buck to be made.
    Frankly I blame the Arab states;, they should be using their combined economic pressure to force the issue of fairness for all in Gaza and a Palestinian state. I daresay the majority of the $8B are primary industry. A few selective bans woule see the Nats crowing loudly for a more even policy towards the Middle east fracas.
    Alas, Arabs are a whole series of tribes with all of the latent hatreds and suspicions; therein lies the problem.

  12. dazza

    Yes Kevin, .. Livingstone and the rest of her BCA puppets are offensive to any fair minded Australian. Why would anyone of caliber think there is no issue with WAR as far as business is concerned. Disgraceful behavior.

  13. Mike R

    Kevin, Your comment above(6) suggests that the moderator of Crikey is censoring you again. They seem to let you get away with endorsing material from neo-Nazi sites recently (see http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/06/17/rundle-the-deadly-cast-of-characters-in-iraqs-lethal-isis-game/?wpmp_switcher=mobile&wpmp_tp=1, comment 19 in particular) so you must have had something even more extreme in mind.

    And by the way my four senior executives at all four banks and at a much higher level than yours tell me that your claims(7) are all made up.

  14. Mike R

    Ian, I hope you are right about it being a peaceful protest on August 2nd as we don’t want the recent scenarios in Europe to be repeated here.

    For an indication what could happen if things turn ugly see – http://goo.gl/QeK7SY and http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28402882.

  15. Ian


    Tut,tut. I checked out the link you provided which was to an obvious pro Israel article by the BBC which is a well known supporter of Israel.

    I notice that the report only recorded statements from pro Israeli sources and not from any of the so-called rioters or other participants in the rally.

    Of course innocent people (if indeed they were innocent) should not be attacked or have their property damaged by anyone. The people in Israeli-occupied Gaza and West bank are innocent people and their attackers have still not, after all these years, faced any sort of punishment. I doubt that those responsible for the looting reported in by the BBC will get off as cheaply as the criminal Israeli establishment has done.

    And why was the protest banned? And what role did the enforcement of that ban play in bringing about the situation that led to the “riot”? I don’t know the answers to these questions and, surprise, surprise the article does not attempt to answer them either.

  16. Mike R

    Ian, I am glad you unmasked the Zionist agent provocateurs at the BBC but did you actually read the article? Your question “And why was the protest banned?” which you claim was not answered, is addressed clearly half way down in the article- “A week before the violence in Sarcelles, protesters had tried to storm two Paris synagogues, prompting the government to impose a ban on demonstrations in Paris” .

    You haven’t mentioned the first article about the anti-Semitic riots in Europe from the E.U. web site. Do you have a critique of that article?

    I have another one for you from the Guardian web site- http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/22/italy-france-germany-foreign-ministers-condemn-antisemitic-protests.

    Nearly all the MSM agencies have run with story such as Reuters and AFP. The only exception seems to be Al-Jazeera which unlike every other MSM has totally ignored it. However you can find plenty of non MSM web sites that are discussing the riots and would cater for your views as they have contributions similar to yours. A good fit for you would be the discussions at https://www.stormfront.org/forum/t1053525/.

    Hope you and your colleagues have a nice and peaceful day on Saturday.

  17. Kevin Herbert

    Apparently even racist bigots serve some purpose.

    I again invite Crikey readers to listen to the case against Zionism so clearly espoused by David Duke, to whom I was referred by the leading anti Zionist English Jew Paul Eisen:


    Eisen regularly appears on Duke’s radio program and is a voice of reason.
    Also, may I also suggest that a visit to Paul Eisen’s website is well worth the effort, as he represents the leading edge of global Jewish community revulsion at the pernicious pro Zionist propaganda spread mainly via the Zionist controlled US MSM, over the past 65 years. Eisen’s explanation of how he went from a Zionist bigot as a young man, to an outspoken anti-Zionist is emblematic of the current sea change among Jews globally in their attitude to & desertion of apartheid/ethnic cleansing Israel.

    Eisen tackles traditionally taboo subjects such as the once sacrosanct Zionist ‘historical facts’ regarding widespread racism against European Jews, and presents scholarly research papers such as one by late 19th century UK diplomat, contesting the then alleged newly developed Zionist ‘anti-semitism’ narrative, and successfully arguing that such claims are groundless e.g. the low public reputation of a very small section of the then Jewish communities in the UK, occured not due to their ethnicity or religious beliefs, but solely for the flaunting of their wealth in the face of the grinding poverty faced by the vast majority of the 19th century population, including Jews.

    He also tackles head on the farcical situation regarding the 69 year refusal of German Jewish Shoah scholars to share their data with any other scholars.

    I admire Eisen enormously, as he like other great modern dissident Jewish scholars such as Noam Chomsky & Norman Finkelstein, refuse to bow down to tyranny.

  18. Ian

    Mike, yes I did see the bit about storming synagogues. So what? That is simply an excuse to slap a ban on all pro- Palestine protests in Paris – a draconian measure to say the least.

    And no, I didn’t check out the other link you provided, I see no need to do so. I am well aware that the Israeli lobby loves to grab hold of so-called antisemitism and plug it for all its worth. And I am also aware that some people who protest in one way or the other Israeli’s brutal occupation of Palestine do let rip antisemitic utterances, some sincere and others in the heat of the moment trying in some way to get back at the horrible apartheid, anti- Palestinian regime that is Israel.

    Further I am well aware that many Israeli politicians make vile anti- Palestinian statements that go unreported in the Western media an uncondemned by the Western governments.

  19. Mike R

    So Ian, your all OK with the storming of synagogues as long it doesn’t lead to subsequent bans (and remember even Kristallnacht was never on a banned list). I hope there are others at your rallies that will moderate behaviour at this weekend’s demonstrations.

    I am glad that you are aware that there is likely be a lot of anti-Semitic stuff going on, sincere or otherwise. If you are at the demo and are an anti-racist then I would expect you to step in appropriately.

    Hopefully you will be proved wrong about manifestations of anti-Semitic behaviour at the rallies and they all proceed peacefully.

  20. Ian

    Mike, is there a difference between being anti-Semetic and being anti-Palestinian because that is what a great number of Israeli politicians are and many of their so-called lobbyists too?

    It’s a well worn trick; this business of pro-Israeli trolls conflating ant-Semitism with ant-Zionism and I’m not buying it.

  21. Mike R

    Ian, I didn’t ask you to buy anything. I thought that you had already acknowledged in comment (18) that among anti-Zionist groups there are those who manifest anti-Semitic behaviour (in your words, some sincere and others insincere).

    Not every anti-Zionist is an anti-Semite but the inverse is, more often than not, true. Just look at any neo-Nazi website. A good place to start is stormfront.org.

    No there is no difference between those who utter anti-Semitic and anti-Palestinian comments. Both are equally reprehensible.

  22. Kevin Herbert

    One of the key claims of the radical white nationalist website Stormfront (see 21 above) is that Jews control the US Government.

    This view is also held by the black supremacist group, the Nation of Islam, led by the impressive Minister Louis Farrakhan, who also posits that Obama is a Wall St stooge – something that even his initial rusted on supporters are coming to accept.

    This view is also held by the esteemed US/Israeli historian Dr Norman Finkelstein, a Jewish intellectual, and also by Noam Chomsky, another Jewish intellectual & probably one of the globe’s best know moral philosophers.

    The following 3 June 2014 article from the esteemed US publication ‘The Unz Report’, compellingly makes the case that Zionist Jews DO control the US Congress.

    I invite Crikey posters to read this article, search Google for similar evidence from US Congressmen & women e.g. Ron Paul, plus a wide range of neutral sources such as Chomsky et al, and make up their own minds.


    You’ll note that NOT ONE US Congressman or woman dared to criticise Israel’s barbaric targeting of Gazan civilians over the past 3 weeks…there’s primary’s due soon for the 2016 election, and to speak out would see you dirty tricked out of your seat.

    If you accept this evidence, then you’ll have to agree with the further point that the US is the only Western developed democracy whose foreign policy is dictated by representatives of a foreign government.

    It’s worth noting that the vast majority of ordinary Jews globally, have no idea of this situation. Those decent people of the Jewish faith are going to face some very confronting realities about their beloved Zionism, whose image has been obliterated as recently as this week, by apartheid, ethnic cleansing Israel. May I suggest that a good palce to start is the website of the UK anti Zionist Jew Paul Eisen.

    As for Zionist/Jewish control of the US MSM plus Wall St,and its privately owned US Federal Reserve Bank, let’s leave that for another time.

    It appears that what was once dismissed (by of course the US MSM) as race hate, is gradually being accepted by free thinkers globally, as reality.

  23. Ian

    The US Senate voted unanimously to replenish Israeli weaponry consumed in their attack on Gaza. Unanimously…that means that even Elizabeth Warren supported the resolution. That she, a beacon of light of what is a very dark American Congress has been captured by the Israeli lobby. It is scandalous.

  24. Mike R

    Yeh, not only Elizabeth Warren but even Rand Paul (who is,or should I say used to be one of Kevin Herbert’s favourites) has gone all Zionist. He voted for the replenishment of Iron Dome missiles see http://www.newsmax.com/Politics/Paul-Israel-vote-support/2014/08/05/id/586876/.

    Shocking is it not?

  25. Ian


    Quote: “the US is the only Western developed democracy whose foreign policy is dictated by representatives of a foreign government.”

    I don’t think so, Australia and nearly all the EU plus other countries are also controlled by a foreign government ie the US.

  26. Kevin Herbert

    Ian: I agree – however, while those Western developed democracies you mention are in the permanent service of the US, they don’t suffer the indignity of having all their politicians having to swear allegiance to Isra-hell, or face an uphill/impossible battle to be elected/re-elected.

    In Australia’s case, the Federal Government of the day gets its day to day/issue based marching orders from the US State Department, against the economic reality that US companies are the biggest direct investors in Oz at $600 billion (compared to China’s $20 billion), and the US being our biggest trading partner receiving just over 31% of our GDP.

    It’s a bitter pill to swallow that Australia is under the thumb of the intellectually & morally repugnant US political system, where democracy no longer reigns and corporations own/control both Houses of Congress.

    Finally, I believe there’s something happening on Capitol Hill right now that will forever change the US political scene post the 2016 Presidential race…..ssshhh (they might hear us).

  27. Mike R

    Warning! This could be a spoiler alert.

    Don’t tell me Kevin’s all time favourite white supremacist, David Duke, is having another go at running for President!

    He seems to specialize in running for President every 4 years see – http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/07/04/white-supremacists-running-for-political-office-in-2012-in-growing-numbers.html.


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