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Danby Speaks Out

Labor MP Michael Danby rubbishes Bob Carr comments on pro-Israel lobby influence

Updated 30 minutes ago

Federal Labor MP and secretary of the Australia-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group, Michael Danby, says Bob Carr's views on the influence of the pro-Israel lobby are bigoted.

Mr Carr hit out at what he calls the "pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne", saying it wielded "extraordinary influence" on Australia's policy during his time in Julia Gillard's cabinet.

Speaking to the ABC's 7.30 program, the former foreign minister said "extreme right-wing" pro-Israel lobbyists had an "unhealthy" influence on Australia's policy towards Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Mr Carr has detailed his time as foreign minister, and his criticism of the pro-Israel lobby, in his new book, Diary of a Foreign Minister.

"Certainly they enjoyed extraordinary influence. I had to resist it and my book tells the story of that resistance," he said.

"It needs to be highlighted because I think it reached a very unhealthy level.

"I think the great mistake of the pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne is to express an extreme right-wing Israeli view rather than a more tolerant liberal Israeli view," he added.

"And in addition to that, to seek to win on everything, to block the foreign minister of Australia through their influence with the Prime Minister's Office, from even making the most routine criticism of Israeli settlement policy using the kind of language that a conservative foreign secretary from the UK would use in a comparable statement."

Mr Danby says Mr Carr's "performance" on 7.30 last night was "comical bordering on maniacal" and no lobby group in Australia has that kind of influence.

"It's laughable but I suppose in the current climate, as George Brandis says, it's OK to be a bigot," Mr Danby told the ABC's Louise Yaxley.

"No-one has that kind of influence. There are various people who have different views in Australian political life and Bob's a big boy. He should be bigger than that.

"It was just a silly comment in a silly interview.

"People try and get their views expressed, but you know, Bob Carr's view is a caricature. Very sad to see a premier of New South Wales stereotyping people like that.

"The interview was very funny and I know lots of people are laughing at the book and they're not laughing with you Bob - they're laughing at you, but it's still very sad to hear these kind of views."

This morning Mr Carr defended his comments and said he thought Mr Danby's criticism was extraordinary.

"For years I was president of Labor Friends of Israel. I wrote a book, My Reading Life, in which is recommend the book of an Auschwitz survivor as the most important book of the last 100 years," Mr Carr told AM.

"My only point about Israel was that settlement activity ought to stop and that the Palestinian status, the increased status in the General Assembly, ought to be not blocked by Australia.

"So that's a position that the foreign minister of every European country would endorse and indeed doesn't fall too much short of the foreign policy position of John Kerry.

"The fact is the influence the pro-Israel lobby was attempting to exert on the government and did until I stood up to them was not in the interests of Israel, not in the interests of the Middle East peace, and was being inappropriately and bullyingly (sic) exercised in the government.

"It needed to be resisted and I'm proud to have done that."

What do you think about Bob Carr's comments? Have your say.

Mr Carr and Ms Gillard came to political blows over her planned support for Israel during a crucial vote in the United Nations, and Mr Carr effectively rolled the former prime minister on the issue in caucus.

"I had to resist it, and my book tells the story of that resistance, coming to a climax when there was a dispute on the floor of caucus about my recommendation that we we don't block the Palestinian bid for increased non-state status at the United Nations," Mr Carr said.

Mr Danby defended Ms Gillard's position on the UN vote.

"I think she took that position because she believed that the best way to a peace settlement - and I've tried to explain this to Bob time and time again and to end the issue of the settlements - is a peace settlement," Mr Danby said.

"So he knows he's playing with everyone, that a lot of these areas will be involved in territorial swaps between the two sides."

Mr Carr's comments reflect the bitter debate within Labor about its policy on Palestinian and Israeli settlements, which has been simmering in recent weeks.

Labor leader Bill Shorten gave a speech recently where he said that some Israeli settlements were illegal, which caused controversy within the party because the policy is that all of the settlements are illegal.

"What we should do is agree on all of the issues that we agree about and that is that it's very unhelpful for settlements to be built in the West Bank," Mr Danby said when asked about the issue.

"Those of us that are realistic about these kind of issues think that there are small areas around Jerusalem which will be part of a territorial land swap."

Mistake to bring Bob Carr in as foreign minister: Danby

Mr Carr, who switched his support to Kevin Rudd just before the leadership ballot that saw Ms Gillard ousted, says the former prime minister was selfish to cling to the Labor leadership for as long as she did.

"We all wanted Julia to work. Even after my disagreement in October/November 2012 on matters relating to Palestinian status and the Middle East, I was still committed to her," he said.

"But by the time we decided in our wisdom as a cabinet to go to war with the newspapers, I thought the very viability of social democracy in Australia, of a viable Australian Labor Party, was now at stake.

"So with some reluctance and with respect for her, but real doubts about her political judgement, I moved into the Rudd camp."

Mr Danby says in retrospect, it was a mistake for Ms Gillard to bring Mr Carr in as foreign minister.

"He criticises prime minister Gillard and the former government and Cabinet processes on the program," he said.

"I haven't read the book. I've only seen excerpts and I only saw the interview, but here's a bloke plucked from obscurity who was not working as a current politician, a former provincial premier who dumps on Gillard and the former Labor government," he said.

"The Labor Party supported him all of his political life. How about a bit of decency? It's a bit of ingratitude in my view.

"I think in retrospect - given all of the division that he caused and his obvious dislike even of her [Ms Gillard] voice - it does seem it was a mistake, but now he seems obsessed with the food that he got on the plane and his diet and which ties [to wear] and upgrades to first class, so he'll have plenty of time to concentrate on those now."


11 February 2014

Statement on 4 Corners/ The Australian investigation on the Israeli justice system by the Zionist movement.

The Four Corners program aired on ABC was highly emotive and one-sided. It only depicted the allegations in line with the Palestinian position but made absolutely no attempt to report the facts presented to the court or the difficult legal realities on the ground.

The disputed territories have many legal, social and moral complexities with which Israel is continually trying to grapple. John Lyons and Four Corners did not acknowledge these difficulties in dealing with Palestinian "child terrorists" who are caught throwing rocks. Lyons' attempt to belittle the lethal repercussions of this terrorist activity proves that this investigation is partial.

The issue of the treatment of Palestinian juveniles in the military court system raises a more fundamental question of child abuse. Why have these teenage boys been recruited to participate in armed conflict?  Should they not be attending school, instead of being exploited to use rocks as dangerous weapons, often with deadly repercussions? A Palestinian elder recruiting their own son in terrorist activities signifies abuse of the highest order.

A special juvenile military court operates in the West Bank as until the final status of this area is determined, it is subject to Israeli military jurisdiction. Contrary to Four Corners positioning, the two legal systems are divided between Israeli citizens (including Jews, Arabs, Christians and others) living and offending in Israel and non-Israeli citizens in the disputed territories. This is not a division based on race, ethnicity or religion but rather, the Israeli justice system cannot be applied to Palestinian youth in the West Bank as it is still a disputed territory. To apply Israeli civil law to this region would signify annexation, undoubtedly causing international outcry and accusations of a breach of international law. The Australian’s editorial today stresses that the dual legal systems are an administrative and legal requirement rather than any sort of racism.

Contrary to Lyons' allegations the system in place is independent and open presided over by professional judges. The fact that Lyons has access to these courts demonstrates the openness of the system.

It is important to note that Israel takes these issues seriously and analysis of the Israeli version of events would have shown this to be the case. After consultation with bodies like UNICEF Israel implemented vast improvements and this was even noted in the organization's most recent report issued in October 2013. A special juvenile court has been established to ensure appropriate care of youth in custody. These are important developments that have been excluded from Four Corners' expose.

If it is objectively established that youth in detention are not being appropriately treated then Israel should improve its practices. This is something the Israel justice system is emphatically committed to.

It is important to emphasize that neither the information nor interviews presented are new, but are simply recycled from an old campaign and in particular an article Lyons wrote for The Australian newspaper back in 2011.

The program has presented disturbing images, selectively juxtaposing Israelis with extreme views who represent a very small minority with the testimonies of youth who have allegedly been the subject of mistreatment. In ignoring the context, the violence perpetrated by these youths and those who recruit and incite them, the program severely lacks integrity and balance.

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