Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Carr's offensive ANU speech

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Former foreign minister Bob Carr gave a speech at the Australian National University (ANU) on July 14, co-hosted by the Centre for Arabic and Islamic Studies and two Palestinian advocacy groups, Australians for Justice and Peace in Palestine (AJPP) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). In it, he made crude and untrue comments about the "Israel lobby", suggesting sinister undue influence by the Australian Jewish community. For example, Carr spoke in his speech of "the Israel lobby and its quite objectionable control over Australian policy."

AIJAC welcomes the article in today's Canberra Times, repudiating Carr's comments, by Professor Kim Rubenstein - the Director of the Centre for International and Public law at ANU and one of Australia's foremost experts on Australian citizenship. Prof. Rubenstein attended Carr's lecture and wrote:

"Carr spent a significant proportion of his presentation demeaning and scoffing at members of the Jewish community who are active Australian citizens. His tone, focus and implication was that the activity of those people meeting and lobbying the government of the day was "disproportionate" and improper.

His continual reference to an ‘Israel lobby' - a term which he never defined or explained in the talk, and which must mean members of the Jewish community who exercise their Australian citizenship fully when discussing Australia's policy in the Middle East - is in itself an inaccurate and inappropriate term.

Members of the Australian Jewish community have a range of views and opinions that they express on a range of public policy issues, both individually and through their peak elected body, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. This body's activity is an affirmation of the success of Australian multiculturalism. Indeed, it often joins with other community groups as it did last year with their collective, and ultimately successful, lobbying and campaigning against the repeal of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act...

Whether Carr uses the term ‘Israel lobby' or not, his point is clearly about the alleged ‘influence', or even "control" of the Jewish community. He has tapped into classical anti-Semitic tropes from the medieval past alleging Jewish conspiracies and dual loyalties."

Moreover, Carr's false claims of the undue influence of the "Israel lobby" on government policy have been repudiated by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in her book "My Story". Ms. Gillard wrote:

"Bob [Carr] read into my contrary view that in my eyes he and his advice had lesser status than the advice provided by my office, which was somehow dictated by the Melbourne Jewish community... Bob's view was incorrect. I was no one's captive. I simply did not agree with him."

Carr's speech also included malicious comments about AIJAC's Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein, implying that, in praising the IDF, he was denigrating or showing disloyalty to Australia's armed forces. Carr said:

"Members of that extended family who had their boys cut down on the beach in Gaza by an Israeli military who, we're told by Colin Rubenstein from Melbourne is the most democratic and civil liberty-conscious military in the world.  What edge they've got over the military of his own nation, Australia, I don't know. I'd like him to elaborate on how they beat the Australian military in that concern. But that was his boast. How does that live up against the sorrow, the bereavement of that family living with the loss of boys playing on a beach. Blown to pieces, it seems, with military precision...

Colin Rubenstein did say, Colin Rubenstein did say that not the Australian, but the Israeli Defence Forces are the most democratic and civil liberty minded in the world. Well, I challenge that, given what they're doing every day on the streets of the West Bank. I challenge that in view of the death of youngsters on a beach in Gaza. And I challenge the view that somehow the Australian armed forces are inferior to those of the Israelis."

In response to Carr's comments, Dr. Colin Rubenstein has made the following statement:

"I totally repudiate Bob Carr's entirely sneering, contrived, inaccurate assertions and malicious insinuation that my praise for the morality of Israel's armed forces brings in to question my profound admiration, loyalty and support for the integrity and morality of our Australian armed forces - in which members of my family have served with distinction.

I do not know what specific comments of mine Carr was referring to, but I have certainly expressed my respect and admiration for the overall morality of the Israel Defence Force on numerous occasions, especially when rebutting some of the ill-founded criticism to which it has been subjected.  However, I was not able to find an example using the specific words Carr attributes to me.

In any case, none of my comments would have in any way suggested that I believe the Australian army is in any way inferior to the Israeli army.  Carr's apparent casting of aspersions on my loyalty as a proud Australian citizen is unfortunately reminiscent of some of the most scurrilous accusations that have historically been hurled against Jewish people."

Moreover, perhaps Carr should consider that similar comments suggesting that the IDF acts morally going beyond the requirements of international law have been made by internationally respected members of the armed forces including Australia's retired major-general Jim Molan, who wrote in the Australian on June 10:

'I can say that Israel's prosecution of Operation Protective Edge not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, it ­exceeded them significantly, often at cost to Israeli soldiers and citizens. It did this to preserve the life and property of those trying to kill Israeli citizens. Where there were individual failures, Israel is taking transparent legal action.

In war any military can exceed the "reasonable" standard. ­According to the strict internal ­review methods that were applied to my conduct of military operations back in Iraq, my actions were ­always legal, and where I could, I exceeded them. The IDF did this and more.'

Would Carr therefore also claim Molan is somehow denigrating Australia's armed forces, which he once commanded?

In addition, the UK's Richard Kemp a retired British Army colonel, a former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, has critiqued the UN Human Rights Council's biased report into the Gaza conflict and wrote in the New York Times on June 25:

'The commission could have listened to Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said last November that the I.D.F. had taken extraordinary measures to try to limit civilian casualties. Or to a group of 11 senior military officers from seven nations, including the United States, Germany, Spain and Australia, who also investigated the Gaza conflict recently. I was a member of that group, and our report, made available to Judge Davis, said: 'None of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the I.D.F. last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population.'"

For a more complete critique of Carr's speech, see an analysis by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry here.

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