The following address was given to introduce as guest speaker Senator Nick Xenophon at the Annual Dinner of the Australian Friends of Palestine, Adelaide, 27 March, 2010. The speech is by the Chairperson, Paul Heywood-Smith QC.
When asked to introduce Senator Xenophon this evening I cast around for a bit of a theme. Nick was born in Australia of Greek parents. I don’t think that I am misrepresenting the position by saying that he has worn his Greek ancestry on his sleeve. Nick has always claimed that the Greek people were traditional supporters of the Palestinians but I will leave him to elaborate upon that.
There has been a thought drifting in and out of my head lately on the topic of dual loyalty. No doubt there was once a time, perhaps not that long ago, when Anglo-Saxon Australians would consider that taking the side of Great Britain, on whatever issue, was the only right thing to do.
Clearly, with the mobility of people today, there will always be people in this country, for example, who have affections if not perceived obligations to another country. Thus we have Australian Italians who not surprisingly support Italy against Australia in the World Cup. Some at least, I understand, still vote in Italian elections, as I believe Australians of Lebanese extraction did in the last Lebanese election.
We live in a democracy and we are free to criticize our government’s foreign policy. It is clear that at least recent new Australians may have an emotional, religious or cultural attachment to their country of origin. What I am concerned about however is when this leads to political advocacy for their other loyalty, to the point where the interests of the other country are given precedence over the interests of Australia. And what I am even more concerned about is when we put such persons into positions of particular political influence in government.
This issue was thrown into sharp relief in January when Mossad apparently murdered a Hamas official in Dubai and in the process used four Australian passports. It transpires that the real persons behind the passports are Australians living in Israel. If, as seems increasingly likely, given the lack of apparent complaint by them, the use of their passports was made possible by the consent of the persons concerned, we clearly have an instance of Australians with dual loyalty placing the interests of a foreign nation ahead of their own.
Rather surprisingly this appears to be something that in some instances the Australian government will condone. Thus we have the unseemly instance of the praise given by a former Australian Foreign Affairs Minister (Alexander Downer) to a young Australian who died fighting in the IDF (Israel Defence Force) during the 2006 Lebanon war. We could be confident, however, that no such praise would have been forthcoming for a young Australian of Lebanese extraction who died fighting for Hezbollah in the same war.
It would seem that dual loyalty when one of the countries concerned is Israel is not a problem. But is it not a problem?
In November, 1947 at the time of the vote on partition a vigorous debate ensued in Australia over the advisability of a Jewish state in Palestine. One person who totally opposed the plan was Australia’s most eminent Jewish Australian – Sir Isaac Isaacs. Isaacs was Australia’s first Australian born Governor–General (1931-36). He was a member of the first Federal Parliament (1901-6), a member of the High Court (1906-1930) and Chief Justice (1930-1931). He died in February 1948, two months before the creation of Israel. In the years prior to his death he engaged in a most public debate over the advisability of that event. He opposed it, and political Zionism, strongly. The Zionist champion was Prof. Julius Stone, a distinguished legal academic, also Jewish. One of the primary planks of Isaacs’ argument was that it created dual loyalty of Jewish persons to the states in which they were citizens and to a proposed Jewish state. Stone argued that there were no such problems. There can be little argument that history has born out the fears of Isaacs on this issue.
One need only look at the United States. Of course there is absolutely no objection to an American of Jewish background running for public office. But consider the actions of Senator Joseph Lieberman for example. Whenever the current Israeli government does another outrageous act as it did two weeks ago when Vice-President Biden went to Israel to kick start negotiations – by announcing another 1600 homes for settlers in the occupied territories – Lieberman can be counted upon to come up with a reflexive, unambiguous response in support of Israel, even when the country’s top brass – Petraeus and Mullen – are finally telling the President that the US support of Israel is acting against America’s interests.
The United States is perhaps a discrete example. Many people in government come from Jewish backgrounds. They have invariably been total supporters of Israel in its war against the Palestinians. Today, we have David Axelrod and Rahm Emmanuel. Yesterday we had such people as Richard Perle, Dennis Ross, and Paul Wolfowitz. One thing is certain. In the US, if you dared to suggest that some American Jews are guided in their political advocacy by allegiance to Israel, you would be accused of being anti-Semitic.
It is interesting however, and possibly a sign of the times, that only in this last week has the US Dept. of Justice been requested to regulate AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) as a foreign agent. But what of other countries? In the UK we find that the current Minister for Foreign Affairs is Jewish. David Miliband’s Polish and Belgian Jewish ancestry no doubt will have played an enormous part in his formative years, his parents and grandparents coming to the UK from a war-torn Europe. Would it even be fair to expect an impartial approach from him to such an issue as the use of UK passports by Mossad?
In Australia we have a different sort of problem. We have a Prime Minister who calls himself a Zionist. I don’t understand him to be Jewish or to have a Jewish background. I personally would rather have a Prime Minister who calls himself an Australian. We don’t want a Prime Minister who brings that sort of baggage to his decisions concerning this, one of Australia’s most important foreign issues.
But returning to the topic of dual loyalty: Michael Danby is a Jewish MHR who has been a steadfast advocate for Israel for the whole of his political life. Michael Danby has every right as an Australian to run for public office. But for someone with such clear divided loyalty is it appropriate for him to be made the Chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee?
These are perhaps a few thoughts that I will leave you with.
The speaker then proceeded to introduce Senator Xenophon