When we learned that ‘Comment is Free’ was expanding into Australia, it was assumed that a marginal anti-Zionist Jew (and occasional CiF contributor) named Antony Loewenstein would be providing additional anti-Israel ‘commentary’, and his latest piece, though putatively not about Israel, didn’t disappoint. Loewenstein’s ‘CiF’ post about the Australian opposition leader, ‘What would Tony Abbott’s foreign policy look like?‘, July 4, isn’t even tagged with “Israel”, yet a significant amount of space is devoted to warning Guardian readers of Abbott’s staunchly pro-Israel policies.
Loewenstein writes the following:
Abbott seems to retain a Bush administration style perspective – you’re either with us or against us. He told Washington’s right-wing Heritage Foundation last year that, “Australia’s foreign policy should be driven as much by our values as our interests”. It isn’t clear what values he cherishes when he told the Central Synagogue in 2012 that, “[Israel is] a country so much like Australia, a liberal, pluralist democracy. A beacon of freedom and hope in a part of the world which has so little freedom and hope.” He made no mention of Israel occupying millions of Palestinians under brutal military rule. He went on: “When Israel is fighting for its very life, well, as far as I’m concerned, Australians are Israelis. We are all Israelis in those circumstances”. It’s a comic book reading of the Middle East (at least foreign minister Carr, along with British foreign secretary William Hague, now rightly calls Israeli colonies “illegal”).
When I met Abbott in Sydney in 2010 and challenged him to learn more about Israel’s flouting of international law, he reverted to familiar, right-wing Zionist talking points. Both the Liberal party and Zionist lobby remain upset that in 2012, Australia didn’t reject Palestine’s statehood at the UN. Foreign affairs spokesperson for the Coalition, Julie Bishop, has pledged to return Australia to an uncritical stance towards Israel, placing us in a very isolated position globally. (The Greens, especially senator Lee Rhiannon, condemns Israel’s destruction of aid projects in Palestine, some of which are funded by Canberra).
The hyperlink in the second paragraph copied above concerning “right-wing Zionist talking points” leads to a post at Loewenstein’s personal blog, which recounts a conversation he claims to have had with Abbott in 2010. The post includes the following claim:
After, while signing books, I approached Abbott again and we talked for a few minutes about the conflict. He said he had visited Israel as a guest of the government and only been taken to where they wanted to show him. When I said that there were Jewish-only roads in the West Bank, he said that was “bad” and looked uncomfortable.
Yes, ‘Jews-only’ roads in the West Bank would be “bad” if they existed. Of course, as CAMERA has definitely demonstrated in multiple posts over several years, the charge is a complete fiction. There are no “Jewish-only” roads in the West Bank. Though there are some roads prohibited to Palestinians in the West Bank, Israel’s Arab citizens (and Israeli citizens of any religion or ethnicity) have just as much right to travel on those restricted roads as do Israeli Jews. .
Indeed, several media outlets have at times made similar mistakes about Israeli roads and then, upon being notified about their error by CAMERA, issued corrections. Here’s just one example from the Washington Post in 2010.
The charge that Israel has ‘Jews-only’ roads is a lie.
Perhaps Mr. Loewenstein may want to acknowledge that he was being dishonest about such roads, to both Mr. Abbott and the few people in Australia who may on occasion come across his blog.