Australian Labour MP
Attacks 'Jewish Lobby'

By Bernard Freedman
Jewish News

"You have taken on the most implacable, arrogant, cruel and powerful lobby in the country." -- media warning to Australia Labour Member of Parliament
A scathing attack on "the Jewish lobby" was launched by Australian Federal Labor MP Julia Irwin this week.
She charged "the Jewish lobby" with being responsible for a "code of silence" forbidding parliamentary debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and quoted an email from an unnamed "senior media commentator" warning her: "You have taken on the most implacable, arrogant, cruel and powerful lobby in the country", and advising that she would be "singled out for vilification and, if possible, political destruction".
Asked why the commentator she quoted was anonymous, Irwin told the Australian Jewish News she had promised not to reveal the name because the commentator had "felt the full force of the Jewish lobby's fury a long time ago and had gone through hell".
"Anyone speaking or writing publicly on the Middle East can expect to be subjected to personal attacks and to have assumptions made about their reasons for raising the issue," she said.
Irwin -- who four weeks ago moved a private member's motion attacking Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, leading to a vociferous debate -- told Federal Parliament she believed her motion had broken a taboo on discussing the conflict.
She said she had received "hundreds of messages", mostly supportive, following the extensive media coverage of her motion, the debate it provoked and the attempt by fellow-Labor (and Jewish) MP Michael Danby to have the motion withdrawn.
Her attack brought a swift response from Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Jeremy Jones, who accused Irwin of "conjuring up the bogeyman of a powerful Jewish lobby [that] might appeal to antisemites, but certainly not to any reasonable observer".
"She is acting to protect herself from the criticism she deserves," Jones said. "She puts her ignorance [on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] on display and then complains about people who might point out her ignorance.
"This would be pathetic if it was not coming from a member of parliament."
South Australian Liberal MP Chris Pyne, chairman of the parliament's Israel friendship group, said Irwin's comments, like her motion, were "simplistic and embarrassingly naive".
Danby dismissed Irwin's comments as uninformed, misleading and unimportant. He said Labor's policy was clear: it supported Israel and its right to exist and right to defend itself, and unreservedly condemned suicide bombings.
Liberal MP Peter King, who represents the Sydney seat of Wentworth, said Irwin had placed on the parliament "a despicable slur about Australia's Jewish community".
He said Opposition Leader Simon Crean could not continue to ignore such attacks from within Labor ranks and should immediately repudiate them.
Irwin, speaking in the House of Representatives "Grievance debate", when backbenchers have 10 minutes each to raise matters of concern, said she felt "the taboo on discussing the issue in this parliament has been broken".


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