puppetry of the ruben

  1. 280 Posts.

    "When newly appointed federal health minister Tony Abbott speaks to the Jewish community, he wants to make sure he doesn't inadvertently alienate a sensitive constituency, especially one where many are changing political affiliation from Labor to Liberal.

    Perhaps that is why he arranged for Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council executive director Dr Colin Rubenstein to "vet" his speech to the State Zionist Council of Victoria's annual general meeting on Tuesday October 28 in Caulfield.

    While it is quite common for politicians to rely on the expertise of others, especially when dealing with highly sensitive and complex issues such as Middle Eastern politics, how many will tell an audience that their speech has been "vetted" by one of their own?

    Surely something along the lines of "I am extremely grateful to Colin Rubenstein for explaining and clarifying some of the issues that I know are of concern to the Australian Jewish community" would have been sufficient - and more appropriate?

    And ending the speech with, "Did I get anything wrong? Colin, you better correct it so I get the script right," hardly inspired confidence in Tony Abbott's understanding of Middle Eastern politics.

    Not that it mattered to the audience of 150 Jewish leaders and activists. Tony Abbott was in fine political form, earning a round of applause for describing the awarding of the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize to Hanan Ashrawi as a "singularly inappropriate choice".

    In response to questions about the supposed Bob Hawke peace mission to Israel, Mr Abbott replied he was not aware of any Australian peace mission - but he would "defer to Colin Rubenstein; he got more time with George Bush than I did".

    (Does anyone know why Colin Rubenstein was singled out for the honour of meeting George Bush rather than just being relegated to one of his advisors or aides? Dr Rubenstein is an internationally recognised expert on Middle Eastern issues and Muslim extremism in Asia but it is hard to understand why he met with the US president instead of just with one of his advisors.)

    Mr Abbott, however, promised to "canonise" Bob Hawke if he was "able to touch the heart of Yasser Arafat" but "better men than him have tried and failed".

    He also told an amusing anecdote about his "friend" journalist Greg Sheridan who supposedly travelled to Israel and interviewed its then Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. At the end of the interview, when Mr Shamir had outlined the many problems facing the Jewish State, Greg Sheridan forgot his journalistic remoteness to say "I am so sorry that you have all these problems". And Mr Shamir replied "At least we don't have the problems of New Zealand." "What problems does New Zealand have?" asked a puzzled Greg Sheridan. "Boredom, terrible boredom," said Mr Shamir. "At least Israel is
    never boring."

    The Liberal Party is obviously determined to woo the Jewish community with Victorian MP Helen Shardey (a non-Jewish backbencher who attends so many Jewish functions and is a member of so many mainly Jewish organizations that she is known as the Minister for the Jewish community) also in attendance. Interestingly Labor's Jewish MP Michael Danby, whose federal seat of Melbourne Ports includes a substantial proportion of Jewish voters, was notably absent.

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