For a year, I was head of the policy section in Immigration, dealing with the humanitarian entry of Soviet Jews and I exercised Ministerial delegation to approve cases on the margin of, but within, policy. When the Israeli government sought agreement from Australia to help stop the substantial deflection to other countries of Soviet Jews approved for entry to Israel, however, a member of the Australian Jewish community became very angry.
He could not see that the government of Israel had a point – the Soviet government was releasing those of its citizens who wished to join close family in Israel; and yet up to 85% were seeking ‘El Dorado’ elsewhere. This man was so used to getting everything he wanted from us that we, and not the government of Israel, were blamed for the change of policy.
Those Soviet Jews who wanted to migrate directly to Australia continued to have no problem entering the country under humanitarian policy, which was applied generously and with sensitivity. They would not be a burden on the Australian taxpayer because of their community’s support …
What about those who joined Israel and subsequently claimed humanitarian entry to Australia? The same Jewish Australian applied to us to approve a number of such people. But how could they be deemed to be fleeing, in fear of discrimination, from Israel? Of course, they might qualify as migrants but not under refugee or humanitarian policy, as they were already citizens of Israel.
I did not know then of the discrimination allegedly experienced by mixed couples; the person making representation to the Australian government for humanitarian entry of Soviet Jews who had left Israel made no mention of any discrimination experienced by these people. In any event, they were not comparable (surely) to Baha’is in Iran, Chileans in neighbouring countries, supporters of Solidarity in Poland, and Tamils in Sri Lanka. However, at that time, the Minister and the head of his department could authorise immigrant entry to Australia for anyone, for any reason …
The Jewish lobby (some spokesmen deny its existence) has been successful in influencing Australia’s Middle East foreign policy. Some Jewish Australian spokesmen try to present a faultless State of Israel to the Australian public. …
Relatively recently there was a discussion in the press as to whether the Jewish people in Australia are Jews in Australia, Israelis in Australia, or simply Jewish Australians. Some spokesmen wrote of Jews giving total loyalty to their “host nation”. I asked a Jewish migrant friend about this. Her reply was that the history of discrimination against the Jews had taught her people not to expect fair treatment for all time, but that they would nevertheless offer total loyalty to the host nation.
How sad. However, if that is how some Jewish Australians feel, i.e. that Australia is only a host nation, one would hope that they would respect their chosen role of guest in the house. What about those whose prime loyalty is to Israel? The claim that Israel can do no wrong is akin to the tribal or ethnic prejudices brought into Australia by some other migrants.
The old Aussie, and most migrant Aussies, are entitled to ask: are you here to start a new peaceful life on equal terms with everyone else and leave your prejudices where they belong? We are also entitled to ask that no single ethnic community pre-empt the right to influence or determine the nation’s foreign policies. We are all entitled to participate in Middle East (or Balkan or Central Asian) policy.
(The above extracts from my first memoir ’Destiny Will Out’ – ebook from Amazon at $US $2.99 – refer to some of the difficulties faced by the Australian government in aiding the entry of Jewish migrants from Europe.
My Jewish-Australian friends – refugee, immigrant and local born – and those I have dealt with through my work have not behaved as if they were guests of the nation. Since the Jewish people are surely not subject to any more utterances of prejudice than other ethno-cultural citizens, Jewish lobbyists seem to be defending only Israel.
Indeed, recent efforts by the government to have the right to free speech enshrined in law appear to have been curtailed by these lobbyists, as well as by a few spokesmen for ethnic and Aboriginal communities. I question whether these lobbyists have the authority to speak for the communities they claim to represent. Free speech is surely more important than ethnic sensitivity.
As for Israel’s recent killing and maiming of civilians, and the destruction of property in its sealed Palestine enclave Gaza, that is a matter for the Court of Cosmic Justice; in time, justice can be expected. See what happened to the former colonial ‘powers’.)