Twelve days before his death, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser tweeted: “Anti-Netanyahu rally draws huge crowd in Israeli city. Not all Israeli’s are as dangerous as Netanyahu.”
He was right – albeit not right enough. On the day Israelis proved that not enough of them are as aware of the dangers posed by Benyamin Netanyahu and relected him for a fourth term in office, the courageous and principled Australian succumbed to pneumonia aged 84.
Fraser’s suspicions of Netanyahu should surprise no one. The Oxford-educated statesman who became an MP at 25 and steered his country through choppy waters from 1975 to 1983 was committed to human rights. He brought in Aboriginal land rights and encouraged immigration and multiculturalism. He welcomed 56,000 Vietnamese refugees, including the first “boat people” and led the pressure among Commonwealth nations for the abolition of apartheid in South Africa.
All of the above are oceans away from the Israeli Prime Minister’s approach which was and remains based on denying Palestine’s original pre-1940s inhabitants their land rights and even complaining, as he he did on election day itself, when they dared exercise the right to vote.
Netanyahu’s opposition to multiculturalism is total in the Jewish State, where all, including non-Jews, are denied even civil marriage. As for refugees, a similar number to those welcomed and offered a new future by Fraser were persecuted by Netanyahu. Many were deported to Sudan where they perished and tens of thousands are now concentrated in desert camps lacking basic humanitarian facilities.
Fraser almost quit his beloved the Liberal Party in 2001 in anger at John Howard government’s treatment of asylum seekers. He noted that the Liberals had moved too far to the right and abandoned true liberalism. But in December 2009 when the fervent Israel supporter and right winger Tony Abbott became Liberal leader, he finally did quit.
He was then considered by many to have “shifted to the left in his later years, But the co-author of his biography, Margaret Simons, reminds us that he maintained his principles and position – while it was the world which lurched to the right.
“The friendship he built in later life with [the Labour PM he ousted] Gough Whitlam spoke volumes about the character of both”, Tony Abbott said ambiguously, showing little of the generosity of spirit his predecessor was noted for. But he is unambiguous about Israel: “as far as I’m concerned, Australians are Israelis. We are all Israelis,” Abbott said while Israel was killing 550 children in Gaza – in “self defence”.
Malcom Fraser’s motto was a quote from George Bernard Shaw. “Life wasn’t meant to be easy,” he would often say. The increasingly beleaguered foot-in-mouth Abbott probably agrees with this sentiment, as will Mr Netanyahu if/when the Americans express their displeasure with his racist approach to peace in more tangible ways.