+61 3 9272 5644

Sleepwalking Through Leviathan

By Ted Lapkin

This past week has been a busy one for us, with the ZFA scoring two opinion articles in the mainstream press. There was our slightly delayed piece on the recent ALP National Conference that finally ran in the Spectator Australia. And last week also saw more of the same in the form of a highly problematic resolution passed by the ALP’s Queensland branch. See the ZFA’s facebook page (2 Sept) to read our statement on this troubling development. We also had an article on the ABC Drum website that pointed out an oft-overlooked truth – that the essence of Palestinian nationalism will have to change if a viable Middle East peace is ever to be achieved.

But continuing with the theme of important stories that didn’t achieve critical mass in the Australian media, the Israeli stock market has been roiled by news of a major natural gas find off the Egyptian coast. The newly discovered field was described by Italian energy company Eni SpA as the largest ever found in the Mediterranean. The Egyptian discovery pushes Israel’s Leviatan field off its number one perch into second place.

This news has also thrown a spanner into the works of Israel’s plans for exporting gas to Egypt. Add to that many months of wrangling over Israel’s domestic regulatory policy that has bedeviled the exploitation of the Leviatan and Tamar gas fields of the coast near Haifa. This nasty dispute between the government and Israel’s competition regulator culminated in May with the resignation of Anti-Trust Commissioner David Gilo. And while last month this conundrum was finally resolved, news of Egypt’s gas discovery was enough to send the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange into a tailspin.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinetz didn’t pull his punches in his grim assessment of opportunities lost:

“The giant gas field discovery in Egypt is a painful reminder that while Israel has been ‘sleep walking’ and delaying the final approval of the gas outline and holding up further exploration, the world is changing in front of our eyes, including the implications on export possibilities.”

Sigh.

And if that isn’t depressing enough, there’s an Israel-related twist to the ongoing saga of Hillary Clinton’s emails. To the non-political junkies amongst you (no doubt the vast majority of readers), Clinton has been embroiled in a controversy that revolves around her email habits while Secretary of State. Rather than using official government email – as required by federal law – Clinton used a private unsecured server for both her official and private email communications.

OK – I hear you ask – how does this relate to Israel? Well it turns out that the most recent tranche of emails released by the Clinton campaign contains several messages from long-time ally Sydney Blumenthal.

Blumenthal’s son Max has emerged in recent years as one of the most vituperative anti-Zionist writer/activists around. Blumenthal Jr makes no bones about his detestation of Israel and his desire to see a Jewish state eradicated from the global map.

But Max Blumenthal’s hatred of Israel takes on a whole new – and unhinged – quality with his leading role in a weirder-than-fiction incident known as “toilet-gate”. Germany’s leftwing opposition party – die Linke – has been wracked by internal battles over Middle East policy between its leader in the Bundestag – Gregor Gysi – and its lunar fringe populated by terrorist-justifying radicals.

While on book tour (more about this later) in Germany, Blumenthal Jr and a radical fellow-traveller shirt-fronted Gysi over the German leader’s accusation that the anti-Zionist duo were practicing anti-Semitism. The confrontation culminated with Gysi being chased down the hall of his office building into a toilet stall – hence the incident’s name. For video footage of this bizarro event, click here.

And Blumenthal Jr’s book – entitled Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel – was so bad it was panned even by the not-so-friendly-to-Israel Nation magazine. Left-leaning journalism professor Eric Alterman dismissed it in a review article as: “The I Hate Israel Handbook”.

All very interesting – I hear you say – but how is any of this linked to Hillary Clinton?

Simple – Sydney Blumenthal is one of the Clintons’ closest friends and oldest confidantes who mounted a fierce public defence of Bill during the 1990s Monica Lewinsky scandal. And this latest batch of just-released Clinton emails contains several missives from Sydney that promote decidedly noxious articles written by son Max. In other words Blumenthal Sr exploited his close relationship with the Democratic presidential front-runner to flog – amongst others – a piece by Blumenthal Jr. that accuses the “Jewish-American establishment” of involvement in a “bizarre cabal” prosecuting “The Great Islamophobic Crusade”.

There’s an old English aphorism stating that the character of one’s friends serves as a window into one’s own soul. If true, yikes!

But let’s finish on a couple of more optimistic notes, one sounding right here on our home turf and the other taking the world of cinema by storm. In Melbourne we’ve had the privilege of hosting an agri-science delegation from our partner communities in the central Arava region of Israel.

Farmers in the Arava have truly mastered their inhospitable desert environment, perfecting highly sophisticated organic farming techniques that produce bumper crops of peppers, dates, figs, tomatoes, melons, flowers, grapes and fish. In fact, this one small region generates 60 per cent of Israel’s vegetable exports.

These experts in aqua-culture and arid-environment agriculture were perfect goodwill ambassadors, speaking to the Victorian Parliamentary Friends of Israel and visiting farms in the Koo Wee Rupp area. They also gave a fascinating presentation to an overflow audience Beit Weizmann on “How Israel Helps Feed the World.” The delegation’s next stop is NSW before it heads home to keep up the work of making the desert bloom – literally.

On the cinematic front there’s a new documentary that highlights narratives of Israeli Arabs who absolutely love their country. In the words of producer Max Federman (the good Max as opposed to the previous bad Max) the film Working Together is:

“foremost about giving a voice to a narrative that is typically overlooked by the mass media. It’s not about a political agenda or lofty ideals of peace; but rather about simply presenting the views of individuals who see the value of showing the world the day-to-day realities of coexistence in Israel.”

Perhaps Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters were on to something after all when they sang:

You gotta accen-tuate the positive,

Elim-inate the negative,

Latch on to the affirmative

Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.

That’s all for this week.