BOB Carr’s ‘Diary of a Foreign Minister’ is a great read. It’s well written, funny in places and informative without revealing any secrets that would damage national security.
Moreover, the book gives an insight into the former foreign minister’s persona and represents the truth as he sees it. Which makes Diary of a Foreign Minister a deeply troubling publication.
Following Carr’s thoughtlines for the period between April 2012 and September last year, the reader would get the impression that the former foreign minister had one substantial achievement in government. Namely, to overrule Julia Gillard’s decision that Australia should vote “no”, along with the US and Canada, to the motion on Palestinian statehood in the UN. Carr prevailed and Australia abstained.
Gillard’s initial decision was consistent with that of President Barack Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton. All three believed, and still believe, in a two-state solution which would see the state of Israel alongside a state of Palestine.
It’s just that in late 2012 the likes of Obama, Clinton and Gillard did not believe that the passing of the UN resolution, which occurred, would advance the peace process in the Middle East. The evidence suggests that, 18 months after the event, this judgment was correct.
It came as no surprise when, on ABC1’s 7.30 on April 9, Sarah Ferguson focused her interview with Carr on his allegations about the existence of an “Israel lobby” in Australia.
Chris Uhlmann took a similar tack the following morning on the ABC’s AM program. After all, this is the big story in Diary of a Foreign Minister. The author even admits that “this issue dominates my life”.
All up, Carr’s allegations with respect to Labor’s attitude to Israeli settlements on the West Bank and the UN vote on Palestinian statehood are quite extraordinary.
Carr essentially suggests that his one-time fellow Labor MPs Mark Dreyfus, Stephen Conroy, Michael Danby and Bill Shorten do not have Australia’s interests at heart. But, rather, put Israel first.
According to Carr, before he intervened in this matter, the Labor Party was in the “appalling position” that it was willing to allow a “group of businessmen in Melbourne to veto policy on the Middle East”. As the book makes clear, the individuals are Jewish and belong to the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.
Carr went on to allege that Labor was guilty of “subcontracting our foreign policy to party donors”.
This was Carr’s position in November 2012. By December 2012 he reported that “events are turning me Arabist”. Well yes. But why? Some admirers and critics ofDiary of a Foreign Minister have focused on what they depict as the author’s mocking and self-mocking attitudes. That’s not how I read the book. The former foreign minister’s diaries accurately reflect his personality along with his current views.
In his interview with Uhlmann, Carr correctly pointed to the fact that “for years” he had been “president of the Labor Friends of Israel”. True. But here’s another truth which I believe is proper to reveal now that all sorts of private conversations have been outed in Diary of a Foreign Minister.
The date was September 17, 2001. The occasion was the dinner to announce the winners in the 2001 NSW Premier’s History Awards. Carr was premier of NSW at the time and was delighted that the famous American documentary maker Ken Burns had accepted his invitation to present the prizes at the dinner in Sydney.
It turned out that Burns was a last-minute scratching from the event. It was around a week since al-Qa’ida’s terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001. Air transport from the US had been disrupted.
Moreover, word got around the audience that Burns was not keen on flying in the wake of what Americans term 9/11.
At the start of the dinner Carr came over to talk to me. I expressed commiserations that his guest Burns was a non-starter. To my surprise, Carr seemed quite shaken by the 9/11 attack. He said to me that he had now come to the conclusion that the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 had been a mistake.
Carr stated his belief that the Arab world would never accept the creation of a Jewish state and that Islamists would continue to target Western nations.
From around late 2001, I noticed a change in Carr’s attitude towards Israel.
There was also the political factor. There are numerous references in his diary to the importance of the Muslim Arab vote, especially in Sydney’s western suburbs.
Carr is ready to bag what he terms the “Israel lobby” in Australia and to identify such AIJAC figures as Mark Leibler and Colin Rubenstein as allegedly exerting improper influence.
But he offers no criticism of such an entity as a “Palestinian lobby” while acknowledging the lobbying of Muslims and non-Muslim Arabs on Australia’s foreign policy towards the Middle East.
Diary of a Foreign Minister indicates that Carr is somewhat unhinged in so far as Israel is concerned. He cannot accept that Gillard’s long-time support for Israel reflects her real position. And he believes that talented Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg is incapable of writing an op-ed article of his own volition — he has to be instructed to do so by “the Melbourne-based Israel lobby”.
Diary of a Foreign Minister is very much the real Carr. As such, his obsession with the alleged Israel lobby is of more concern than his obsession with the nutritional value of organic steel-cut oats.