2nd September, 2020 by Stuart Littlewood
People in the UK are shocked that the government is thinking of recruiting Tony Abbott (pictured above), whose time as Australia’s prime minister was hardly a roaring success, to act as Britain’s new trade envoy. He was ousted in 2015 by his own party for failing to provide Australia with the economic leadership it needed, say reports.
Some branches of the media claim that the appointment has already been made but I’ve seen no official confirmation at the time of writing.
Nick Cohen has put pen to paper in The Guardian and produced a powerful article with the no-nonsense title “What hiring a failed Australian prime minister tells us about corrupt Britain”. He reminds us that Abbott is noted for his outrageously sexist and misogynistic remarks and thought climate change was “probably doing good” as fires devastated his country.
Abbott’s experience in business and industry seems somewhat sparse, even non-existent. Cohen writes: “Abbott is a product of the global network of right wing think tanks that has learned how easy and cheap it is to manipulate British politics.”
Probably the most sensible thing Abbott has said so far about Britain’s trade problem is: “Free trade agreements with economically advanced Commonwealth countries are the obvious place for Britain to start.” We didn’t need to be told that. All the same, most Britons will be surprised that fouir years after the Brexit vote those Commonwealth deals are not already in place.
Elephant in the room
So what makes Abbott the best pick (in Boris Johnson’s mind) to be Britain’s representative abroad? The elephant in the room is Abbott’s fawning admiration for Israel and his blind obedience to its lobby. In 2012 he was reported in Jewish News as saying: “In so many ways, [Israel is] a country so much like Australia, a liberal, pluralist democracy… a beacon of freedom and hope in a part of the world which has so little freedom and hope… When Israel is fighting for its very life, well, as far as I’m concerned, Australians are Israelis. We are all Israelis in those circumstances.” His grasp of right and wrong in the Middle East was truly pathetic then and probably still is.
In 2014 a piece in The Guardian by Jennine Abdul Khalikdescribed Australian views on Abbott’s attitude to the Israelis’ murderous onslaught on Gaza:
Whilst Israel continues its latest full-scale offensive against Gaza, I am left deeply bothered by the Abbott government’s silence.
Aside from a short statement by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop disparaging Hamas and praising Israel on how it handled a ceasefire negotiation, our government has offered no condemnation of Israel’s clear breaches of international law.
It is telling when Tony Abbott extends his condolences to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over three murdered Israeli students attending a religious seminary in the settlements, but seems unable to express any sympathy for over 600 Palestinians killed in this ongoing assault – a third of them children. In construing this quiet, it appears that Abbott and his party do not consider a Palestinian person to be worth even two hundredths of an Israeli.
Why is it that Palestinian lives are not valuable enough for comment, let alone diplomatic action? For the same reason Netanyahu labelled Gaza, home to 1.8m Palestinians, a “fortress of terror”. There is a belief that Palestinians are terroristic by default, for just existing, living, being, and are thereby disposable for it.
While the violence continues, the Abbott government enables Israeli impunity. Last year, the Liberals [led by Abbot] opposed a UN resolution ordering an end to all settlement activities.
Expanding trade with the nasties while ignoring their atrocious record on human rights
We can maybe predict where Abbott’s focus will be. ‘Passionate Zionist’ Boris Johnson, writing to Conservative Friends of Israel, said:
I am proud to be a friend of Israel, and I am proud too of the United Kingdom’s close relationship with Israel and the many ties we share. I have always admired the courage, determination and robustness of the Israeli state – the only true democracy in the region. That is why, as Mayor of London, I confronted the hateful rhetoric from some of my competitors and refused to bend to calls for a boycott of Israeli goods. It is why one of my proudest moments as foreign secretary was facilitating the first ever official visit to Israel by a member of the royal family. And it is why, as prime minister, I will always support Israel’s right to self-defence and I will work to counter Iran’s destabilising activity in the region. I am determined that the UK-Israel partnership should grow even stronger, including by stepping up our trading ties. Brexit gives us the opportunity to do just that – to strike a comprehensive free trade deal with Israel.
Fully onboard then. And Abbott will fit in perfectly with Johnson’s passel of lamebrains who are eager to expand trade in all directions with the racist regime.
That includes the ever faithful Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade. She writes: “Israel and the UK are natural trading partners. Brexit provides a distinctly unique chance for even greater cooperation between our two countries, and there is exceptional scope for growth in bilateral trade and investment.” She has brushed aside concerns about Abbot and is reported by thei as saying he had done “an excellent job on trade” when in government in Australia.
However, the shadow international trade secretary, Emily Thornbury, has written in the i that Abbot is “a man addicted to picking fights” and “confrontational, aggressive, thin-skinned and nasty”. She added: “We know the government has a big problem on trade. But if Tony Abbot is the best answer Boris Johnson can come up with, we’re in even more trouble than we think.”
Truss succeeds Liam Fox, a crazed stooge for Israel and a sworn enemy of Iran. Fox was international trade secretary from 2016 to 2019 but it isn’t clear what he actually did to secure Britain’s post-Brexit trading future. While defence secretary he was quoted on the Conservative Friends of Israel website as saying: “… We must remember that in the battle for the values that we stand for, for democracy against theocracy, for democratic liberal values against repression – Israel’s enemies are our enemies and this is a battle in which we all stand together or we will all fall divided.”
He’s a little mixed up. Some people call Israel a theocracy, others insist it’s an ethnocracy. It certainly isn’t a Western-style democracy with “liberal values against repression”. And in June 2015 Fox declared: “Any claims that [Iran’s] intentions are exclusively peaceful should not be regarded as credible… Iran’s nuclear intentions cannot be seen outside the context of its support for terror proxies, arguably the defining feature of its foreign policy. The risks are clear.”
He could have been talking about the US or even the UK. Fox obviously wasn’t trying to set up trade deals with Iran, which would likely have been more lucrative than business with Israel had we built on the business relationships that existed before the UK switched support to Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war. He was forced to resign as defence secretary in 2011 following scandalous goings-on between him, his “close friend” Adam Werritty, the UK ambassador to Israel and Israeli intelligence figures allegedly involved in plotting sanctions against Iran.
The UK government has announced that it is “working closely with the Israeli government to implement the UK-Israel trade and partnership agreement… and to host a bilateral trade and investment summit in London”. This despite Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement in which Israel promised to show “respect for human rights and democratic principles” on pain of the agreement being suspended. That important provision is supposed to have been carried over into the new UK-Israel Trade and Partnership Agreement. But Israel continues to show contempt for these principles, is given immunity, and Britain continues to reward its criminal behaviour and lavish upon it special trade advantages. This despite Labour’s Lisa Nandy having last year put this question in parliament:
Will [the international trade secretary] seek the inclusion of a binding human rights clause in a future free trade agreement with Israel to establish that the (a) relations between the parties and (b) provisions of the agreement shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles as is provided for in Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
To which the minister of state for trade policy replied:
The UK-Israel Agreement incorporates human rights provisions of the EU-Israel Trade Agreements, without modification.
We are about to discover if this is the usual pack of lies.
And an activist has just copied me a letter received from the Foreign Office which says: “The British government firmly opposes calls to boycott Israel. The UK and Israel have a strong and important trading relationship and we are firmly opposed to boycotts or sanctions.” So maintaining trade with a brutal, apartheid regime is more important to Zionist Boris Johnson’s government than human rights?
A corrupt Britain indeed. So will trade with the nasties continue to trump human rights when Tony Abbott gets to work?