One cannot faithfully be both Australian and Israeli

Ben Saul, professor of international law at the University of Sydney, writes: Israel and Australia are indeed good friends, but they are not always on the same page. For a start, there is a gulf in values. Australian security services do not assassinate people, including civilian scientists driving to work in nearby countries. Australia does not torture prisoners. Australia has not militarily occupied a foreign people’s land for more than 40 years, or built illegal colonies on their lands. Australia does not believe in nuclear weapons or hide their existence.

When it comes to the crunch, most Australians would expect Australian Jews to choose loyalty to Australia over Israel, or even hope that the Australians in Mossad are our double agents. Undoubtedly Israelis would wish them to side with Israel. Spying will continue because every country has an interest in it. The trick is to be better at it than others, and better at catching others’ spies than they are at catching yours.

But the case of Ben Zygier shows that it is not easy to have it both ways. Conscience can get in the way. There comes a point where a Jewish person cannot faithfully be both Australian and Israeli. One has to choose. The same goes for Australians who are also Americans or Chinese.

Israel’s apparent willingness to abuse the trust and confidence of Australia also suggests that no country can take its friends for granted. All countries understandably put themselves first. But Israel might question whether its long-term security interests are best served by alienating its closest friends.

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