During the recent Israeli offensive against the Palestinian people in Gaza, when war crimes were committed against the civilian population, the CEO of the National Australia Bank (NAB) Cameron Clyne led a trade delegation to Israel.
Mr Clyne brushed aside requests to cancel or even postpone the controversial visit. Even his Israeli hosts were surprised by his decision to give moral and ethical support to the internationally condemned assault on Gaza which killed hundreds of civilians and wounded or maimed thousands.
The Business Review Weekly (BRW) reported a member of the delegation saying: “The Israelis were exceptionally emotional that we, the Australians, still came, while most of the other delegations had cancelled.” This was a reference to other scheduled delegations which refused to visit while Israel was launching its offensive and killing Palestinians. An NAB delegate said that “we were criticised on Twitter by people we don’t know who said even just being in the country looks like you’re supporting Israel and we didn’t respond to that.”
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Amnesty International and other human rights organisations Israel’s aggression resulted in the killing of 2,151 Palestinians (including at least 577 children, 263 women, 102 elderly, 17 journalists and 23 doctors and paramedics) and injured over 11,230 people (including at least 3374 children, 2088 women, 410 elderly and 83 doctors and paramedics). In addition Israel deliberately destroyed most of the economic and civilian infrastructure including schools, hospitals, mosques, churches, a number of dairy, chicken and agricultural farms, 195 factories according to the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce and Industries as well as the main electricity plant, the sewage and treatment plants and the water plants and supplies affecting the entire 1.8 million Palestinians of Gaza. Seventy Israelis were also killed, 67 of them were soldiers.
Israel’s war crimes in Gaza were condemned internationally and are currently being investigated by the UN Human Rights Council. The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) has also agreed to investigate possible Israeli war crimes during its brutal bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
The NAB delegation did not visit Palestine nor try to find trade opportunities that exist in Palestine.
The visit was organized by the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC) whose patron is the Israeli ambassador in Australia. Since its establishment and following its change to a business enterprise in the 1980s the AICC has been run by dedicated Zionists.
Despite its claim that it is “apolitical”, the AICC has a strong political link with the Israeli government; its main objective is to support and promote Israel economically, politically and in propaganda.
“Crikey”, the internet magazine, reported Kim Jacobs, the AICC NSW chamber’s state president, as saying: “We really appreciate the support” from the NAB delegation.
The callously organized visit to Israel has inflicted massive public relations damage on NAB which is ranked as the 17th largest bank in the world. Its reputation for integrity in the banking community has been recklessly disregarded in providing moral support to the apartheid-style regime in Tel Aviv.
While the purpose of the visit was to explore business and investment opportunities in Israel, the political prejudice of the visit was also revealed by the “briefings” in the program given by Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, former Chief of Staff at the “Israeli Defense Force”, and Carmi Gilon, former head of the Israeli Security agency Shin Bet.
At the time of the visit, Lt General Ashkenazi was indicted by the Israeli police over the so-called “Harpaz Affair” and also under an international arrest warrant by the Turkish High Criminal Court over the Israeli army’s 2010 flotilla raid of the Mavi Marmara in international waters and the killing of 10 Turkish passengers.
Only a few months earlier, Shin Bet’s Carmi Gilon fled Denmark following a complaint filed against him by a Danish civil organization for his involvement in the torture of Palestinian political prisoners. He was even condemned by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem and other humanitarian groups for violating the human rights of Palestinians.
Torture during interrogation of detained Palestinians has been a major issue in Israel for many years, and notably throughout the period when Mr Gillon occupied high positions in the secret police agency.
The AICC booked the NAB-led delegation into the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv which was built in 1965 on the ruins of the Abdel Nabi cemetery, an historic Islamic trust, and in Jerusalem at the King David Hotel where the Jewish terrorist organization, the Irgun, committed its massacre in 22 July 1946, killing 91 people of various nationalities including British officials and injuring 46 others.
The managing director of Palestine Publications and former Palestinian ambassador Mr Ali Kazak asked why the NAB-led trade mission met Israeli military and security generals who have Palestinian and Arab blood on their hands.
“What interest does NAB have in supporting Israel politically and economically while it is occupying Palestine, violating human rights and international law and committing war crimes?” he asked.
Mr Kazak said NAB has been supporting Israel and its extremist lobby in Australia for years in different ways. For example, for more than 10 years NAB’s Yachad Scholarship Fund had sent students and academics to and from Israel with the aim of “expanding awareness in Australia of the shared interests of Israel and Australia”.
Australia’s trade with the Arab countries is over $16 billion and the balance of payment is heavily in Australia’s favour, while with Israel it is about $950 million of which 75% of the balance of payments is in Israel’s favour.
Mr Kazak said: “The NAB CEO led a delegation to Israel while it was launching a bloody war against the Palestinian people, killing hundreds of children and innocent civilians and destroying their cities and economic infrastructure: this is not acceptable behaviour by any decent human being. “The bank’s refusal to remedy its hurtful and damaging action is evidence of its hostility towards the Palestinian and Arab people.”
Mr Kazak added: “I am sure that many staff, shareholders and customers will be very concerned and they will not support the NAB’s biased support for Israel. This issue will not go away.”
Mr Kazak said he was in the process of alerting the Cairo-based Arab League, the General Union of Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture for Arab Countries, the Union of Arab Banks and the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS).