Middle East

Head of Australia’s Security Agency’s Damning Comments About Anti-Israel Rallies

This story is actually from December, and it somehow escaped my notice, but it is worth mentioning now because it is damning.

ASIO director-general Mike Burgess advised Labor MP Michelle Ananda-Rajah that Australia’s pro-Palestine rallies served as an important “pressure release” given a “real risk of a terror ­attack”, a letter from the backbencher to a local voter has revealed.

Mr Burgess’s apparent comments and briefing was relayed by the Higgins MP to a Jewish resident who had become concerned about the location of Melbourne’s weekly pro-Palestine rally.

“On the matter of protests, the DG of ASIO, Mike Burgess, ­advised me that these (pro-Palestine rallies) serve as a pressure release, which is valuable given the real risk of a domestic terror attack,” the MP wrote to the voter. “I can live with a protest (provided it is respectful) but not with terrorism.”

A pro-Palestine rally has been held every Sunday outside the State Library Victoria, which is hosting Hebrew scripture exhibition Luminous. The voter wanted to talk to Ms Ananda-Rajah about the location, given herself and fellow members of the Jewish community were concerned about wearing identifiable clothing en route to the exhibition.

An ASIO spokeswoman ­declined to comment on Mr Burgess’s advice given the “sensitive” and confidential nature of all briefings given by the director-general.

“At the commonwealth, state and territory level, ASIO provides briefings on a range of intelligence matters to political leaders, ministers, senior staffers, parliamentary officials, security officers and other relevant parties,” the spokeswoman said. “The details of those discussions are sensitive, and it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

Dr Ananda-Rajah didn’t comment specifically on Mr Burgess’s advice, or why she had disclosed “sensitive” ASIO intelligence to a voter. She did tell The Weekend Australian, however, that social cohesion was “our most valuable national asset”.

“Our government is working with our intelligence agencies to ensure that violence overseas does not precipitate violence in Australia,” she said, referring further questions to the Home ­Affairs Department.

It is understood that Dr ­Ananda-Rajah has been a “staunch friend” of the Jewish community, recently returning from a “solidarity mission” to ­Israel. In her email to the Jewish voter, she also condemned Hamas and said that Israel unilaterally laying down its arms would “underwrite its destruction”.

Damning on those like ASIO director-general Mike Burgess and Labor MP Michelle Ananda-Rajah, who think the Jewish community should effectively be made to feel unsafe for the “greater good” of reducing the perceived likelihood of a terror attack in Australia (and it is not like either of them are anti-Israel or don’t understand the evil nature of Hamas).

But more than that, damning on the protests themselves and those who attend them, which the ASIO head seems to think would include the types of people who might otherwise take matters into their own hands and actually commit terror attacks.

I think it is a timely reminder, especially given the recent attempts to sanitize these protests and those who attend them.

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