Thursday, June 05, 2003

Joe Gutnick, Gimme a break

Today’s reports of an Al Qaeda-auspiced plot, in 2000, to assassinate Joseph Gutnick – a Melbourne man of many talents and roles – were a curious blend of both extravagance and also economy with the facts.

For starters, the banner-headline stories of today’s print Age and Australian* (no URL, which is itself rather unusual for a lead story) appear to have been both cut from an eerily similar cloth. I’m not interested in performing a Media Watch-style plagiarism expose here – all the more so because I’m sure that such a line of investigation would go much deeper that the clichéd lazy hack (or comedian) that David Marr so rejoices in cornering.

Instead, it’s the redundant (or at least, highly dubious) information – almost identically expressed in both stories – that interests me in its own right.

The Age gave the specifics of the Al Qaeda link as this:

The plot had been approved by senior al-Qaeda figures, including former military commander Abu Hafs, now believed dead, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is in US custody, and Saif al-Adel, believed to be in Iranian custody for his role in the recent Riyadh attacks.

In some contrast, The Australian’s coverage gave each of the above “three lieutenants” a brief bio in their own right, as well as quoting Mr Gutnick’s own words on the link: the Jemaah Islamiah-member accused (presumably an Indonesian Muslim) “had the stamp of al-Qa’ida” and “an OK from al-Qa’ida” for the mission.

Now, I don’t want to make light of plots to murder, but I think that Mr Gutnick is almost certainly over-estimating Al Qaeda’s bureaucratic processes and zeal (did the stamp go on the “JI copy only” request form, the second of the triplicate, also?). More seriously, some kind of Al Qaeda “OK” could most probably be attached to any plan to kill any Jewish Australian(s) high-profile, or otherwise. Al Qaeda’s antipathies are notorious, as are their intensity, and their lack of scruples or proportionality in achieving an outcome.

In other words – sorry Joe, but you really are just small fry in the scale of things. Al Qaeda don’t auspice, or otherwise function as a terrorist organisation with specific political aims, such as the IRA. I’m not sure whether this bit of lexi-trivia is paradoxical, ironic, or neither – but despite the origins of the word “assassin”, Al Qaeda’s modus operandi couldn’t be further from an assassin’s collective (assassination = murder of high-profile persons, usually for political ends). And as for this morning, bringing in your Melbourne Football Club connections and the Israeli embassy and consulate into the equation, I mean, really – and why stop there, anyway?

For your information then, Joe, here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of people or groups with some claim on animosity towards you:

· your sister, Pnina Feldman, and her allies in your family and the broader Jewish community;

· Australian journos, media organizations etc, concerned about the chilling effects of your thoughtless (IMO) and ill-understood tilt at cross-border defamation law;

· Eddie McGuire and the rest of the Collingwood-barracking tragics (actually, I’m making this one up; not really following AFL, past the extent of hating Collingwood, I really don’t know what specific grievances may flow out of your Melbourne Footy Club tenure – but you get my point); and

· (for no good reason other than they feel lonely being left out) the 23 Australians not covered in any of the above.

On the other side of the coin, yes, you’re not the only target, Joe. But instead of including only prestigious co-targets (viz Israel’s diplomatic presences in Australia), why not give the rest of us Joe Schmo’s a break, too? More or less co-equal with you, on the Al Qaeda hit-list, are:

· every one of Australia’s 100,000 odd Jewish community (as I suggested above); and

· any or all of Australia’s other 19.9 million residents – if Al Qaeda can’t think of a specific-enough reason to hate and kill any or all of them/us, then they owe it to themselves to issue a public statement of regret over at least some of the 9/11 deaths.

I did think about including a third category here – me! – but, having two ferocious sisters out there and possibly reading this, I thought it best not to get too cocky, y’know Joe.

* Colleen Egan, “Terror plot to kill Gutnick” 5 June 2003

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