Dr Leslie Cannold has announced she is standing as running mate for Julian Assange’s Wikileaks Party. Described as “an author, commentator, ethicist and activist”, she writes extensively about gender issues, and is listed as one of Australia’s top 20 public intellectuals. About
Given her feminist credentials, her support for Wikileaks surprised many, considering Assange has been accused of raping two women. Moreover, his link with antisemites and his own alleged antisemitic pronouncements would seem to make this an unlikely pairing, as Cannold is Jewish.
She gives her reasons for standing:
I’ve volunteered as a sexual assault crisis counselor and, several years ago, went public about my own experience of rape.
This background has led some to question my decision to run for the WikiLeaks party. The concerns raised have had nothing to do with party’s agenda of bringing transparency, accountability and justice to the Australian Senate. Rather, the accusation is that by running with Assange I am attempting to whitewash allegations he sexually assaulted two Swedish women.
My view is that I wasn’t bedside when the events that have given rise to the allegations against Assange took place…Because none of us knows what happened, no one has grounds to judge him or the two women as either guilty or innocent. Such judgments are for the courts.
Assange has not been charged with sexual assault or any other crime. Rather, Swedish authorities want him for questioning. He has repeatedly said…that he is eager to answer questions on this matter…
So what’s holding things up? The answer is the unyielding attitude of the Swedes…
What does Assange fear from Sweden? … that the moment he sets foot outside the Ecuadorian embassy, he’ll be extradited to the US…Persecution by the US is why Assange sought and was granted asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy.
I have chosen to stand for the WikiLeaks party because I want to bring the WikiLeaks disinfectant of transparency and accountability to the Australian Senate.
This decision reflects nothing more or less then my respect for the rule of law and a desire to make Australia safe for democracy again.
Assange’s selection of Cannold reveals he is a skilled media player; it helps deflect accusations of misogyny against him, which are inevitable, given that he hiding out in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid facing rape allegations. But Cannold’s assertion that her decision to stand reflects her respect for the rule of law seems disingenuous, considering she is supporting a man who has shown his contempt for the law.
She has also faced questions on twitter about supporting an alleged rapist:
As soon as her position on the WikiLeaks Party ticket was announced, the Tweets started – specifically – how can WikiLeaks Party supporters disavow rape culture considering that the leader Julian Assange is hiding out in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London while facing rape allegations?
On Twitter, she was challenged:
“How about speaking up for women and asking Julian Assange to stop lying about his sexual-assault charges?”
As the days progressed, the comments on Twitter about Assange and rape-culture would not go away, but Cannold did not flinch. Instead, she announced that she agreed 100% with the following statement about the rape allegations “as do all the many, strong feminist women in the WikiLeaks Party”:
“We recognise that Assange has been alleged to have assaulted two women. These allegations should be taken seriously, because we as a community must make sure that all activists within the community are safe….Assange is entitled to an assumption of innocence (regarding the allegations), and the women concerned are also entitled to an assumption of innocence (regarding claims that they have lied).”
Still, Cannold optimistically writes that she wants to bring “the WikiLeaks disinfectant of transparency and accountability to the Australian Senate.”
The question remains as to whether voters will opt for the disinfectant or be repelled by Assange.
But it’s not just the rape allegations which are problematic. In 2011, he accused journalists of being part of a ‘Jewish conspiracy’
In the satirical magazine Private Eye, editor Ian Hislop wrote that Assange called him to complain about a previous piece on WikiLeaks contributor Israel Shamir… a recognised Holocaust denier who has been called ‘a rabid anti-Semite’ by Stephen Pollard, editor of The Jewish Chronicle.
Hislop claims Assange told him he should be ashamed of himself for being part of an international smear campaign against WikiLeaks.
Stating that the Private Eye piece was an attempt to cut off any funding the website receives from the Jewish community, alleged Hislop, Assange claimed that Private Eye was ‘part of a conspiracy led by the Guardian which included journalist David Leigh, editor Alan Rusbridger and John Kampfner from Index on Censorship – all of whom “are Jewish”.’
‘When I doubted whether his Jewish conspiracy would stand up against the facts, Assange suddenly conceded the point. “Forget the Jewish thing”.’
In response to the article…Assange released a denial which read: ‘Hislop has distorted, invented or misremembered almost every significant claim and phrase.
‘In particular, “Jewish conspiracy” is completely false, in spirit and in word.
‘We treasure our strong Jewish support and staff, just as we treasure the support from pan-Arab democracy activists and others who share our hope for a just world.’
Not everyone was convinced by Assange’s protestations of Love for Jews. In The Australian, Ted Lapkin wrote:
Assange’s largely left-wing partisans lionise him as a hero of democracy. Self-described “social justice lawyer” Lizzie O’Shea, corpulent filmmaker Michael Moore and Australian Greens leader Bob Brown have heaped accolades on the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.
But none of these tributes explain why Assange has closely aligned himself with an obsessive anti-Semite who views Holocaust-denial as a religious obligation. … Adam Ermash, a Russian-born resident of Sweden who serves as WikiLeaks’ official Moscow liaison…has left a paper trail so thick it dispels any doubt about his Judeophobia or his intimate links to Assange.
In a 2009 interview with an Iranian journalist, Ermash proclaimed the Holocaust “was an idol” that was “every Muslim’s and Christian’s duty to deny”. Eager to tick every box in the bigotry handbook, he decried a so-called “Jewish infatuation with vengeance” and accused Israel of practising “cannibalism”. In other articles, he wrote that Jews were a “virus in human form” who “aren’t the only crooks, but they’re certainly the biggest crooks”.
Ermash certainly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his antipathy towards Jews. And this gives rise to the question of why Assange would want anything to do with him.
On its face, this coalition between a left-wing proponent of transparent government and a pathological anti-Semite might appear to be a strange bedfellows political alliance. But it now appears WikiLeaks founder might harbour some Judeophobic bile of his own.
When queried about his ties to Ermash during an interview with British magazine Private Eye, Assange responded by raising the spectre of a conspiracy to destroy WikiLeaks, then proceeded to recite a laundry list of alleged conspirators’ names, adding that all of them “are Jewish”.
Even the left leaning Haaretz has its doubts about Assange. Anshel Pfeffer writes
about his speech from the Embassy of Ecuador:
He accused the U.S. administration of making war on the freedom of speech… He called upon Barack Obama to “do the right thing” and renounce the “witch-hunt against WikiLeaks.”
Not once did Assange refer to the rape allegations against him, or the criticism of his choice of refuge – a country not distinguished in its defence of a free press.
Until 2011, Wikileaks and its founder enjoyed broad support from the mainstream media…
But almost all the media organizations fell out with Assange…The newspapers demanded to go over each document carefully, redacting names of private citizens who could be targeted by their governments. In addition, some were becoming concerned over a few of Assange’s associates, especially Wikileaks’ representative in Russia, the notorious Holocaust-denier and anti-Semitic writer Israel Shamir, who Assange defended.
Assange was now being criticized by senior members of Wikileaks…a computer file containing the entire State Department trove, without any redactions, was leaked onto the web in September 2011. Among the information were details and addresses of all remaining members of the Jewish community in Baghdad.
Assange was also happy to work for regimes that are not noted fans of a free press. Earlier this year he announced that he would be fronting a personal television show for Kremlin-owned Russia Today network – the debut program was an exclusive interview with a cheerful Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
Cannold has previously upset many in the Jewish community by suggesting there was a conflict of loyalty inherent in Australian Jews. In Uncovered Meat Moments and Prisoner X, she wrote:
A recent and explosive episode of the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent revealed X to be 34-year-old Ben Zygier from Melbourne. Zygier is alleged to have committed offenses related to his Australian passport while working with Israel’s spy agency Mossad. In particular, he has been linked with the 2011 assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai.
The case is enormously sensitive for a Jewish community … Perhaps this is why in the days following the program, the Melbourne Jewish community went to ground.
The Prisoner X story may be to Australian Jewry what the “uncovered meat” comments and the Sydney “Innocence of Muslim” riots were to Australian Muslims: teachable moments that can either be leveraged to deepen understanding and faith in Australian multiculturalism, or squandered.
The case has prompted curiosity and doubt in the broader Australian community…where do Australian Jewish loyalties lie – with Australia or Israel?
Sadly… Philip Chester, the president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, did not engage productively with such questions or provide adequate assurances. This despite the fact that he leads an organisation that has helped more than 10,000 Australian Jews emigrate to Israel.
If I were constructing that open and forthcoming response, it would look something like this:
While we can’t comment specifically about the Prisoner X case, we certainly understand that it can be seen to raise questions about Jewish Australian loyalty and the potential for dual citizens to misuse their passports in ways that violate the legal and ethical duties attaching to all Australian citizens.
What we want Australians to know is that Jewish Australians understand our legal and moral obligations to Australia and are committed to upholding them. Those who are dual citizens can and do accept the rights and duties associated with being a citizen of both countries which demands one never be betrayed for the other, and avoiding all activities that bring the need to demonstrate loyalty to both into conflict.
Understandably, Philip Chester, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, reacted strongly:
Much media reporting surrounding the tragic suicide of Ben Zygier has been driven by unsubstantiated conjecture and rumour.
… The speculation has now extended to disturbing suggestions of Jewish disloyalty – evoking age-old antisemitic stereotypes.
Leslie Cannold raises the question of how the Australian Jewish leadership should respond to “questions about Jewish Australian loyalty” which according to her could be “certainly” understood to arise from the Prisoner X case as if loyalty to Australia and Israel are mutually exclusive.
In fact, the opposite is true. Being loyal to Australia and to Israel is an easy fit. Australians and Israelis share common values.
As a multicultural society, Australia has long recognised and accepted that its citizens have the right to hold dual nationality… the assumption of Israeli citizenship has not detracted at all from their pride in or identification with Australia.
Australia and Israel are strong allies…In a geopolitical sense, despite the vast distances, Israel and Australia are close. Our abhorrence of terror and commitment to Western democracy make the alliance firm and natural.
Cannold refers to the fact that the Zionist Federation of Australia has assisted more than 10,000 Australian Jews emigrate to Israel…
There is no dissonance here – no reason why someone emigrating to Israel should be considered any less loyal to Australia than someone emigrating to any other place in the world.
To suggest that this tragedy was brought on by inherent conflicts of loyalty and identity casts dangerous and unwarranted aspersions on the entire Jewish community.
There should be absolutely no doubt that the fundamental loyalties of Australian Jews and dual nationality Australian-Israelis to both homeland and birthplace remain solid, balanced and totally compatible.
Leaving aside Cannold’s stance on Jewish support for Israel, is still puzzling why a feminist concerned about human rights would hitch her wagon to Wikileaks.