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On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

February 18, 2013 – 5:24 pm26 Comments
Painting by Paul Davison

Painting by Paul Davison

By David Langsam
Which child of the 1960s and ‘70s didn’t dream of being James Bond or 99? Or to give it 21st Century local relevance, The Zohan?

I was taken to task last year over the comment that at Mt Scopus Army Cadets and Habonim last century, we thought we were in training for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for the next crisis. Perhaps my teenage thoughts were not shared by all, but they were certainly shared by many. There remains a culture in Jewish communities that we are part of Israel’s reserve and should be ready to contribute what we can, if called upon.

If one nationalism is dangerous, then supporting both ‘Australia Right or Wrong’ and ‘Israel Right or Wrong’ must multiply the potential perils.

Multiculturalism brings with it multiple loyalties, which can lead to personal conflicts, which I believe to be a core question that needs to be addressed.

In the 1990s, the Keating Government relaxed the dual citizenship provisions, by making it easier for expatriates who needed US or EU passports to regain their lost Australian citizenship. Anyone coming to Australia kept their original citizenship, unless their country, like Australia and the US, automatically revoked citizenship on the obtaining of a foreign citizenship. It made travel a lot easier to have an EU passport as well as an Australian.

But even the closest of nations have squabbles and an excellent example was when Bob Hawke’s Australia parted company with David Lange’s New Zealand over US nuclear ship visits. It divided Australia, and one can only wonder how it affected Kiwis living here. A more pertinent case is when Australia criticizes illegal Israeli settlements or passport theft. It’s not the rock and hard place we like to be caught between.

According to the Federal Attorney-General’s Department, it is legal to join a foreign army. But the following four paragraphs need to be read carefully. You can go to Israel or New Zealand and serve in their armies, but not if you intend to engage in hostile activity. The Attorney-General’s Department response to my questions is ambiguous. Do you intend to engage in hostile activity against the foreign country, or on behalf of the foreign country, and is there a difference in law?

It appears from the second paragraph (below) that if you go to Israel thinking ‘I shall make aliyah, become a citizen and do my time in the IDF’ then you are on safe ground. But if you write on Facebook ‘I’m going to join a combat unit to kill Arabs’ you are probably in breech of the law. It depends on what is in your mind and whether a court could prove it.

  • Under section 6 of the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978 it is an offence for a person to travel to a foreign State with the intent to engage in a hostile activity in that foreign State or to engage in a hostile activity in a foreign State.
  • However, this offence does not apply where the act done by the person is in the course of, and as part of, the person’s service in any capacity in or with the armed forces of the government of a foreign State.
  • This recognises that there may be instances where Australian citizens, especially those who are dual nationals, wish to join the legitimate armed forces of a foreign State.
  • However, in circumstances where a terrorist organisation may be fighting as part of or alongside the armed forces of a foreign state, this defence is unavailable to the person if they are acting in or with that organisation.

It would be quite reasonable for an Australian in Auckland to join the New Zealand Defence Forces, or a Kiwi here to join ours. No one would think twice. We’re ANZACs, aren’t we?

But if a Jewish Australian has the right to join the Israel Defence Forces, surely an Arab-Australian has the right to join the uncontroversial British-based Jordanian Army? What about the Egyptian or Syrian Army? Or to more controversially, the Lebanese Army?

Are we uncomfortable with laws that allow Lebanese Australians to go to Lebanon and fight with the Lebanese Army? The fourth paragraph probably rules out serving in Hezbollah as its military wing is a proscribed terrorist organization, but there could be other approved militias that are not proscribed.

Importantly, what is reasonable today, might not be reasonable tomorrow and the Attorney-General’s spokesperson provided a recent ‘Fact sheet’ that explicitly says:

It is illegal under Australian law for any person in Australia, or any Australian citizen, including dual citizens, to provide any kind of support to any armed group in Syria. This includes: Engaging in fighting for either side; Funding, training or recruiting someone to fight; Supplying or funding weapons for either side

One day an Australian might find themselves on the wrong side in a conflict. Consider an Iraqi Australian visiting his grandparents and finding himself conscripted into Saddam’s Army in 2003, when John Howard joined George W Bush in that war?

In 1985 in Amman, I met exactly this case. A Palestinian American from New York was horrified that he had been conscripted into the Jordanian army because as a stateless Palestinian he only had a Jordanian identity permit. If I remember his words accurately, he said “All my friends are Jews. I’d rather kill Jordanians than Israelis. I don’t want to be in this f… army!” But his loyalties were not mixed. He was caught between countries.

Australian law remaining silent on which armies Australians can join is a recipe for disaster. Political allegiances can change.

The simple answer is to insert a phrase at the end of the second paragraph above: “with the expressed permission of the Australian Government”. This would mean that each person undertaking foreign military service would need to inform the Australian Government of their intentions and be recorded as doing so.

The Government might also print a warning on passport wallets just underneath the one on not smuggling drugs across borders, saying: It is not a good idea to fight in foreign armies without permission.

And the issue of foreign armies gets trickier when you move from basic to specialized roles.

I had a friend in London who said he was both Australian and British Special Air Services. He was certainly a very handy and self-reliant person and I didn’t question him closely on his roles. Had he been dropped into Iraq on behalf of the British to survey the terrain, he would be a ‘spy’. What would that mean under Australian law if he was not formally seconded to Britain?

We have Australian troops under US command in Iraq and Afghanistan and in 1985 I reported on the FRANZACS (French, Australian and New Zealand) helicopter pilots keeping the Camp David Peace Accords in the Sinai. With formal inter-government agreements there is no issue. But moving, as Ben Zygier did, from a simple IDF role to an espionage one is where the lines become blurred.

It appears that Australian spy organizations, either ASIS or ASIO, did know what he was doing. Under Australian law that should have crossed a line, at which point, for his own safety, the Australian authorities should have brought him home.

But here’s the rub. One Australian Facebook colleague posted that he remained proud of his IDF service.

So where was ‘home’ for Ben Zygier when Mossad arrested him? Would he have come back to Melbourne willingly if he was asked, or should ASIS have tried to kidnap him as Israel did Mordechai Vanunu?

The issues are not clear and neither is the law. It needs to be debated and the law modified.

And perhaps we need to remember that Commanders Bond and Zohan are just stories.

David Langsam holds Australian and British citizenship.

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  • frosh says:

    David, the problem with the dual loyalty argument is ‘where do you draw the line?’

    Why stop at national boundaries? I was born and raised in Western Australia, but now live in Melbourne.

    If we are going to start considering such unlikely scenarios whereby Australia and Israel are in conflict, then we’d need to consider equally likely/unlikely situations whereby states within Australia are in conflict.

    For example, what if the future, Western Australia (where my family lives), is no longer willing to be subject to sharing its mining wealth with the rest of the country, decides to secede from the Commonwealth, and … yada yada yada… this results in a war of independence. Where should my loyalties lie then?

    While I agree that this scenario is rather fanciful (and thus I don’t give it any serious thought), so goes a war between Australia and Israel (which, for the same reason, I also don’t give any serious thought).

  • Eli says:

    Frosh, It is interesting that you site your place of birth as the determing factor as your first “natural choice of allegiance” compared to your adopted home in Melbourne
    Jews for the most part are unique in that their support of Israel is based on a historical birth rite rather than an actual place of birth. Pre 48 there was no obvious duality of loyalty. However fanciful as you might find a war between WA and the commonwealth..one can imagine that prior to ’48 the idea of a State of Israel was perhaps as distant a reality.

  • Levi (a Refugee from the USSR) says:

    Another piece focusing on suppossed “dual loyalties” where there actually exists none. Australia and Israel are not at war for crying out loud. Helping Israel to kill Islamist terrorists – the same terrorists who kill Australian soldiers in iraq and afghanistan and Australian civilians in Bali – is not treason. I woud dare go so far as to suggest the contrary – it’s patriotism. It’s hype that was created by anti-Semites courtesy of ABC and Fairfax and now we have Jews who are helping feed into this hype and subsequently give the anti-Semites more ammo. job well done.

    But the most outrageous thing about this – i.e. two columns on Galus questioning the loyalty of Jews and giving the anti-Semites their ammo – is that all this hype has come in the wake of Bulgaria disclosing that one of the suspected terrorists who pepetrated a the terrorist atrocity that murdred 5 Israeli tourists, is an Australian (while the other terrorist was Canadian). Where is the outrage on the forum? Where is the ABC and Fairfax? Where are the government enquiries? And the fact that this discovery that an Australian was involved coincided with this scandal ( i.e. for two years the whole thing with Ben Zygier was kept under wraps until the ABC and Fairfax decided to unleash their hype) in mind, means that something really stinks.

  • Jonny says:

    Totally agree Levi.

    This article manipulates the word hostile to try to create controversy where none exists. Treason seems very clear… it is working alone or with any other force… army or other… to deliberately hurt Australian interests or those of Aussie allies.

    There is no such likely conflict with Israeli army or I dare say even Mossad activities. And there will not be in the foreseeable future. And I agree most current military actions would be “dual-patriotic”.

    The silence on the Bulgarian story is totally unacceptable. What role did Australia play in that person’s enabled terrorism against an Australian ally?

  • frosh says:

    Eli, I think you have either somewhat misunderstood my comment (which may not have been that clear), or I have misunderstood yours.

    Either way, I suspect we are actually in broad agreement.

    I didn’t mean to imply that have loyalty to any particular Australian state; rather, I just mean to demonstrate that everybody has dual or mixed loyalties of some sort, be they international or intra-national, and we can’t really be sure when scenarios will arise that might test those mixed loyalties might be tested.
    Therefore, it is unfair that Jews are always singled out as if they are the only people in the world with mixed loyalties.

    Incidentally, given the choice, I suspect a significant proportion (perhaps even a majority)of Western Australians would vote for secession given the choice.

  • frosh says:

    Good point Levi and Jonny.
    The silence in the media and more importantly from the Australian government re the Bulgarian attack is quite concerning.

    The other thing that I find very concerning is that it now appears that our Australian spooks have deliberately burnt an Israeli agent who was working in a team that was trying to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

  • Levi (a Refugee from the USSR) says:

    So I think you would all agree that I’m not being too unreasonable in questioning the time of this ABC “expose” coinciding with the latest developments in Bulgaria? For two years, there was media silence around the Ben Zygier case. Ben’s parents and the Australian authorities knew that Ben was being detained and were probably given the reason as to why. He also had access to a lawyer. When he passed away, his family and the authorities were informed and his body was flown here for burial. Doesn’t really sound like a “prisoner x” story. Now we suddenly have an “expose.” was this “expose” – by a government controlled media body – and it’s timing meant to deflect attention away from something else? From something embarrassing or perhaps or even sinister?

    That’s one question that we as a community need to ask. Another would be around what knowleddge did the Australian government had on the movements and whereabouts of the Australian who is suspected in being involved in the terrorist atrocity in Bulgaria? There is no doubt in my mind tha ASIO watches Arab dual nationals who travel to hot spots like Lebanon, like hawks. They would do this for several reasons – one would be out of a concern for home grown terrorism (i.e. the desire to prevent an attack on australian soil) and another would be the concern that this dual nationals could end up in Afghanistan to fight coalition forces.

    Instead of asking questions and demanding answers, the tables have turned and we now have Stalinist style inquisition into the “dual loyalties” of Australian Jews with some Jews eagrely and gleefully jumping on the Stalinist band wagon. I think we have hit rock bottom – especially after we had two articles in a row on this forum, parroting virtually the same anti-Semitic talking points.

  • Shira says:

    David, I think your point, that it’s legal for an Australian to join a foreign army but not if they intend to engage in hostile activity, is incorrect. The 2nd paragraph you quoted states that “this offence does not apply where the act done by the person is in the course of, and as part of, the person’s service in any capacity in or with the armed forces of the government of a foreign State”. Sounds to me like it’s not about the individual’s intentions, it’s about the capacity in which they are acting.

  • David Langsam says:

    Shira, you ‘might’ be correct in your interpretation, but I would not want to be the person testing it in a long, expensive, possibly bail-refused, court case.

    If you join the IDF as a result of making Aliyah and never had any ‘intention’ of engaging in hostile activity – just wanted to live in Israel – then you would be safe under all circumstances. But as I wrote in my example, above, if you had boasted to all your friends and posted on Facebook that you were going to Israel to join the army, get a gun and kill a lot of people, you might be able to be prosecuted under that first paragraph.

    I have personally benefitted from my dual Australian-British citizenship in not having to stand in long queues at Heathrow and elsewhere in Europe, but I do understand the potential dangers of having mixed loyalties.

    As an Essendon supporter, my friends at the football cannot fathom how Carlton could possibly be my second team. The rivalry is meant to be deep and bitter, but Carlton was home to my parents from Warsaw in 1938 and to where I escaped the Southern Shtetle at the age of 19. I know a football example may appear trite, but it does clarify the issues.

    Interestingly, there have been quite a number of Facebook postings from people claiming there could not possibly ever be a division between Australia and Israel, while overlooking a number of small scrub fires, and now this rather bigger issue.

    I doubt there would ever be a major division, but the point is that if Jews can join the IDF, Lebanese Australians must be allowed to join the Lebanese Army and Belorus Australians the Belorus Army. It gets tricky. What happens when Thai-Australians face off against Khmer-Australians? Could you imagine an Australian Israeli calling across the trench line to an Australian Lebanese? What happens when an Australian IDF soldier meets an Australian Palestinian at a road block. ‘Oh sorry, mate, you can’t go through. Jews only.’

  • Levi (a Refugee from the USSR) says:

    Small scrub fires and now this rather bigger issue… the Burgas bombing? Don’t lose too much sleep over this one.

    In regards to Arabs having the right to join a foreign army just because Australian Jews do it to- like yaron before you, you make a false moral equivalence. Let’s put aside the fact that arab dual citizens are more likely to join illegal terorist organizations aside for a moment. Any person in their right mind should be more concerned seeing that – Syria is a hostile country and joining her army could amount to treason anyway. Lebanon’s army – just like it’s government – is overrun run and controlled by Hezbollah terrorists. Despite still being an ally of the west, Egypt is ruled by the Muslim brotherhood – both Hamas and Al Qaeda are off shoots of this movement and the MB has made it’s ambition of imposing a world caliphate where gays, women, Christians and Jews are all prosecuted very clear…hardly in line with Australian values.

    “What happens when an Australian IDF soldier meets an Australian Palestinian at a road block. ‘Oh sorry, mate, you can’t go through. Jews only.’”

    Reminds me of Antony Loewenstein’s claim there were “jewish only roads.” Did you come here to engage in an honest dialogue?

    To give readers some greater context on your views here are some highlights from an opinion piece you wrote for the Age (excuse me while I vomit)


    Meet Mr Whatever It Takes

    April 11 2002
    By David Langsam
    “Should I remain silent – as Pastor Neimoller said he did – as we watch the climbing toll of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, journalists and peace activists…

    Do I keep my mouth shut as we witness the amazingly disproportionate use of force by the Israeli Defence Forces against what are essentially the wrong targets…

    To claim that Arafat is in control when he is holed up in the Ramallah ghetto is ludicrous..

    …What right does Sharon have to declare Ramallah a “closed military area” and prevent the world’s media from documenting his abuse of what was once a respected army and is again being used for occupation, subjugation and ethnic cleansing…

  • Yaron says:


    Let us be clear here – are you saying that you have a problem with Australian citizens doing something legal under Australian law because it is detrimental to Israel?

    (Please note this is a yes/no question)

  • Levi (a Refugee from the USSR) says:


    serving for the Muslim brotherhood, Assad, the Hezbollah dominated Lebanese army is not just detrimental to Israel, but to the region and all civilized nations of the word (including Australia). Thus making your moral equivalence false. Do you deny that – yes or no?

    I know how much you love yes/no questions so I’ll throw another one @ you – will you retract your earlier call to scrutinize what Jewish day schools and youth groups teach children as well as you article/comments implying that Jews have dual loyalty – yes or no?

  • Yaron says:


    1) My concern is with Australians adhering with Australian law and with Israelis adhering to Israeli law.

    So the question you raise is about lobbying Australian lawmakers to consider Israel’s best interest when legislating. But at the moment our theoretical soldier is legally permitted to serve in Lebanon.

    Your question is therefore irrelevant since I am arguing about legalities, while you are questioning me about moral equivalence.

    2) I will not retract the statements regarding schools etc.

    I am calling for loyalty to Australia as part of our communal education.

    3) Well you certainly do not have dual loyalty. You have clearly shown in your comments that you are loyal only to Israel. A country of which you are not even a citizen.

  • Levi (a Refugee from the USSR) says:

    Let’s see if I understand your logic…

    1)& 3) We live in a free & democratic society…not the Soviet Union. If I merely express my disapproval of over dual Arab citizens going overseas to fight for the syrian army (which is a hostile country anyway) the Hezbollah dominated Lebanese army or the Muslim Brotherhood run Egyptian army (keeping in mind that many of them end up joining illegal terrorist organizations anyway), and do this because I whole heartily & sincerely believe that this will harm Australia’s interests and national security…that makes me a traitor? How does that work? And legalities are primarily shaped around moral and ethical considerations…at least in civilized countries like Australia.

    2) You won’t retract your statement. So you’re prepared to hear “anecdotes” about our community and start a grand inquisition but not so keen to hear about “anecdotes” about the muslim community. You know so called “anecdotes” like plans to commit mass atrocities and murder civilians on Australian soil, gang rapes, riots, killing australian soldiers overseas, travel to israel to plan an attack or to Bulgaria to carry out an attack, etc, etc?
    You certainly have a strange set of priorities… Rabbi.

    Back in the old country, despite a widespread ban on religion, the Soviets did make a few exceptions and allowed a handle full of state run churches and synagagoues to operate in a few state run cities. The religious clerics were on the KGB pay roll of course and the KGB approved Rabbis kept a very close eye over who went in and out of their respective synagogues – reporting any suspected cases of treason and anti Soviet activity…including expression of sympathy for Israel. If you’re currently looking for such a job…good luck finding one in Australia. You would certainly be a leading candidate of you were living in what was then the USSR ;)

  • Yaron says:


    Your ability to distort my words and thoughts has moved from the absurd to Waldmanesque proportions.

    You’re welcome to make all the outlandish claims you want. But there is no requirement for anyone to see an absent logic just because you wish really really hard.

    As for my grand inquisition – check under your bed. My lackeys will no doubt be hiding there.

    I have no intention of continuing this debate.

  • Levi (a Refugee from the USSR) says:

    So your lackeys will be armed with my arrest warrant for high treason – i.e. for being loyal to the Zionist entity and not this great brown land for which the ANZACS fought for? It’s so nice to see that the latte sipping, bohemian leftists suddenly resurrect a new found patriotism when it’s convienant.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    I’m pretty sure that Shira is right. The act criminalises, e.g., traveling to Pakistan and joining al-Qaeda. It would also criminalise traveling to New Zealand and joining the army, except that this is expressly excluded as being

  • David Langsam says:

    Levi, it is sad that like so many armchair critics, you are big on (negative) opinion and low on facts.
    Have you really never been to Israel? Nor visited a settlement?
    I’m sorry to inform you that there are very definitely “Jewish only roads”. Try driving into Alon Moreh with West Bank plates and see how far you get.
    Now it is awhile since I was last in Israel (most unfortunately and due entirely for a combination of family and finance reasons – anyone with access to a free ‘education’ trip for 1 adult and 3 kids, preferably in September, please contact me urgently!) but from all reports, the road restrictions have only gotten worse not better, and IDF soldiers are bearing the brunt of the Occupation when they should not be.
    And before you run another abusive tirade ‘refugee from USSR’ (gee that was awhile ago, when are you going to get over it?) I just happen to agree with six former Shin Bet directors and most of the rest of the Israeli intelligence community.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Argh. The end of the message got cut off.

    […] except that this is expressly excluded as being service in the armed forces of another state. So joining the IDF is fine, regardless of your motivation.

  • TheSadducee says:

    “It’s so nice to see that the latte sipping, bohemian leftists suddenly resurrect a new found patriotism when it’s convienant.”

    – I hope Levi isn’t the face of modern conservatism and/or right-leaning politics…

  • frosh says:


    …the fiction of “Jewish-only” roads features prominently in “Israel apartheid” mythology and is frequently cited by anti-Israel and pro-BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) agitators.
    …The roads were open to all Israeli citizens — Muslims, Christians, Druze and Circassians. There was never a religious or ethnic-based separation on the roads of Judea and Samaria.
    …The Associated Press published a correction in January 2010 stating, “These roads are open to all Israeli citizens, including Arabs, foreigners and tourists.” Similar corrections were published on CNN, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe

  • Levi (a Refugee from the USSR) says:


    While we’re on the topic of sad – it’s not only sad to see that you had to resort to Holocaust analogies and compare Israel to Nazi Germany in your piece for the Age but that you also resort to parroting the big lies such as “Jewish only roads.” You were never really up for a serious and honest discussion about the issues at hand, were you?

    Yes, the fall of the USSR was along time ago (well sort of)…but if we don’t learn from history, we are condemned to repeat it. And the history of the Jews of the USSR -where some Jews were only too willing to do the dirty work of anti-Semites – is not only fascinating but provides a good lesson.

    For the record, I have been to Israel and stayed in settlements such as Hebron/Kiryat Arba, Kfar Tapuach, Ramot and the bigger settlement blocs of Tel Aviv and Haifa…
    while we’re on the topic of travel restrictions…for some reasons Jews can’t venture into many parts of East Jerusalem but Arab residents can go to any part of jerusalem. An Israeli Arab citizen can travel from Haifa to Gaza city and then to Ramallah and back to Haifa. A Jew who tries that…will..well only have a 1 way ticket. I wonder why? I’ve also seen Jews travelling in bullet proof buses, in their own country. But not Arabs.

  • Levi (a Refugee from the USSR) says:


    Ok, I’ll make a confession…I like to sip lattes (don’t tell anyone though).

  • letters in the age says:


    Slightly off tangent…….but here tis

    Saw this on the a.b.c not too long ago

    Try catching it on iview….

    The Australian is a hoot!

  • Levi (a Refugee from the USSR) says:

    This is interesting (swedish instead of Australian passports were used though )


    “Lawyer Antonis Georgiades noted that Yaacoub, who is Swedish and Lebanese, told a Cyprus court that he came to this country on business with no plan to harm anyone. But Yaacoub, 24, also admitted that an unidentified man in Lebanon, where Hezbollah is based, gave him the “mission” of recording flight arrivals and bus routes of Israeli tourists and checking out a hospital parking lot.”

  • Otto Waldmann says:


    Please, but please, pay attention to what I say.
    What I say under my name, which I love and respect, I make sure that is logical and comprehensive in exhibition of explanations, presentation of relevant facts and documents and, as a corolary, I am very, but very careful with what I conclude.
    On the other hand you, for whatever reason, seem to engage in torrents of truncated, extrapolated quotes, “facts” and such – indispensible – absurd, ridiculous and compromising conclusions, as if your name is not really what you syas it is or you have a death wish or, at least, a public ridicule wish.
    I am not as kind and tollerant as most of blokes commenting here simply because I have this cerebral condition called “nonsense phobia” and urge you to revise and, why not obliterate, erase the embarassment you plunged into above.

    Or, hang on a minute, maybe you ARE a genuine purveyor of utter absurdities, in which case DO carry on………….

    According to the laws you bring up, there is NO NEED to specify the qualifications which you suggest as they would contradict the very laws you quote.

    Your comments ignore the letter of the very law you aduce and imply that certain additional terms must be included although they would contradict the sense and substance of the said laws.This is abuse AND self abuse of the highest order and any sensible person can only treat your fanciful, irrelevant and non-humorous funny stuff as all of the above

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