Features Australia

Dangerous ideas

An outburst of truth-telling in Israel might be contagious

22 January 2022

9:00 AM

22 January 2022

9:00 AM

‘Australian Lamb. More tender than border control’ quips an ad in the annual campaign run by Meat and Livestock Australia in the leadup to Australia Day. Another says, ‘Everyone’s welcome at our BBQ. Not Djoking.’ A third shows desperate Aussies using a national lamb rollout to barbeques across the nation to send smoke signals into outer space which alert Elon Musk that the country is still here and prompt floods of tourists to return.

The ads are apparently meant to be about sharing and about how isolated Australians have felt during pandemic. Yet all Australia seems to be sharing with the world is novel ideas about how to persecute the unvaccinated. So far, it has been a raging success. France and Spain are now also considering banning unvaccinated tennis players from their tournaments and there are obstacles to competing at Wimbledon and the US Open.

Domestically, the decision of Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to revoke the visa of the world’s No. 1 tennis player has met with widespread approval. Australians have a tradition of cutting down tall poppies, hence the howls of outrage that Novak Djokovic had got special treatment in being allowed to enter the country unvaccinated. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are provisions for vaccine exemptions which Djokovic met  — because he had had a recent Covid infection — as the Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke conceded on making his second attempt to deport the tennis champion.

In a wonderful display of Australia’s Catch 2022 Covid rules, tennis coach Darren Cahill said that an exemption for a recent Covid infection should exist only for people who want to be vaccinated, but in the end, it didn’t matter. Even though Djokovic had a valid medical exemption to compete in the Australian Open and had been granted a valid visa to enter the country, he was deported not because he was infected with a dangerous virus, but with a dangerous idea.

What idea? That he, Djokovic should be allowed ‘to choose what’s best’ for his body. Not in Australia. Echoing former prime minister John Howard, who said, when facing thousands of asylum seekers arriving on Australia’s shores, ‘We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come’, Prime Minister Morrison showed the world that he would decide what is injected into our bodies, and the circumstances in which it is injected. Sure, the federal government’s health website proclaims that ‘vaccination for COVID-19 is voluntary’ and people have the option to choose. But as thousands of doctors, teachers, paramedics and now Novak Djokovic have found out, choosing not to be vaccinated means choosing to lose your job.

Mr Morrison now finds himself in the tricky situation of having to explain why it is intolerable to have an unvaccinated tennis player in the country, when he has unvaccinated parliamentarians in his own party. Shadow Home Affairs Minister Kristina Keneally tweeted: ‘Mr Morrison cannot pretend that he is a wolf, tough on Novak Djokovic and his anti-vaxx stance, but a lamb in front of his own party room, unwilling to tell people like George Christensen, Senators Antic, Rennick and Canavan to pull their heads in.’

Since Mr Morrison relies on those parliamentarians to retain his own employment as prime minister, he finds them easy to ignore. After all, he only deported Djokovic to try to hang on to his job.

Australians, for their part, feel relieved that, even wearing their woke straitjackets, there is at least one minority that they have licence to loathe, to fire from their jobs, ban from social gatherings, and blame for everything that they hate about the pandemic.

Yet for all the self-righteous outrage about Djokovic, there is also a sense of discomfort.

‘If anyone is looking for a place to isolate, Melbourne Park looks like a great spot,’ tweeted one person. ‘No one is at the Australian Open.’

It must be galling for Australia’s political leaders and health advisers that, having bludgeoned and bullied almost every Australian into getting vaccinated, the country is second only to Israel, which this week broke the global record for daily Covid cases.

Morrison is desperate to point out that it’s not his fault. There has been no policy to let Covid ‘rip’. Regulations are still in place enforcing masks, distancing, density limits, isolation, testing and vaccination. What is painfully obvious is that they are not working.

NSW and Victoria have announced that booster shots can now be given every three months in a desperate attempt to stem the tide of infections. Good luck with that. A clinical trial in Israel has found that a fourth dose of the Pfizer vaccine doesn’t prevent infection by Omicron any more than did the third.

The avalanche of cases has prompted Professor Ehud Qimron of Tel Aviv University and a member of the Israeli government advisory committee on vaccines to deliver a devastating critique to the Israeli government in an open letter published in an Israeli newspaper. He slammed Israel’s Ministry of Health for pursuing ‘destructive policies’ such as lockdowns, restrictions and vaccine mandates out of a ‘lust for power, budgets, and control’, while ignoring epidemiological science, and refusing to adjust policies in the face of real-world data and ultimately to ‘admit failure’.

Professor Qimron criticised the refusal of the government to acknowledge that recovery from infection is more protective than a vaccine, that the vaccinated can catch and transmit Covid and that as a result Israel’s vaccine passport system made no more sense than branding people who chose not to get vaccinated as ‘enemies of the public and as spreaders of disease’.  He also deplored the fact that the government failed to adopt the ‘Great Barrington Declaration’ written by Sunetra Gupta, Jay Bhattacharya, and Martin Kulldorff of the universities of Oxford, Stanford and Harvard respectively which called for an end to ‘devastating’ lockdown policies. Instead, the Israeli government had chosen to ‘ridicule, slander, distort and discredit’ the academics and burn ‘hundreds of billions of shekels’ destroying the education of children, harming livelihoods, the economy, human rights, mental and physical health, slandering colleagues who did not surrender to the government narrative, turning people against each other, dividing society and polarising discourse. The skyrocketing Omicron cases were not an emergency he said, the only emergency was that the same people who created these destructive policies were still in charge and held huge budgets which they would spend on propaganda and psychological engineering instead of strengthening the health care system.

Every word of this searing critique applies equally to Australia and to most of the Western world. How long before government advisers elsewhere start telling the truth to their masters? Now there’s a dangerous idea that our political leaders must desperately hope isn’t contagious.

This article originally attributed a critique of Israeli government policy to Professor Cyrille Cohen of Bar-Ilan University. The critique was in fact written by Professor Ehud Qimron of Tel Aviv University.

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