There is an ancient Arabic adage that “truth and oil always rise to the surface”.
It is ironic that a retired detective gained celebrity status after he “exposed” the extent of Middle Eastern crime and has now been “exposed” by the Sydney Morning Herald (February 20, 2006) for telling tall tales. Tim Priest, who coined the phrase “selective policing”, appears to have selective memory, because his police colleagues could not corroborate his “convenient” version of the Sydney house raids that forged his attitude.
Indeed, it was convenient to launch his political career in November 2003, when Arab-phobia was escalating with reports of gang rapes, terrorism raids and ethnic crime. He capitalised on the fear factor as a self-appointed prophet of doom, “Lebs rule the streets … Lebanese crime gangs were handed the keys to Sydney … there will be no-go areas … some of the Middle Eastern youth may engage in terrorist acts against Australia … we the silent majority would be the target of racial violence”.
Like the maestro, Prime Minister John Howard, he uses one hand to amplify our worst nightmares and the other hand to pacify us if only we blindly invest our trust in him. In Priest’s case, he sells himself as a lion tamer, able to transcend the “veneer of bravado” of these wild Arabs and reduce a hardened gangster to tears.
His solution is to revert to the “old style cop [who] … violent offenders respect”. He bragged about how he once grabbed the nearest male and convinced him that it was he who had thrown a brick at a fleeing police car. Presumably, this is what he meant by street-wise: two wrongs make a right and the end justifies the means. Presumably, this is what he meant by “policing is about enforcing the rule of law”. But this heavy-handed thuggery and random targeting is exactly what Priest condemns about the Middle Eastern gangs.
I have worked in partnership with vice-squad police, with street-wise youth, and gangs during the 1980s. By sensitising the operational police on the holistic issues, predator ecology and sub-cultures, this did not create soft policing, but these relationships actually prevented crimes.
Let us take Priest’s strategy to its ultimate solution: more arrests, more imprisonment, fuller jails, more hardened criminals, and then what? Ship them out in a convict hulk (back) to Lebanon - where they have never been, where they would be complete misfits and where they would be most unwelcome?
As an expert who promotes himself as being “recognised internationally”, his analysis of these crimes is one dimensional and race-centric, confusing Christians with Muslims. His car-jacking epidemic has no reference to the big fish that escape the net: the sophisticated, anonymous, culture-less, underworld, white-collar leaders who profit from these misdeeds. His drive-by shooting epidemic has no reference to the gun laws and accessibility to firearms.
This is certainly not the first time that opportunists have “sexed” up their stories about those evil Arabs. In 2002, the Howard Government “sexed” up the children overboard story. In 2003, the Blair Government dossier “sexed” up Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capability. In 2004, author Norma Khoury was exposed for lying in her best-selling biography Forbidden Love. This was ostensibly her “harrowing true story” about the honour killing of her fictitious friend in Jordan.
Not surprisingly, Priest has upgraded his palatable after-dinner speech to a Quadrant audience entitled “The rise of Middle Eastern crime in Australia” into a book,Trouble in Paradise: the Middle East crime problem in Australia. It is immediately implicit that those violent Middle Easterners are threatening our peaceful paradise.
In order to bring home the trouble with this black and white manifesto, we may need to put the shoe on the other foot. Imagine a book by a former Indonesian police officer, blowing the whistle on Australian drug traffickers and pedophiles in the South-East Asian region. Last year, Indonesians appeared to be swamped by Aussies with Schapelle Corby, Michelle Leslie and the Bali Nine in the news. After convicting a former Australian diplomat for child sex offences in 2004, Bali Judge Nyoman Suta protested about the perception that Bali was a “haven for pedophiles”, just as Priest protests about Australians being “soft targets”.
Imagine this book sheeting home the blame of all these high-profile crimes to the Australian culture, quoting Asian experts on our culture who claim that Aussies commodify Asians and exploit them as an inferior race. Imagine the outrage at such simplistic black and white generalisations about our beloved Aussie image. Imagine the book quoting from Pauline Hanson as the archetypal Australian to back up the author’s claims. Imagine the thesis that the Australian culture is predisposed to drug abuse, just as Arabs are ostensibly predisposed to violence.
While the prospect of such a book may appear ludicrous, Priest expects us to take his prophecies, generalisations and expertise seriously.
Whistle-blowers are applauded for having the courage to reveal what is concealed from us. It does not take much courage to regurgitate the xenophobic propaganda that we have already endured with the One Nation Party.
Perhaps Priest’s fiction novel should have been renamed: Trouble with Prophets: how to profit from the war on terror.