This article was first published on Palestine Chronicle on 26 August 2011
By Samah Sabawi
The Murdoch press in its zeal to attack the Palestinian Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign has misrepresented facts and even ran an entire article quoting a fictional character that simply does not exist. The invention of Max Brenner the Jewish chocolatier demonstrated the lack of integrity and journalistic ethics employed within the Murdoch press’s campaign against the pro-Palestinian advocacy groups who have called for a boycott of the Israeli owned Max Brenner chocolate franchise.
Archive for August, 2011
video by: sternchenproductions on Jul 13, 2011
Omar Barghouti is an independent Palestinian political and cultural analyst whose opinion columns have appeared in several publications. He is also a human rights activist involved in civil struggle to end oppression and conflict in Palestine. Barghouti is a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, PACBI.
This article was first published on New Matilda
25 Aug 2011
Equating the BDS movement with Nazism is both offensive and outrageous. So why aren’t members of the Jewish community speaking out on this, asks Antony Loewenstein
Joseph Stalin changed his name and so did New South Wales Federal Greens MP Lee Rhiannon.
Stalin, writes Alan Howe, executive editor and columnist with Rupert Murdoch’s Herald Sun, was “perhaps the 20th century’s greatest murderer”.
Rhiannon backs the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and, argues Howe, people should know about “the 1930s where violent protests against Jewish traders may end. It was a colourful time of brownshirts, blackshirts and yellow Stars of David”.
In this fashion, Rhiannon is likened to a supporter of fascism and remains “against the only democracy in the Middle East and the one country in which the region’s Arabs are guaranteed safety”.
Welcome to the level of debate in Australia over the Israel/Palestine conflict. The last months have seen a litany of public figures that should know better accusing anybody associated with the BDS movement of embracing Nazism, anti-Semitism and outright Jew-hatred.
It shames the Australian Jewish establishment that no leading voices have challenged this odious and absurd comparison. Instead, they’ve cheered it on, coordinating nationally, with the support of an Israeli government desperate to distract from its own anti-democratic practices.
The Australian Jewish News has editorialised that boycotting Jewish businesses here will remind Jews of similar Nazi tactics in Germany and Austria in the 1930s. How on earth will the paper cover real anti-Semitism when they so casually compare today’s behaviour to Hitler’s Third Reich?
Back in early July, 19 pro-Palestinian activists were arrested and charged for protesting in front of a Max Brenner chocolate shop in Melbourne. Max Brenner was targeted because its parent company Strauss Group supports elements of the IDF accused of war crimes in both the West Bank and Gaza.
This campaign has continued globally for years. For example, a reader of my website in 2009 sent me a copy of a letter they sent to Max Brenner outlining the reasons the company was a legitimate target for boycott.
The Victorian Government recently continued to threaten the activists with further legal punishment, imprisonment and fines.
Max Brenner’s parent company Strauss Group is an openly political business that proudly states on its Hebrew website that “We see a mission and need to continue to provide our soldiers with support, to enhance their quality of life and service conditions, and sweeten their special moments”. Some of these soldiers were directly implicated in war crimes allegations during incursions into the West Bank and the invasion of Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.
In late July, The Australian reported the campaign against the BDS movement in Australia with a story called, “Anti-Jew protest condemned”. Federal Labor MP Michael Danby, journalist Jana Wendt and union head Paul Howes met for a hot chocolate inside a Max Brenner shop in Melbourne, condemned the “violent” protest against the shop and again talked about Nazi Germany. Former Labor Party president Warren Mundine was quoted by journalist Leo Shanahan as saying BDS was not “not anti-Israel but anti-Jewish”.
Howes said the protesters were “mimicking the behaviour of the Nazi thugs” and it was necessary to “nip this in the bud”. Howes said most people who voted for the Greens had no idea how “xenophobic” its policies were. Not one journalist asked him whether he truly believed waving placards outside a shop in Melbourne is akin to the Gestapo arresting and murdering millions of Jews in the gas chambers. And no Jewish leaders took him to task for the comparison.
Last weekend’s article by The Australian’s Cameron Stewart allowed this misperception to perpetuate. Like Shanahan, Stewart quoted Wendt as saying that, “As the daughter of refugees whose lives were critically affected by both fascism and communism, I’m grateful for what Australia has to offer”.
A week later, the Victorian Government announced that it was investigating “anti-Israel activists” — by asking the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) if the BDS-ers were breaking federal law by “threatening” Israeli stores.
The state’s Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien raised the spectre of 20th century attacks on Jewish businesses and claimed BDS was a threat to democratic order. Bizarrely, he singled out the Maritime Union Of Australia, Geelong Trades Hall Council, the Green Left Weekly magazine, Australians for Palestine and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. For the record, Australians for Palestine had nothing to do with the BDS protest against Max Brenner, though they do back BDS.
The Australian followed up with a story recently headlined, “Targeted chocolatier ‘a man of peace’”. “Max Brenner says he is a man of peace who hates all forms of violence,” the article says. Reporter Cameron Stewart doesn’t mention the serious allegations against the IDF soldiers supported by Max Brenner. (And besides, Max Brenner is the name of the business — not of the company owner. Actually, it’s an amalgam of two names.)
One of the activists interviewed by Stewart, Kim Bullimore, spokesperson for Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, told me that little of what she said to the journalist ended up in the article.
The Australian editorialised further on the matter last week by arguing “for any student of 20th-century history there is something deeply offensive about targeting a Jewish-owned business”.
And the Jewish establishment said nothing.
BDS is a peaceful, non-violent movement, like that which campaigned against apartheid South Africa. It aims to put pressure on a state that refuses to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
What Australian politicians will not acknowledge is the real face of modern Israel. Calling for BDS inside Israel is now illegal. As an Arab member of parliament recently told the New York Times, a member of the Knesset wanted to sue him for simply calling for a boycott against the illegal settlement of Ariel. This is in “democratic” Israel.
With Israel announcing yet more illegal colonies in the West Bank, the international community has a clear choice: engage in empty rhetoric about “democratic” Israel or find alternative ways to target a state with one of the most unequal class systems in the developed world.
Australian politicians and all public figures should be strongly challenged on comparing BDS to fascist hoodlums, and rejected.
This article first appeared on ABC Drum.
In the last couple of weeks, the pro-Zionist Murdoch Press and Zionists supporters of Israel have gone into overdrive trying to smear both the Palestinian initiated BDS campaign ad non-violent protestors involved in the Max Brenner BDS protests in Melbourne. The Murdoch press have made it clear that they are continuig the campaign against BDS which they started against the Marrickville Council earlier this year. Michael Brull’s article published on the ABC Drum website, is the first mainstream article to deal with the subject the BDS and Max Brenner protests without hysteria and a pro-Zionist agenda. Brull is a well-known Jewish anti-Zionist writer/commentator. While Brull is publicly on record as not being a supporter of BDS, he correctly points out that there is a concerted, undemocratic attempt to not only forcibly campaign crush by the Victoria Police and Victorian state to crush the Melbourne BDS protests outside of Max Brenner, but this attempt has bee aided by the Murdoch Press in their relentless promotion/accusations that BDS, the Max Brenner protests and the protests are an equivalence to the Nazis.
The campaign agaist the Max Brenner protestors
by Michael Brull: ABC Drum
On July 1, a small group of activists protested Max Brenner in Melbourne. Here in Sydney, similar protests have taken place over the last few years, and have seemingly passed without incident. The reasons for the protest were explained by one of its participants, Benjamin Solah. He explained that “the company sends care packages of chocolate and other goods to show their support for the Golani and the Givati brigades”. One protester’s sign less plausibly explained, “MAX BRENNER PROUDLY SUPPORTS THE DISPLACEMENT, TORTURE AND GENOCIDE OF PALESTINIANS”.
Max Brenner, for his part, has described himself as a “man of peace”. In a typically non-probing Australian article, he explained: ‘Everything that has to do with conflict seems stupid (to [him]),’ he said. ‘Whether it is in Israel or not, anything to do with violence, aggressiveness or appearing at protests or boycotts seems silly (to me). But then again, I am just a chocolate-maker.’
This would presumably have stretched the credulity of any journalist who had interviewed him. Obviously, if Mr Brenner sends chocolate to his favourite Israeli army brigades, he is not quite as apolitical as he portrays himself. He does not, after all, send chocolate packages to fighters in Hamas, or Hezbollah. Or if he were entirely disinterested in the conflict, perhaps instead of sending chocolate to soldiers, he would try to send it to Gaza (which the Israeli government wouldn’t allow, on account of the blockade for purely security reasons).
As for the aims of the protest, they are perhaps not entirely clear. A website in support of the protesters says its aim is “to draw attention to the ongoing genocide committed by the Apartheid regime in Israel against Palestinians”. For those who are not part of the small Leninist groups that seem to comprise the core of these protests, it is not clear how picketing a chocolate store will demonstrate to the public that genocide is occurring in Palestine. Even Australians for Palestine – the largest such group in Melbourne – did not get involved in these protests. Presumably, they too did not think Max Brenner was the best choice of target to raise consciousness of suffering (let alone an alleged “genocide”) in Palestine.
Suppose, for example, that the protests were successful. Max Brenner suffered crippling financial losses because of the protests. They respond by no longer giving out chocolate to Israeli soldiers. Does anyone think that that would improve life for the Palestinians? That this is the infrastructure of the occupation? That when Israeli soldiers don’t get Max Brenner’s (mediocre) chocolate products, they’ll stop humiliating Palestinians at checkpoints in the West Bank?
I don’t think it would be that difficult to find a more appropriate target for protests. For example, at the University of New South Wales, there is an alleged Australian Human Rights Centre. Amazingly, last year it had a talk called “The Fight Against Terror”. One of the speakers was Colonel Sharon Afek, Deputy Military Advocate General for the Israel Defence Forces, who apparently “held the positions of legal advisor for Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), Military Advocate General for the Israeli Air Force and, Head of the International Law branch of the IDF”. Considering the Israeli army’s open contempt for international law, this should have been considered a scandal for an alleged human rights centre. When I have been asked about the centre, I have pointed out this fact and urged people to steer clear of it.
People protest things all the time in Australia. Obviously, most protests do not inspire most Australians: most protests are very small, for fringe causes that many Australians have only the vaguest idea about. Yet these protests have been treated differently from the many other unpopular protests in Australia: they have faced harsh repression.
There are three videos of the July protest. In this one, at about 2:30, you can see a woman asking the police to settle down, saying the protesters are non-violent. The police then rush into the crowd of placid protesters to drag away a woman. There does not appear to be any cause for the arrest: she is plainly not harming or threatening anyone.
Here, you can see a video of the protesters chanting “This is not a police state/We have the right to demonstrate”. At 0:49, the police swoop on another person they have plainly singled out for arrest: again, with no apparent cause. At about 3:07, the police advance on the protesters, and one police officer says brusquely “Move” and violently shoves a woman in a hijab.
The third video appears to be the first in order. It shows the arrival of the police in the midst of the protest. The police do not appear particularly interested in negotiations. When they arrive, the protesters boo them. The police seem to be pushing protesters within 30 seconds. At 1:50, they appear to grab a protester who was walking away from them, back into the crowd. Around 3:30, we see the incident from the first video again from a different angle: a woman saying they are non-violent, asking police to settle down, then the police rush in to grab someone.
From the videos, it appears that the protesters were not misbehaving when they were arrested. One of the protesters claims that in subsequent trial testimony, the Victorian police acknowledged the following. Firstly, they had targeted protester leadership in making arrests. Secondly, police infiltrators had attended meetings of the protesters to monitor their activities.
Solah alleges that police violence in making arrests caused one arrestee to lose consciousness. Nineteen protesters were arrested, and 13 of them had bail conditions banning them from going within 50 metres of Max Brenner. Presumably, such conditions are to further criminalise protests against Max Brenner. On August 9, four of the 13 were arrested again in morning raids. They had allegedly protested Max Brenner, in defiance of their bail conditions. Three of them had bail set at $2,000. One of them had bail set at $10 000, presumably with the intent of keeping her in jail until her hearing on September 5.
This is part of a broader campaign against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, targeted at Israel. As I’ve noted before, there is an extensive and widening literature of comparing people who advocate BDS to the Nazis. Paul Howes, the Australian Workers Union secretary, said the protesters were “mimicking the behaviour of the Nazi thugs”. Labor MP Michael Danby explained that “We remember the precedence of the 1930s; my father came from Germany, and (at) any sign of this kind of behaviour we have to draw a line in the sand”. Kevin Rudd claimed to learn a similar lesson from history.
Gerard Henderson sought to be circumspect, so he made different point: “the historical parallels. In the mid-1930s, Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists used to go on rampages outside Jewish-owned shops in London’s East End – some were boycotted, others smashed up”.
This atmosphere of pervasive demonisation of the protesters has made possible repression of the protesters that should be considered shocking. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission has been asked to investigate whether injunctive relief and damages can be inflicted on the protesters. Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien “singled out the Maritime Union Of Australia, Geelong Trades Hall Council, the Green Left Weekly magazine, Australians for Palestine and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign” for such measures.
The reason is that such organisations “may have engaged in secondary boycotts for the purpose of causing substantial loss or damage to Max Brenner’s business”.
It is worth considering the significance of this. Firstly, do we think it is reasonable that Australia should become a country where activists are prevented from advocating consumer boycotts that cause substantial loss or damage to what they consider an unethical business? Suppose that this is successful. What about those who engage in secondary boycotts for the purpose of causing substantial loss to Australian coal companies, for the purpose of reducing Australia’s carbon footprint? In this instance, Australians for Palestine expressly did not take part in the protests at Max Brenner. They simply advocate BDS – and the activists at Max Brenner thought that fit into that campaign. Applying similar logic, next time Climate Camp activists decide to lock themselves to a coal station to shut down production, police may arrest intellectuals, like Clive Hamilton and Guy Pearse.Does this sound like the kind of democracy we want to live in?
Indeed, it is striking how untroubled Australian commentators seem by these developments. In Israel, a law was recently passed which provided that anyone who calls for a boycott of Israel, or the settlements, could be sued. This was considered outrageous in Israel, and a black mark on its claim to being democratic. As I noted in July, Meretz called the law “an embarrassment to Israeli democracy and makes people around the world wonder if there is actually a democracy here”. Kadima complained that “you’re sending people to the gulag for their opinions”. The American Jewish paper Forward described this as an “an odious law for the ways in which it chills free speech in Israel”, noting that “democracy’s greatest test is its ability to allow the harshest criticism, whether the flag burners or the boycotters”.
Here in Australia, the Australian Jewish News ran two op eds blasting the law. They both came from board members of a new organisation the New Israel Fund Australia. Its chairman is Robin Margo, who used to be the president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. That is, his “”Jewish establishment” credentials are beyond reproach”, as Galus Australis noted. In the AJN, NIFA board member Mandi Katz condemned this “broad reaching law that uses the power of the state to silence dissenting political expression. This is indisputably undemocratic, as will be clear to anyone who values democracy, however strongly opposed they may be to boycotts as a means for political change.” That is, the one in Israel.
The point is plain. One could be a fanatical Zionist, love everything the Israeli government does, and still think people who disagree should not face criminal or financial penalties for believing otherwise. That is kind of the point of liberal democracy. Even people with really unpopular points of view should be allowed to say what they believe. It is sad that what is considered a black mark on Israeli democracy isn’t considered a big deal here. It is comical that the demonisation of boycotters of Israel appears to be more intense in Australia than it even is in Israel. It is a shame that opponents of the Max Brenner protests are not content to simply say: ‘I believe your protests are silly, and believe I can convince the public of this.’ Instead, there is a campaign to forcibly crush the protesters, assisted by the Murdoch media’s relentless promotion of their equivalence to the Nazis.
Michael Brull has a featured blog at Independent Australian Jewish Voices, and is involved in Stop The Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS).
Occupied Palestine – The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the broadest Palestinian civil society coalition and the Palestinian leadership of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, commends human rights and Palestine solidarity organizations across Australia who signed a unity statement reiterating their support for BDS as the most effective and non-violent campaign to end Israel’s systematic oppression of the Palestinian people . We stand with Australian activists in the face of the organized repression and smear campaign they have been facing for the past year, since the attempts to overturn the Marrickville council BDS motion. As Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation, refugees not allowed to return to our homes and Palestinians living as second class citizens in Israel – we are heartened by the courage of Australian activists and their commitment to building a grassroots movement across Australia in support of Palestinian human rights.
Most recently, the repression campaign has culminated with the Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien singling out Palestine solidarity organisations calling for them to be investigated by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) for suspicion that they may be involved in ‘secondary boycotts’ against Israeli-owned businesses in Australia. An article in The Australian reported that the “Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien said the protesters had deliberately pinpointed businesses with Israeli ownership and who they believed traded with the Israeli government” . This is a completely false accusation and a cynical attempt to smear BDS activism in Australia. Nowhere in the world are BDS activities about targeting specifically business with Israeli ownership, based on the nationality of their owner. Businesses and institutions are rather chosen based on their direct contribution to grave human rights abuses and international law violations of the Israeli state and military, or to rebranding campaigns that attempt to whitewash Israel’s crimes.
We admit that it is confounding to Palestinians who lead the BDS movement, that as youth across the Arab world take to the streets and risk
their lives in the fight for basic democratic rights and freedom of expression – in countries that claim to be democratic, such as Australia, politicians are going to great length to curtail freedom of expression and shield the state of Israel from any criticism. The problem lies with staunch supporters of Israel who refuse to admit that universally recognised standards of international law and social justice apply as much to Israel as they do to any other state.
Israel’s long-standing, systematic and deeply consequential violation of international human rights and humanitarian law has come under global scrutiny and criticism like never before. “Apartheid” has, once again, become a household word. Whereas in the 1980s it became synonymous with South Africa, apartheid is now widely recognized as the foundational condition of Israeli policy and practices towards Palestinians.
The Australian people played an important role in the South African anti-apartheid movement, unions implemented the oil embargo, a trade and arms embargo was carried out as well, and the sports boycott actions continue to be remembered internationally with great pride across social movements. We are witnessing today politicians who attempt to criminalize these types of BDS actions, but just as Australians had a right to challenge apartheid then, they have every right to challenge Israel’s system of apartheid, colonialism and occupation as well. The Palestinian-led BDS campaign and supporters internationally will not be deterred by desperate attempts to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.
The curtailment of freedom of expression and the smear campaigns are unfortunately consistent with the Australian state’s support for Israel. Australian politicians across the spectrum have boasted about the “special relationship” and “bond” with the Israeli state. Inflammatory accusations of anti- Semitism are patently false, intellectually and morally dishonest, and serve to discredit and silence any form of criticism directed against Israel’s war crimes and human rights abuses.
We remind the government of Australia of its obligations under international law to respect basic human rights and end all support of Israel’s war crimes and other serious violations of international law. The Australian government must urgently end its arms trade with Israel and impose sanctions upon it rather than investigate dissident organizations who, in the tradition of principled international solidarity, are taking the moral responsibility to end Israel’s impunity and Australia’s complicity in it.
We will continue to work closely with human rights and solidarity organizations across Australia, despite all silencing attempts, until Israel respects international law and freedom, justice and equality are achieved for the Palestinian people.
1.Human Rights and Community Organisations condemn attempts to silence BDS Movement
2. Israeli boycotts: ACCC Called In at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/israeli-boycottsaccc-
13 August 2011
We the undersigned call on the Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien to withdraw allegations he made singling out several pro-Palestine advocacy groups calling for them to be investigated by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) for an alleged suspicion that they may be involved in ‘secondary boycotts’ against Israeli-owned businesses in Australia.
These allegations form an ongoing campaign of intensified attacks on Palestine solidarity organising and freedom of expression in Australia. We understand the current round of attacks to be a direct reaction to a growing international solidarity movement in support of Palestinian human rights, so we take the opportunity to reiterate our support for the Palestinian civil society’s call for boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) from Israel.
The BDS campaign is based on well-founded criticism of the Israeli state for its ongoing violations of international law, violations that include: Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories; its settlement-building and construction of an apartheid wall on occupied land; its refusal to respect the right of Palestinian refugees to return; and its ongoing military siege on the Gaza strip.
As in the past when the Australian people participated in the boycott campaign against apartheid South Africa, we affirm our right to participate in the BDS campaign against apartheid Israel in our churches, unions, professional bodies, local councils, parliaments and community groups. This campaign has provided a vital and viable framework and non-violent approach to building an anti-apartheid movement grounded in principles of international solidarity. People of conscience in Australia, have a proud history of principled international solidarity through BDS campaigns – any legalistic attempts, employing anti-union laws such as the ‘secondary boycotts’ law, will fail to deter social justice groups from vocally advocating the BDS campaign and supporting Palestinian human rights.
It is very disappointing that elected politicians choose to launch investigations into human-rights and solidarity organisations, rather than explain to the public why Israel is not held to account for its violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice against Israel’s Wall and colonial settlements. The active attempts to repress Australian organisations that work to promote Israel’s accountability before international law is beyond reproach.
We stress that the BDS movement is an anti-racist movement that rejects all forms of racism including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The consumer-boycott campaigns are aimed at institutions and businesses that provide support for ongoing Israeli violations of international law, they do not target any particular religious or ethnic group.
We note that most of the organisations named by the Minister for the investigation did not take part in the protest he refers to against Max Brenner stores in Melbourne. This is a clear indication that he has not looked closely into the matter, but is purely targeting all pro-Palestine advocacy groups on the basis of their support for BDS. Although, we may not have all participated in this specific protest, we strongly believe in the basic right to peacefully protest and raise awareness about businesses that have questionable policies and show blatant disregard for basic human rights.
We urge elected officials to remember that their job is to protect rights and freedoms and to represent democratic values, not to waste our hard earned tax dollars on trying to appease a foreign state and those who blindly cheer for it.
Justice for Palestine (JFP-Qld)
Australians for Palestine (AFP)
Women for Palestine (WFP)
Australian Friends of Palestine (AFOPA-SA)
Action for Palestine (SA)
Friends of Palestine (FOP-WA)
Students for Justice for Palestine (UTS)
Students for Palestine (Vic)
Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC-Melbourne)
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA)
Australian Palestinian Professionals Association (APPA)
Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN)
Artists Against Apartheid (AAA)
Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine (CJPP-Sydney)
In early July, Israeli pro-BDS campaigners issued a statement in solidarity with Melbourne activists arrest on July 1, when a peaceful non-violent BDS action outside of Max Brenner in the Queen Victoria centre was brutally attack by police.
Israeli activists, today (11 August) issued a second statement in solidarity with pro-Palestine solidarity activists and the Australian BDS movement, which is currently facing police and state repression.
14 July 20011
Statement in solidarity with the 19 activists arrested on July 1.
Following anti-Democratic Arrests and Intimidation Attempts: Israeli Citizens in Solidarity with Australian BDS Activists!
Witnessing first-hand the brutality of our government against the Palestinian people, we have joined the July 2005 Palestinian call for a comprehensive boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against the state of Israel and its institutions. Such means should be applied as long as Israel continues to flout international law and UN resolutions and refuses to acknowledge the Palestinian people’s universally recognized human rights: The rights of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories, the rights of Israel’s Palestinian citizens, and the rights of Palestinians who were expelled from their homes during the Nakba (the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine).
As Israeli citizens, we are angered by the outrageous attempts to exploit the horrors committed by the Nazi regime, through a comparison of the Palestinian led BDS campaign to the 1933 Nazi boycott campaign, in order to try and silence the Palestinian non-violent popular struggle for freedom and justice. The deplorable and racist Nazi boycott campaign targeted all Jews, without exception, and only for being Jewish. The Australian BDS campaign does NOT target Jewish businesses, as argued by demagogues in Australia! The lesson from the Jewish Holocaust should be, in our view, the need to oppose all forms of discrimination and violence committed against different ethnic groups in the name of nationalist or supremacist ideologies. The state of Israel has failed to learn that lesson.
To reiterate, we are concerned that some politicians in Australia have accused the activists involved in BDS of being anti-Semitic. We reject those accusations. The BDS campaign is a legitimate form of non-violent political action, whereby people and organizations are required not to participate in or support violations of international law. We take a clear stand against all forms of racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia. Not only does the BDS campaign oppose anti-Semitism, it is also a responsible call that targets only complicit institutions rather than individuals. BDS is neither anti-Jewish nor anti-Israeli, since it does not oppose all that is Israeli because it is Israeli: the campaign simply insists that Israel abide by its obligations under international law. Furthermore, by attempting to lump together all Jews around the world as a monolithic block that is expected to support its criminal policies, the state of Israel is denying the fact that many Jews, including in Israel, oppose the occupation and apartheid policies inflicted on the Palestinian people.
The current debate within Israeli society shows us that the boycott campaign is extremely effective. The latest attempt by the Israeli government to silence its own citizens, the new anti-boycott legislation, in addition to other explicitly racist laws, is yet another indication of the need for this Palestinian-led non-violent global movement, in order to insure the rights of all people in this region.
The recent Australian BDS actions have been a great inspiration. We are encouraged to know that as far-away as Down Under there are individuals and groups active in the BDS campaign, promoting the Palestinian people’s unassailable rights. The BDS movement needs your help and support. We call upon all Australians to join and support the struggle for freedom and equality in Palestine.
With the deepest gratitude and all our support,
Posted in BDS actions & activities, tagged apartheid, arrests, Baillieu government, Boycott, Israel, Max Brenner, Palestine, police violence, repression, Seacret, Zionist lobby on August 10, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
Originally posted on Electronic Intifada
By Kim Bullimore: 9 August 2011
In the largest show of support for the Palestinian-initiated boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign so far in Australia, more than 350 persons marched on 29 July in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle — and in opposition to an attempt by Victorian Police to criminalize Palestine solidarity activism in Melbourne.
A month earlier, on 1 July, a similar, peaceful BDS action involving 120 persons was brutally attacked by the Victorian Police. Nineteen individuals were arrested.
Charged with “trespassing” and “besetting,” those arrested are now facing fines of up to AUD $30,000 (approximately US $32,300). The 1 July action, organized by the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, had sought to highlight the complicity of two Israeli companies, Jericho and Max Brenner Chocolate, with Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies. The action was the fourth protest against both companies since December 2010.
Jericho, located in Melbourne Central Shopping Centre and other shopping centers around the city, produces cosmetics made from minerals exploited from the Dead Sea. While Jericho and other Israeli companies — such as Ahava, also a target of BDS campaigns — profit from the Dead Sea, Palestinians are regularly denied access by Israel’s military checkpoints, exclusion zones and Israeli-only roads.
Max Brenner Chocolate, the other Israeli company subject to BDS protests in Melbourne, is owned by the Strauss Group — one of Israel’s largest food and beverage companies. On its website, the Strauss Group emphasizes its support for the Israeli military, providing care packages, sports and recreational equipment, books and games for soldiers.
Strauss boasts support for the Golani and Givati Brigades, which were heavily involved in Israel’s military assault on the Gaza Strip in the Winter of 2008-09, which resulted in the killing of approximately 1,400 Palestinians, the majority civilians, including approximately 350 children. While Strauss has removed information about their support for the Golani and Givati brigades from their English language website, information about the company’s support for both brigades remains on their Hebrew language site.
BDS repression coordinated with Israeli government
Trade union and community representatives spoke at the rally on 29 July before the crowd marched through the city. In spite of repeated threats of mass arrests by Victoria Police — and the deployment of police horses in one of the shopping centers — the protest marched into both the Melbourne Central and Queen Victoria centers, staging peaceful sit-ins in front of the Max Brenner stores located within.
Two day earlier, on 27 July, the Victorian police confirmed during a bail variation hearing at the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria (local District Court) for some of the activists arrested on 1 July that a decision had been made to arrest the protesters before the demonstration. This decision was made after discussions with Zionist organizations, the Victorian government, shopping center managements and state and national management of Max Brenner.
In April, the Australian Jewish News (AJN) reported that the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) had made representations to the Victorian police. According to the AJN, JCCV president John Searle had “called on the police to stamp down harder on aggressive protesters” (“Police questioned as protests turn violent,” 15 April 2011). Similar calls for a government and police crackdown on BDS protests against Max Brenner in Sydney were made in June by former AJN journalist Walt Secord, who is now a member of the NSW State Parliament (“Police called to action on BDS,” 24 June 2011).
On July 29, the same day as the BDS action against Max Brenner in Melbourne the Australian Jewish News carried a “debate” piece between Vic Alhadeff, the CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, and Ted Lapkin, a former staffer with the key pro-Israeli lobby group in Australia, the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council. The piece reveals that the various calls for police and government crackdown on BDS activism was part of a “nationally coordinated strategy” developed with and backed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry (“BDS: To protest or not to protest?”).
Arguing against any Zionist-organized BDS “counter” protest, Alhadeff writes: “It is important for the community to be aware that our response to BDS forms part of [a] coordinated national strategy. Furthermore, this strategy is endorsed by counterparts abroad and Israel’s Foreign Ministry.”
Alhadeff outlined this coordinated national strategy in response to BDS, stating that it “included, but is not limited to, engagement with civil society and politicians, patronage of boycotted outlets, cooperation with police, shop owners and center managers and exposure of the motives behind the BDS movement.” According to Alhadeff, Zionist policy in response to BDS should be one which seeks to “speak softly” but to also carry “a suggestion of a big stick.”
Activism leadership targeted
During cross-examination by Robert Stary, the lawyer representing the activists, Michael Beattie, an operational support inspector with the the Victorian Police, conceded that both Melbourne Central and Queen Victoria shopping centers were “public places” and that neither center prior to 1 July had sought any civil injunctions to prevent entry to the public places inside.
The cross-examination by Stary also revealed that the main reason that police had decided to criminalize the actions against the Israeli companies was because they had been well-organized, coordinated and effective.
Victorian Police acknowledged that the demonstrations had been peaceful, that solidarity activists hadn’t damaged property and there was no record of police or any member of the public being injured.
According to the testimony given by Inspector Beattie, the police had specifically sought to target the leadership of the protests, in particular those activists the police perceived as “operating a command and control function,” in order to diminish the possibility of well-coordinated demonstrations — and to ensure “no protesters go to property and disrupt targeted business or additional businesses.”
According to Inspector Beattie, “the protesters had their own way” for too long and a “decision [was] made to draw a line in the sand and make arrests.” Another police officer, Senior Sargent Andrew Falconer, also gave testimony at the court hearing and acknowledged that police infiltrators had been sent to pro-Palestine solidarity meetings in order to monitor the activity of BDS activists.
In a statement issued after their arrests, the nineteen activists noted that “the attack on the peaceful BDS action in Melbourne highlights increasing attempts to criminalize BDS and Palestine solidarity activism internationally. Currently in the US, France and Greece, hundreds of pro-Palestine activists are facing criminal charges for nonviolently standing up for Palestinian human rights” (“Support the Boycott Israel 19 Defence Campaign”).
James Crafti, one of the activists arrested, told The Electronic Intifada that “the attempt by Israel and governments around the world to criminalize pro-Palestinian and BDS activism ignores the fact that the real criminal activity is being carried out by the Israeli state.”
“Since its founding in 1948, Israel has sought to ethnically cleanse the indigenous Palestinian people through war, occupation and apartheid practices. Israel regularly engages in collective punishment, arbitrary arrests, extra-judicial assassinations and the demolition of Palestinian homes and civil infrastructure, all of which are illegal under international law,” he added.
Crafti noted that while the Victorian and Australian governments sought to criminalize support for Palestine self-determination, they refused to hold Israel accountable for its human rights abuses, war crimes and apartheid policies.
All of the arrested activists who spoke to The Electronic Intifada said the police attack on the protest also highlighted the increasing repression of civil liberties and freedom of speech by the Victorian (conservative) Baillieu government.
One Palestine solidarity activist, Sue Bolton, who has been charged with “besetting” (obstructing or hindering the right to enter, use or leave a premise), asserted that the police reaction to the action on 1 July was “over the top.”
“There were massive numbers of police, well over a hundred, not counting those behind the scenes in the loading docks,” she said.
According to Bolton, the Queen Victoria Centre loading docks had been cleared of delivery trucks, allowing the police to set up a processing unit and bring in prison transport trucks to be used as holding cells for those arrested.
Bolton described how police had sought to “kettle” the demonstration by corralling protesters and physically pushing them into a smaller and smaller area. According to Bolton, this resulted in a number of protesters being injured and crushed when the police had surrounded and violently pushed protesters from all sides.
Similar tactics have been used by police forces in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Finland and Denmark. The use of kettling by police in the UK against student protesters in November 2010 has led to legal challenges and the calling for a ban on the use of the tactic in the British High Court and the European Court of Human Rights.
Damian Ridgwell, another Palestine solidarity protester arrested on 1 July, told The Electronic Intifada that he had been standing away from the peaceful picket, speaking on a megaphone when three policemen grabbed him.
“I was dragged behind police lines,” Ridgwell said. “Once they grabbed me and started dragging me, I went limp and dropped to the ground … As I was being carried through the corridors of the loading dock, I lost consciousness because one of the police had me in a choke hold. I am not sure how long I was out, probably a few minutes. I woke up on the loading dock floor and heard the police saying I was ‘out.’”
Ridgwell, who was charged with trespassing, said “while it is outrageous we were arrested for peacefully demonstrating, our arrests have to be seen in the context of the Australia government’s support for Israel and its continued theft of Palestinian land … it’s important we don’t let the police intimidate protests like this. It is important to keep going with the protests and to keep supporting BDS.”
Australian government’s support of Israeli apartheid
Successive Australian governments, including the current Gillard government, have long supported Israel’s colonial and apartheid policies.
Current Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard signaled her uncritical support for Israel when she was still deputy Prime Minster of Australia. During the early days of Israel’s bombing of Gaza in the winter of 2008-09, she blamed Palestinians for Israel’s all-out assault, saying that Hamas must “renounce violence” and that Israel had the “right to defend itself.”
During a visit to Israel In 2009, Gillard was thanked by Israeli government minister Isaac Herzog for standing “almost alone on the world stage in support of Israel’s right to defend itself” (“Israel to Gillard: thanks for standing by us,” The Age, 24 June 2009).
The arrested activists noted that in June, the Baillieu government had established a new 42-member riot squad — and the attack on the 1 July protest was the first time it had been used in any significant way.
According to James Crafti, “the Victorian government thinks it can easily get away with attacking a pro-Palestine action because they think they can label us anti-Semitic.” Crafti, who is Jewish, said that the police and those opposed to the BDS actions, however, “underestimate the sympathy towards both Palestine and the [Palestine solidarity] movement in the broader community.”
“The amount of force used by the police and the response of the political elite to our protests, particularly the fact that the Australian Foreign Minister [and former Australian Prime Minister] Kevin Rudd felt the need to go a few days after our protest to Max Brenner as a public relations stunt is a sign of the pro-Israeli forces’ desperation,” he added.
The eleven activists succeeded in changing the original bail conditions preventing them from entering either shopping center (which also host medical clinics and a major train station) until the end of their case, to a lesser restriction of being prohibited from being within fifty meters of Max Brenner in both centers. However, Stary said he was still “anxious about the criminalization of dissent.”
“The police should not be used to protect the interests of an international commercial company,” he said.
Building on the success of 29 July, Melbourne activists will continue to campaign in support of Palestinian rights and oppose the criminalization of Palestine solidarity activism. The next Melbourne BDS action is scheduled for 9 September, the same week those arrested will plead not guilty to the charges against them. The defense campaign in support of the arrested activists has gained wide attention, with well-known public figures such as filmmaker John Pilger, author Norman Finkelstein and radical thinker Noam Chomsky supporting the campaign.
In a media release issued immediately following the success of the 29 July BDS action, Melbourne activists said the Victorian Police “thought that by attacking the BDS demonstration they would put an end to our movement. They were wrong … [we will] not be silenced” (“BDS returns to Max Brenner in spite of police intimidation,” 5 August 2011).
Kim Bullimore has lived and worked in the West Bank of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. She is a member of the Melbourne Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid and a co-organizer of the first national Australian BDS conference, which took place in Melbourne in October 2010. Kim writes regularly on the Palestine-Israel conflict for the Australian newspaper,Direct Action. She has a blog at livefromoccupiedpalestine.blogspot.com.
Friends of Palestine WA has called a speakout this Friday to support the BDS (boycott, divestment & sanctions against Apartheid Israel) campaigners who were arrested in dawn raids on August 9 in Melbourne. The speakout will also be taking up threats by the Victorian government to use trade practices law against the BDS movement. This has implications for all progressive campaigners and is a major free speech issue.
The speakout will be in the Murray Street Mall outside the Perth Underground Station from 4:30pm on Friday 12 August.
Join the protest for free speech and a free Palestine.
The speakout will also be promoting the Boycott Apartheid Israel rally in Perth on September 17.
Civil Liberties in Australia?
The BDS (Boycott, Sanctions and Divestments campaign) is an international campaign to put pressure on Israel’s racist, Apartheid policies until it complies with international law and stops violating Palestinian human rights through the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
The BDS campaign is modeled on the successful campaign which culminated in the dismantling of South African Apartheid. Australians, in the tradition of non-violence, were active in that campaign.
BDS targets businesses that contribute to, or profit from, Israel’s violent military occupation of Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza.
Some BDS targets are Israeli owned, such as Max Brenner and Seacret Cosmetics (which mines the Dead Sea within occupied Palestine). Some BDS targets are international, such as Caterpillar (who produce special equipment to destroy Palestinian homes and agriculture) and Veolia transport and waste management (who are building railways on stolen Palestinian land, for exclusive Israeli use).
On July 5, at a BDS protest outside a Max Brenner shop in Melbourne, 19 peace activists were arrested. They thought consumers should be aware that this corporation directly funds Israeli military units which stand accused of War Crimes against Palestinian civilians.
On August 8, during dawn raids, 4 of these activists were re-arrested, accused of violating bail conditions by attending another protest.
Meanwhile the Victorian Government is trying to use anti-union “secondary boycott” laws to silence dissent against Israel’s appalling record.
Friends of Palestine WA stands in solidarity with the BDS campaigners who were arrested in Melbourne.
Why are Australian politicians shielding Israel, and criticising human rights activists?
Why do Palestinian human rights get ignored, while Australian military trade with Israel continues?
Why shouldn’t consumers know what corporations do with their profits?
Protest, consumer information and boycotts are integral to a democratic society!
For more information on BDS see www.bdsmovement.net.
Boycott apartheid Israel! Boycott Max Brenner!
Max Brenner Chocolates is a 100% Israeli-owned company belonging to the Strauss Group, the second largest Israeli food and beverage company. On the “corporate responsibility” section of its website, the Strauss Group emphasises the support it gives to the Israeli army. The Strauss group is proud that for more than 30 years, it has supported the Golani reconnaissance platoon infamous for its involvement 2006 invasion of Lebanon and other atrocities. As their website puts it: “Our connection with soldiers goes as far back as the country, and even further. We see a mission and need to continue to provide our soldiers with support, to enhance their quality of life and service conditions, and sweeten their special moments.”
PROTEST: Sat August 27
Gather at 1pm in park on cnr of Merivale & Glenelg St for a march to Max Brenner store at South Bank
Phone: 0400 720 757, 0401 586 923
spread the word!
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