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Archive for August, 2011

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Max Brenner is a 100% Israeli own company.  It 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 Operation Cast Lead,  Israel’s brutal military assault on the Gaza Strip in December 2008/January 2009.   Operation Cast Lead  resulted in approximately 1,400 Palestinians being killed, 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.


 

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On Tuesday, 9 August, 4 pro-Palestine activists were arrested in the early hours of the morning.   The activists were arrested for breaking un-democratic bail conditions imposed on them after Victorian Police violently attacked a non-violent peaceful BDS protest and arrested 19 non-violent peaceful demonstrators on July 1.  Initially, the anti-democratic bail conditions imposed on 11 of the 19 peaceful, non-violent activists prevent them from entering  two major shopping centres, including one which has a major train station and medical centres.  On July 27 their bail was varied to prohibited them from going within 50 meters of the two Max Brenner stores in the two city centres.

On July 29, more than 350 people attended the biggest pro-BDS action in Australia to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and to impose the anti-democratic attack and arrests of Palestine solidarity activists.  After hearing a range of speakers from the trade unions and community groups, the peaceful protestors marched through the streets of Melbourne.  Two peaceful non-violent sit-ins were held outside of two Max Brenner stores – one in Melbourne Central and one in the QV Centre.   The four activists  were arrested more than 10 days after the peaceful demonstration for allegedly participating in the non-violent peaceful sit-ins in violation of their bail conditions.

Police persecute Palestine solidarity activists to defend Israeli Apartheid

The Victorian Police and courts went to outrageous lengths to criminalise solidarity activism with Palestine today. For the crime of attending a peaceful demonstration against Max Brenner chocolate store and their support for Apartheid, four activists were snatched from their homes in the early hours of the day, locked in a holding cell, and made to pay a combined total of $16,000 in surety to be allowed to leave.

 
The four activists were part of the Max Brenner 19, peaceful demonstrators who were savagely attacked by police at a demonstration on the 1st of July. Some weeks after the protest the magistrates court imposed anti-democratic bail conditions on 11 of this 19. Which explicitly denied their right to assembly by prohibiting them on the threat of months of imprisonment from protesting against Max Brenner. This attempt to intimidate the Palestine solidarity campaign in Melbourne, has taken place in the context of a hysterical campaign by Zionist organisations, the Victorian Premier Ted Bailieu, and the Victorian Police, to silence protest calling for Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions against Apartheid Israel.

 
Today the courts and the police went out of their way to try to punish these four activists by any means possible, when none have been convicted of any crime. Indeed, no crime has been committed except to attend pro-Palestine demonstrations. The four activists were denied their right to phone calls when placed in remand, in an attempt to isolate and demoralise them. It was over 7 hours after their arrest that they were allowed to speak to their lawyers.

 
Once they were brought before a magistrate for a bail hearing, excessively punitive conditions were placed on their liberty for their alleged offenses. The magistrate chose the harshest possible conditions for bail. For the explicit purpose of preventing them from protesting at or even near Max Brenner. Three were made to pay $2,000 in surety each to be granted bail. One was singled out for far harsher conditions on the basis that she has been a public spokesperson at these demonstrations. For the crime of speaking their mind, they were made to pay $2,000 in surety plus another $8,000 the following week. A sum of money that is many times the maximum sentence for her alleged offense.

 
Once all four were granted bail on these conditions, they were further punished by deliberately delaying their release. Friends of the detainees have been made to wait over 5 hours to pay the surety for their release. Despite people being present at 5pm to pay for their release, it was 9:30pm before a single detainee was let out. At the time of writing this report only 2 had been released.
It appears that in the eyes of the courts, protesting in solidarity with the Palestinians struggle for freedom is a heinous crime, while Max Brenner’s support for genocide and occupation is not.

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MEDIA RELEASE      Tuesday 9 August
 
BAILLIEU GOVERNMENT ESCALATES ATTACKS ON CIVIL LIBERTIES
 
Dawn raids see pro-Palestine activists arrested
Police demand activists be held in custody for weeks

 
Raids carried out at dawn this morning by police have seen several pro-Palestine activists arrested, in the most severe crack-down on civil liberties in decades. The activists are being targeted because of their involvement in protests against chocolate shop Max Brenner, a chain store with strong ties to the Israeli military. The protests are part of the worldwide Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which aims to draw attention to the ongoing genocide committed by the Apartheid regime in Israel against Palestinians.
 
Campaign organiser Omar Hassan:
 
“This crack-down on the right to protest should be of concern to all Victorians. The lengths to which the Baillieu government is going to eradicate criticism of Israeli Apartheid and criminalise dissent are unprecedented. We need to be clearly saying; demonstrating is not a crime. Taking action in support of Palestine is not a crime.”
 
The activists were arrested for breaching bail conditions imposed following arrests at a previous pro-Palestine protest at Max Brenner. The bail conditions, which prohibit arrestees going within 50 metres of a Max Brenner shop, are themselves a serious curtailment on the right to protest.  The arrestees have been told they will be held until September the 5th.

 
As Hassan points out:
 
“Actions taken against South African businesses by anti-Apartheid protests were important in generating opposition to that racist regime. To outlaw similar actions today can only be motivated by a desire to protect the reputation of Israel, and represent an unacceptable attack on our right to express dissent and show solidarity with oppressed people around the world.”
 
http://boycottisrael19.wordpress.com/

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by Margaret Cassar: 4 August, 2011

Originally posted on Mondoweiss

Adelaide is the capital of South Australia. It’s a sprawling city; Adelaide’s metropolitan region is more than twice the size of Gaza but with a smaller population. Gaza has 1.7 million people compared with Adelaide’s 1.2 million. However there are much more significant differences. Here we move freely in and out of our city and country, trade with everyone, have ready access to water, food, medicines, hospitals, medical care and education. No-one has ever imprisoned our whole population and then bombed us. Yet in spite of our differences and the vast 13,000 km distance between our cities a growing number of people in Adelaide are developing a sense of solidarity with the people of Palestine.

As part of our contribution to the international BDS movement, over 10 months ago the Australian Friends of Palestine Association held the first Adelaide Seacret (Israeli cosmetic company) protest. Each week an ever increasing number of pro-Palestinian protesters have demonstrated in front of the Myer Centre shopping complex which hosts the Seacret kiosk. Our latest You Tube shows that despite strong opposition and varying intimidating tactics from Zionist sympathizers, we are determined to continue to educate the people of Adelaide about Palestine and encourage them to boycott Israeli products.

Our first action was held on October 8th 2010 and we were fortunate to have Tariq Ali present. The next few weeks saw numbers drop but our persistence paid off as people shopping in the Mall started to ask if they could join the protesters. The word spread. From the initial dozen protesters there are now consistently approximately three dozen protesters in the Mall every week with the average numbers for every month increasing. The following You Tube shows a not uncommon scenario where a group of young teenage boys just passing by were inspired to join in. Our aim with these protests was to educate Adelaide shoppers about the human rights violations inflicted every day upon the Palestinian and to inform them about the current boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement plus show shoppers in the Mall how they could boycott Israeli goods. Every week we see more and more evidence that a city like Adelaide not only needs to hear the truth about Palestine but in general wants to hear factual information about the conflict in the Middle East.

Hundreds of people have stopped to talk to us about the situation in Palestine. Most are genuinely interested, some want to argue the point and some want to abuse us. However it is obvious that, particularly since “Operation Cast Lead”, there are many people in Adelaide who feel compassion for the people of Palestine. These Seacret protests are tapping into a growing disquiet among Australians about the human rights abuses in Palestine and the complicity of our government in supporting a military occupation that causes so much suffering. An interesting aspect to these 44 weeks of protesting in the Mall has been the amount of intimidating behaviour from all manner of groups. Probably the easiest to deal with has been our apparent interest to photographers as most weeks we are filmed both openly and covertly by at least 5 people. Occasionally we are told the photographs would be used in a court case against us. A common comment was that we were being photographed so that photos could be sent back to “friends in Israel”.

Abusive behaviour towards the protesters from seemingly random people passing by is becoming more threatening and plumbing new depths in sexist and racist remarks. I use the words “seemingly random” because most weeks there seems to be a common theme behind the abuse, eg just recently all commentary mentioned that we were Australians and not interested in other people’s problems. It all starts to look a bit scripted and rehearsed. Initially words like “misguided” were yelled at us now it’s more likely to include an expletive and the attractive female protesters have been subject to objectionable comments ranging from the patronizing (“Go home to your husband”) to the sleazy (“You can lick my Zionist balls”). None of this reflects well on our detractors.

Most worrying has been the revelation that Christian Zionists play a powerful role on the ground in countries like Australia in stifling debate on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Our Christian Zionist counter-protesters have used an arsenal of techniques to scare us away from the Mall. They turn up in groups and loudly proclaim a most un-Christian hatred and condemnation of the protesters and many other sections of the Australian community. This particular group usually arrives with Israeli flags, soap boxes, a full size cross on wheels and loud speakers to stridently broadcast their repugnant views to hapless shoppers in the Mall. Some verbally abuse the protesters and all promote a similar message, “You are doing the devil’s work and you need to repent or you will end up in hell.” Protesters have been called murderers and we have witnessed certain protesters being targeted in an attempt to provoke violent reactions.

Residents of Adelaide are not surprised by this but it would appear that peaceful pro-Palestinian protests have zero interest for our media. As you saw in the earlier You Tube of our actions for Weeks 41 and 42 the Seacret protest group is highly visible as the protesters wear bright green T-shirts, hold large placards, banners and Palestinian flags. Though we have attracted the attention of tens of thousands of passers-by, engaged hundreds of people in discussion about Palestine and given out over 20,000 leaflets, we are apparently invisible to local mainstream media. In 10 months not one word has been printed in our only local daily newspaper, News Limited’s The Advertiser. Apple growers from the Adelaide Hills rightly received considerable space for one of their protests. Ditto for teachers and truck drivers. For me the interesting story is why nearly a year of peaceful protests is not worth one word of print. It would seem pro-Palestinian activists may only be seen in the media if they can be portrayed as violent and in conflict with the police.

It has also been interesting to see that while Adelaide’s mainstream media has deliberately ignored the protests other elements of society have paid us lots of attention. For example when the protests first started there would be approximately 15 management and security personnel watching a dozen protesters hold placards and hand out leaflets. Members of SAPOL (South Australian Police) quickly realized we were law-abiding and at all times the police have treated protesters with courtesy.

Australian politicians in the main are stridently pro-Israel and as we saw in the recent Marrickville council elections it is a brave politician indeed who dares endorse the BDS movement. However if they attended one of our protests they may be surprised to see that the issue of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians does resonate with Australian voters and that they could safely take a more principled stand on this issue.

Margaret Cassar is Executive Member, Australian Friends of Palestine Association

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Biggest BDS action in Australian history! Over 300 rally against Max Brenner in Melbourne.

On July 1 the Victorian police, in cahoots with the Victorian Liberal Government and Zionist groups, arrested 19 peaceful pro-Palestine demonstrators. It was a calculated attempt to intimidate BDS activists from continuing the campaign against Israeli apartheid. They thought that by attacking the BDS demonstration they would put an end to our movement. They were wrong.
In solidarity with the Max Brenner 19 and in defiance of a police intimidation, over 300 people came out tonight to demand Max Brenner be removed from QV and Melbourne Central. The largest BDS action in Australian history was determined to send a message to those who want to protect Israel from criticism, that we would not be silenced. The rally heard from Trade Union and community representatives before marching through the city. The demonstration confidently marched to the Max Brenner store in Melbourne Central chanting what became the trademark of the rally “Max Brenner, come off it! There’s blood in your hot chocolate!”
In spite of repeated threats of mass arrests by Victoria Police – and their deployment of horses within the shopping centre – the protest marched into QV and staged a sit-in in front of Max Brenner. The greatest victory of the demonstration was that it not only returned to QV and defied bans by the Police and the courts, but did so without a single arrest!
We have resolved to use this success to push towards larger actions in the future. The next protest has been called for Friday 9 September

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