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The Victorian Trades Hall Council (the peak union body in Victoria) Executive passed the following positive motion in support of the BDS campaign as well as condemning the police attacks on protesters. This is a really welcome step forward and we hope that the campaign can continue to garner more support from unions across the country. The motion is written below:

Palestine, the BDS, the ACCC and Police Behavior at Rallies

That VTHC Executive Council reaffirms its long standing policies relating to the Palestine/Israel conflict namely:

  • Its support for the BDS Campaign and Palestinian statehood.
  • Its support for the BDS campaign is aimed at urgent and sincere talks and not the tactics of the past, where while the talks were actually occurring, more settlements were being planned for construction upon Palestinian territory.
  • Council notes that in recent weeks the Israeli Knesset passed the anti-boycott bill making it illegal for Israelis to call for boycotts in response to the ongoing illegal occupation of Palestinian land, mandated to them by the UN. We note the recent spate of rallies, public meetings and debate organised by Israeli citizens in response to a number of issues including the Knesset’s new law, demanding that it be rescinded.
  • Council notes the potential involvement of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in industrial and political disputes. This would be an aggressive smokescreen aimed at stifling legitimate industrial and political activity by unions and other organisations behind a facade of protecting business interests. Executive Council notes the most recent officials to be threatened with ACCC intervention Kevin Bracken of the MUA and Tim Gooden of Geelong Trades Hall Council, in relation to speeches at a BDS rally. Hence Council directs the Secretary to raise our concerns urgently with the ACTU, and to seek a joint approach to the Federal Government to demand the guarantee that the Trades Practices Act will not be used to interfere in the political discourse.
  • Council notes with concern an increase, in some police regions and around certain political issues, in harsh and violent responses by sections of Victoria Police, in dealing with what are legitimate industrial and political protests over recent months. Council believes the arrest and prosecution of workers demonstrating at Visy Dandenong, and the arrest and prosecution of protesters at a recent BDS Rally in the CBD, indicate a disproportionate escalation of aggressive action by Victoria Police. Council believes that the be completely inconsistent with the principles of Free Speech and the right to peaceful protest.
  • Therefore Council directs the Secretary to formally lodge a protest with the State Minister for Police, seek a meeting with Police Industrial to discuss any shortfall in police training around behavior at rallies, and to have informal discussions with the Police Association on whether a new, harsh policy on industrial and political demonstrations has been introduced since the last State elections in Victoria.

MOVED: Len Cooper
SECONDED: Kevin Bracken

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On Friday, 2 September, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) issued a statement in relation to the Victorian State governments call for an investigation into pro-Palestine solidarity groups involved in or supportive of the Palestinian initiated Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, on the suspicion that protestors were engaged in “secondary boycotts” against Israeli-owned companies in Australia, such as Max Brenner Chocolate shops.

 
The call by the Victorian Liberal (conservative) government was  a highly political move, which sought to criminalise political protests in support of Palestine by invoking anti-union/anti-freedom of assembly laws.  It was the latest step in concerted year long campaign against the  BDS movement in Australia which has sought to not only repress the BDS campaign but to also smear it as anti-semitic.    As a recent statement issued by the Palestinian BDS National Committee noted the campaign to repress and smear BDS activists in Australia began in earnest late last year after the Marrickville Council in Sydney adopted a pro-BDS motion.  The motion was later overturned after a concerted campaign by Zionists and the pro-Zionist Murdoch Press. (for full BNC statement see here
 
 
Since December 2010, pro-Palestine solidarity activists in Melbourne have been conducting a series of peaceful demonstrations and pickets against Israeli companies, Jericho and Max Brenner. Jericho produces cosmetics made from minerals exploited from the Dead Sea. While Jericho 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.

 
On July 1, 19 non-violent  pro-Palestine/BDS protestors were arrested when the Victorian Police carried out an unprovoked and brutal attack on the peaceful BDS picket outside of Max Brenner Chocolate in the Queen Victoria centre (for more information on this see: here)

Early in August, the Victorian State government singled out Palestine solidarity organisations and called for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to invoke anti-union laws and investigate those involved in the BDS campaign, whether they had been involved in the Max Brenner protests or not, on the suspicion they may have been involved in “secondary boycotts” against Israeli-owned companies in Australia. 
 
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ACCC: Recent anti-Israel protests not a secondary boycott

2 September 2011

Recent protests by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign were referred to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission by the Hon. Michael O’Brien MP, Victorian Minister for Consumer Affairs on 5 August 2011. The minister requested that the protests be investigated under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA), which prohibits secondary boycotts. The letter was the subject of a media release issued by the Victorian Government on 8 August 2011.

Protesters picketed the premises of the Max Brenner chain of chocolate shops as part of a campaign to boycott businesses with Israeli ownership and which carry on business with the Government of Israel.  Protests have taken place in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and allegedly prevented potential customers from entering Max Brenner outlets.

After careful assessment, the ACCC considers that this protest activity does not contravene section 45D of the CCA as it does not have the effect or likely effect of causing substantial loss or damage to the Max Brenner shops in question. Relevant factors here are the infrequent nature of the protests, their limited duration, and the difficulty in apportioning any revenue impact to this activity versus other factors.

The ACCC also notes that the relevant state police authorities have a range of directly relevant powers to address the conduct at issue. Victoria Police has already charged a number of individuals with trespass, besetting a premise and riotous behaviour arising out of one of the protests in Melbourne.

Given all of the above the ACCC has decided not to take any further action in relation to this matter at this time. The ACCC will, however, be monitoring any future protests and considering whether they constitute a breach of the CCA.

Section 45D of the CCA prohibits a person in concert with a second person from engaging in conduct:

(a)    that hinders or prevents a third person from supplying goods or services to a fourth person or a third person from acquiring goods or services from a fourth person; and
(b)    that is engaged in for the purpose, and would have or be likely to have the effect, of causing substantial loss or damage to the business of the fourth person.

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 By Vacy Vlazna:  Sun 21 Aug 2011    First published on Indymedia.

ON Saturday 20th August, about 100 protestors crowded the King St footpath as they marched from the Newtown community centre passing inquisitive customers and shopkeepers while pressing Boycott Max Brenner leaflets into their hands for the four or five hundred metres to confront the Max Brenner shop while chanting with full force, “Max Brenner you can’t hide, you support genocide.”
Ten or so well-behaved but nervous police formed a last line of defence between the marchers and the shopfront, getting more and more uneasy the longer and louder the protesters took the footpath hostage. Inside was a counter-protest of pro-Israeli occupation customers wearing ‘I love Max Brenner’ t-shirts.

 
Bewildered passers-by had no idea of what it was all about and that’s what made it a significant march: the first public sally in a Sydney main street with a single focus of the BDS message against Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid policies for which Max Brenner is fast becoming a symbol.

 
The Max Brenner chain, owned by the Israeli Strauss Group, is ripe for boycott for its direct support of the elite IOF Golani and Givati brigades that have been implicated in war crimes during the 2009/10 Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and in Israel’s illegal war against Lebanon in 2006.

 
The Golani brigade also participated in operations in Nablus and Jenin in 2002.

 
“Amnesty International reported that there was “clear evidence” that the IDF committed war crimes against Palestinian civilians, including unlawful killings and torture, in Jenin and Nablus. The report also accused Israel of blocking medical care, using people as human shields and bulldozing houses with residents inside, as well as beating prisoners, which resulted in one death, and preventing ambulances and aid organizations from reaching the areas of combat even after the fighting had reportedly been stopped. ” The Battle of Jenin, Wikipedia

 
In 2004, a Givati officer, Captain R, emptied his entire magazine into the body of a 13 year old Palestinian child, Iman Darweesh Al Hams and was typically forthwith acquitted of all charges, promoted to the rank of major and compensated generously for his time spent in jail. The Strauss Groups’s pride in supporting the Golani and Givati brigades is reprehensible in light of their systematic defilement of the Israeli military code of conduct, Ru’ah Tzahal.

 
Addressing the protest was Vashti Kenway, a slip of a student with a heavyweight commitment to Palestinian human and political rights. Vashti was one of the 19 peaceful protestors arrested on 1st July outside a Max Brenner shop in Melbourne. For her feisty civil disobedience of the ban by the court to go within 50 metres of a Max Brenner shop, she was slapped with a $10,000 fine for which she announced money was pouring in from around the world. Sylvia Hale and Vivienne Porszolt, who recently returned to Australia after being held in Israeli detention for the fly-tilla action and subsequently pioneering a critical legal precedent for travel to the West Bank and Gaza, also led the march.
The protests against Max Brenner have intensified since the Victorian arrests and with the anger against the threat to Australian civil liberties with the call by the Victorian government and echoed by Senator Boswell in the Federal government for the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission to examine the legality of boycotting Max Brenner which would allow the fascism that is infesting Israel with its widely condemned Boycott Bill to infect Australia.

 
The non-violent Australian BDS movement has poked a Zionist hornet’s nest of vicious and vitriolic media assaults, misrepresentations, and character assassinations. Boycotters have been smeared in mainstream media (mainly the Murdoch press) with absurd anti-Semitism slurs and histrionic comparisons to Nazis for targeting ‘Jewish’ businesses when the BDS movement specifically boycotts Israeli profiteers of the occupation. Since the campaign to overturn Marrickville Council’s support for BDS in late 2010, Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon has bravely withstood a despicable character assassination. Victorian Labor backbencher, Bronwyn Halfpenny is the latest target.

 
Some politicians, including the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu, Daniel Andrews, Michael Danby and journalists, such as Gerard Henderson and Jana Wendt are shown up as morally-limp puppets dangling on Zionist Lobby strings. Even Aboriginal Warren Mundine joined union leader Paul Howes et al in a photo-op sipping Brenner chocolate when much of Indigenous repression and land grabs under the Australian government Intervention reflects the Israeli abuse of Palestinian rights.
As Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela support BDS against Israel, it is clear what side of the moral fence Rudd, Wendt, Henderson, Danby, Mundine, Howes and other Zionophiles stand on.

 
Dr Vacy Vlazna is coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. www.palestinematters.com
Thanks to Brian Davies for suggestions and sharing the march

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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.  
 
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, senior reporter Cameron Stewart (The Australian:  August 20, 2011) still referred to the protests against the Max Brenner franchise as “marching on a Jewish-owned chocolate shop” and repeated the claim that BDS aim to “harm a legal Jewish business”.  This deliberate misrepresentation of the corporate Israeli franchise directly link to the military and of the BDS protests is part of a larger campaign by The Australian that is carefully orchestrated to play on Jewish stereotypes and to shamelessly manipulate the emotions of the Jewish community creating an atmosphere of fear, mistrust and hostility.
 
Most astounding was the article’s reference to Max Brenner as “the man whose real name is Oded Brenner”.  This is very revealing of the journalistic spin used to distract and misinform readers about these legitimate protests.  Putting the spotlight on the man behind the name behind the cooperation is a cheap tactic, a diversion meant to humanize a corporate entity for the purposes of adding to the demonization of the protestors.  But wait, there is more! 
 
The Australian pursuit of the Max Brenner story has indeed gone too far.  The same reporter Cameron Stewart (August 13, 2011) tried to further humanize the franchise by running an article entitled “Targeted chocolatier Max Brenner ‘a man of peace’”. In this article Stewart wrote “it seems Max Brenner, the company’s founder, is perplexed and dismayed at finding himself as an unwitting symbol of the Palestinian-Israel conflict.”  But, the missing truth from this heart wrenching story of a Jewish chocolatier trying to survive in the big anti-Semitic world is that the man doesn’t exist. 
 
Max Brenner, the corporate entity, was founded in 1996 in Ra’anana Israel, by Max Fichtman and Oded Brenner, using a conjunction of their names. Max Fichtmann is no longer associated with the Max Brenner entity.  Oded Brenner remains.  Since 2001, the company has become a part of Strauss Group: a cooperation that supports Israel’s military.  There was never a Jewish chocolatier named Max Brenner yet the Australian senior reporter Cameron Stewart dedicated an entire article about this non-existent ‘man of peace’.
 
It seems The Australian will do what it can to paint the BDS advocates as “radical”  “anti-Semitic” and  “anti-Israeli bullies” while ignoring the reasons behind the boycott call – Israel’s atrocious treatment of the Palestinian people, its land and water theft, its violence and terror against the population it occupies and its system of discrimination which has been likened by leading human rights organizations and advocates to the apartheid system which once plagued South Africa.
 
The campaign for BDS is not “radical” unless in the views of The Australian calling for international law to be respected is a radical notion, but is affective and perhaps this is the greater danger and the reason why the right leaning newspaper The Australian is leading the fight against it.
 
In demanding equality for Palestinians and Jews, BDS poses a great danger for Israel, a state that defines itself along ethnocentric lines and considers all non-Jews, including citizens of the state, a demographic threat. 
 
It is worth mentioning that I had a lovely cup of coffee just yesterday in St. Kilda in an area surrounded by Jewish owned businesses where I enjoyed an environment that was peaceful and pleasant.  The good news is that there is no call to march on Jewish-owned businesses by any group of people.  But also worth knowing is that if indeed Jewish businesses were ever targeted by any group I would not be surprised to find the same human rights advocates who are marching against Israel today standing to defend the Jewish community’s right to live free of racism and intolerance.  These are the values held by the BDS movement:  non- violence, equality, justice for all and zero tolerance for all forms of racism and discrimination.  But you would never know that, if your primary source of information is The Australian newspaper.
 
- Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian writer and is Public Advocate for Australians for Palestine. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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video by: 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.

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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)

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