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Two months before he was assassinated, Malcolm X, in a speech at Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom in December 1964, spoke about the influence of the corporate media. Malcolm told his audience that the corporate media often worked in the service of those in power and sought to convince ordinary people not to fight on the side of the oppressed. ‘If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing,’ he said.

For anyone following closely the Australian newspaper’s coverage over the last month of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, Malcolm X’s words ring true. As most pro-Palestine supporters in Australia will be aware, the Australian has developed an obsession with the campaign, which was initiated in 2005 by 171 Palestinian civil society groups, including political parties, unions, youth and women’s associations. Inspired by the South African struggle against apartheid, the campaign is conducted in the framework of human rights, solidarity and resistance to injustice and oppression. It calls for non-violent punitive measures to be maintained against Israel until it meets its obligation to recognise the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination, and fully complies with international law. The campaign opposes all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

Anyone reading the pages of the Australian over the last month would not, however, be aware of any of these facts. Between May 1 and May 31, the Australian published 26 news articles, editorials or opinions on the BDS campaign, the vast majority of which have been overwhelmingly negative, condemning the Palestinian BDS campaign and Palestine supporters as anti-Semitic and running an intolerant hate campaign. Of the seventeen news articles, four editorials and five opinion piece run the Australian, only one of the op-eds was pro-BDS. All editorials have been anti-BDS, as have most of the news articles.

What has been overwhelmingly noticeable about all of the Australian’s coverage of BDS is the absence of the voices of the oppressed: in this case, the voice of Palestinians. In contrast, the vast majority of news articles and op-eds have privileged the voices of pro-Israel politicians and leading members of various pro-Israel Zionist lobby groups in Australia. Also noticeably absent from the Australian’s coverage of BDS is an acknowledgement that under international law Israel is carrying out an illegal and belligerent military occupation of Palestinian territory. The Australian’s denial of Israel’s occupation, and the human rights abuses against Palestinians document by the United Nations and human rights organisations both inside and outside of Israel and Palestine, reached absurd proportions on 30 May in an article by Ean Higgins, which claimed that Israel was only engaged in the ‘alleged oppression of the Palestinians’.

In 2011, the Australian ran a similarly obsessive campaign in its pages when the Sydney Marrickville Council passed a pro-BDS resolution and Melbourne BDS supporters began a series of demonstrations outside of one of the Australian Max Brenner franchises. The franchises are part of the global operations of one of Israel’s largest food and beverage companies, the Strauss Group, which become a focus for BDS protests because of it collaboration with the Israeli military. Not only is Strauss an approved supplier to the Israeli Department of Defence, it has also boasted of its support two of the military brigades heavily involved in Israel’s military assault on the Gaza Strip in December/January 2008–2009, an operation that resulted in the death of more than 1400 Palestinians (mostly civilians), including approximately 350 children.

While the Australian’s latest round of BDS bashing reached ridiculous proportions in May, its initial anti-BDS reportage began in April, when University of NSW students announced they would protest against Max Brenner opening a store on their campus and the Sydney University’s Student Representative Council passed a motion in support of the Palestinian BDS campaign and Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, Jake Lynch. Over the last seven months, Lynch has become the Australian’s favourite BDS whipping boy, with the paper publishing numerous negative op-eds, editorials and news articles castigating him and the Peace Centre for their principled human rights stand.

So why has the Australian become so obsessed with BDS?  The Australian has long been associated with the ideological Right and big business in Australia. It has also long been viewed by those in the Palestine solidarity movement as an unabashedly pro-Zionist, pro-Israel newspaper. Chris Mitchell, the rightwing editor-in-chief of the Australian, is also well recognised not only as an ideological editor unafraid to push his opinion through the pages of the newspaper but also ‘strong campaigning, activist editor’ according to at least one member of his staff.  According to some of Mitchell’s critics, including one of his former journalists, the paper has ‘replaced good journalism with agenda setting’.  Media commentator, Jonathan Holmes from ABC’s Media Watch has noted that the Australian has become so ‘driven by its obsessions and campaigns’ that it is now a difficult newspaper to read.

Former Greens leader Bob Brown has also accused the Australian of running an obsessive and agenda driven campaign against his party. In January 2011, Brown requested the parliamentary library to investigate how many times the Australian had mentioned the Greens or himself in editorials over the previous decade and whether or not their editorialising had been favourable, neutral or negative. The investigation found that during that period there had been 252 mentions, with 188 of them negative, 59 neutral and only five (or 2 percent) positive.

A similar obsession can now be seen in relation to the Palestinian BDS campaign. It has become clear that the Australian’s reporting of the issue has become agenda driven, so much so that any fair reporting and commentary has gone out the window.

The ideological nature of the Australian’s campaign against the Palestinian BDS campaign and its supporters is even more notable when you compare its coverage of the campaign to that of other newspapers, both in Australia and internationally. While the Australian ran 26 news articles, editorials and op-eds on BDS in May, Fairfax newspapers’ the Age and Sydney Morning Herald ran a total of two different news articles on BDS between them. Neither paper found it necessary to print either an op-ed or an editorial on the subject in that period.

While the Australian’s editorials have sought to vilify pro-BDS campaigners as anti-Semites, other newspapers of note have defended BDS as a legitimate non-violent way to express political dissent. In May, renowned physicist Professor Stephen Hawking withdrew from the President’s Conference in Israel.  On 11 May, The Boston Globe ran an editorial defending his right to peaceful dissent in boycotting Israel:

the decision to withdraw from a conference is a reasonable way to express one’s political views. Observers need not agree with Hawking’s position in order to understand and even respect his choice. The movement that Hawking has signed on to aims to place pressure on Israel through peaceful means. In the context of a Mideast conflict that has caused so much destruction and cost so many lives, nonviolence is something to be encouraged … Foreclosing non-violent avenues to give people a political voice ­– and maybe bring about an eventual resolution – only makes what is already difficult that much more challenging.

In stark contrast, the week before Hawking’s boycott became public, the Australian demanded that peaceful non-violent BDS protests not even be tolerated. After the revelation of Hawking’s support, the Australian was uncharacteristically quiet. While three of the op-eds did make reference to Hawking’s boycott, the primary focus of two of them was not Hawking but a broader condemnation of the Palestinian BDS campaign.

In the past two weeks, we have seen attempts to curtail freedom of speech stepped up a notch, with the Federal Opposition announcing, via the pages of the Australian that ‘the Coalition will institute a policy across government that ensures no grants of taxpayers’ funds are provided to individuals or organisations which actively support the BDS campaign’. Funds would be cut not only for BDS-related activities, but also for any research, educational or other purpose. On 30 May, Ean Higgin’s noted in his article in the Australian that the Coalition was also demanding that Federal Labor similarly pledge to also curtail the freedom of speech of individuals or organisations that supports BDS.

The false labeling of BDS as anti-Semitic is not unique to Australia. Israel and its advocates around the world have sought to discredit it and criminalise support for BDS. All such attempts must be strongly rejected, whether it is done by newspapers or politicians. The attempt to intimidate supporters of the Palestinian human rights must also be rejected. As Malcolm X noted, we cannot allow the media to convince us that it is wrong to fight against power and for the oppressed. Instead, we must not be afraid to make our voices heard in support of justice, freedom and human rights.

  • Kim Bullimore is the author of ‘BDS and the Struggle for a Free Palestine’, which appears, Left Turn: Political Essays for the New Left, edited by Antony Loewenstein and Jeff Sparrow. She is a long time anti-racism campaigner and a volunteer with the International Women’s Peace Service, the only all-women international peace team working on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In 2010, she co-organised the first Australian national Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Conference in support of Palestine. Kim has a blog at http://www.livefromoccupiedpalestine.blogpost.com

Brisbane: August 2012

Media statement: First Brisbane BDS Walking Tour a great success

 

August 30, 2012

 

Media Statement:

 

First Brisbane BDS Walking Tour a great success

 

Last Saturday, August 25 the first Brisbane Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Walking Tour was held, successfully highlighting a number of stores in the Brisbane CBD that profit from the products of Israeli apartheid. The Tour spent around ten minutes outside the Children of the Revolution store where a speech was given about the Naot brand of shoes. A letter was delivered to the store management by two BDS activists, after which the tour moved on (see speech and letter below). The tour also visited David Jones which stocks Soda Stream products, Woolworths which sell Eskal products and more, Myer centre which has a Seacret Dead Sea cosmetics stall and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

 

The BDS Movement is a non-violent campaign of civil disobedience aiming to bring Israel to account for its apartheid policies and occupation of Palestinian land. The BDS call was launched in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian organisations and demands an end to the occupation of all Arab lands and the dismantling of the apartheid wall; equal rights for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel and the recognition and promotion of the rights of Palestinian refugees to return home.

 

The Australian newspaper has used to occasion of the successful BDS Walking Tour to publish the latest installment in their campaign against the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. In an August 30 article by Christian Kerr in the Murdoch newspaper, BDS activists are portrayed as bullies and stand over merchants. In the face of the BDS Movement’s consistent exposure of the injustices perpetrated by Israeli apartheid, the campaign of lies by opponents of the BDS, like The Australian, is not surprising. They have to resort to lies and distortions because the truth is on our side – it is impossible to honestly defend apartheid and occupation and it is impossible to justify profiting from such inhumanity.

 

Justice for Palestine, Brisbane will proudly hold further BDS Walking Tours to expose those that profit from apartheid and occupation.

 

For more information and updates see www.justiceforpalestinebrisbane.org


Perth: November 2012

PVoice-BoycottVeolia3-11-12Friends of Palestine Western Australia:

The article on the left is the report from the Perth Voice about the Friends of Palestine WA (FOPWA) action on Saturday October 27.

 

FOPWA is calling on the WA government to cancel contracts with Veolia because of its relationship with Apartheid Israel.

 

Veolia runs CAT buses and other parts of the Perth bus service through a  subsidiary called “Southern Coast Transit”.

 

Veolia also runs transport services to illegal settlements in occupied Palestine. These services reinforce the process of building and maintaining these settlements which violate Palestinian rights (as well as international law). These Veolia run services have also discriminated against Palestinians in terms of access and employment.

 

[See below a letter by Friends of Palestine WA member Alex Bainbridge to the Perth Voice in response to the article.]

 

Thanks for reporting the Friends of Palestine campaign calling on the state government to cancel contracts with Veolia. It is Veolia which runs parts of the bus system in Perth (via a subsidiary) and which is complicit in human rights abuses in occupied Palestine.

 

Public Transport Authority spokesperson David Hynes responded by saying the PTA has a good relationship with Veolia which generates “high level[s] of satisfaction”.

 

This is reminiscent of the supporters of Italian Fascism who praised Mussolini for having the trains run on time.

 

Perth people care about human rights and we should not be using taxpayers money to prop up the profits of a company that benefits from Israeli Apartheid and the illegal occupation of Palestine.

 

Finally, it is worth pointing out that John Hyde is incorrect to accuse the BDS movement of “anti-Semitism”.

 

The BDS movement is entirely devoted to pressuring Israel to comply with international law and to stop discriminating against Palestinians.

 

There is nothing anti-Jewish about supporting human rights.

**

Perth rallies against Israel’s assault on Gaza

 

 

 

Two hundred people rallied in Perth on November 25 against Israel’s military assault on Gaza.

 

Demands adopted by the rally

 

As a matter of urgency, we call upon the Australian government to:

 

  • unreservedly condemn Israel’s attacks on targets across Gaza, including schools, homes, government buildings, media centres, electricity transformers, and other infrastructure
  • use any and all diplomatic means required to ensure Israel cannot renew its assault on Gaza
  • propose that Israel be forced to pay war reparations
  • demand the immediate and unconditional lifting of the siege of Gaza
  • suspend all economic, diplomatic and military ties with the state of Israel until it complies with international law and accedes to a just settlement with the people of Palestine

**

Melbourne: December 2012
Don’t Buy Israeli Apartheid for Christmas 2012

**
Brisbane: December 2012
BDS Mic Check

Adelaide: January 2013

Adelaide Protest week 120-124

**
Melbourne: March 2013Solidarity with the Palestinian Political Prisoners – Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid and James Connelly Association

pal pol pris james connellypal pol pris demo
**
Melbourne: April 2013Burst the Bubble of Israeli Apartheid: Boycott Soda Stream**
Perth: May 2013
Nakba commemoration 2013
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OvuC79F1AuE

**Melbourne: May 2013
Nakba commemoration 2013candles nakbanakba mel**
Brisbane: May 2013Nakba Commemoration 2013**
Brisbane: June 2013BDS Walking Tour
**Adelaide: July 2013Palestine protest Week 144**Melbourne: July 2013Free Palestine: Boycott Israeli Apartheid
boycott israel frid leafleting boycott israel leafleting**
Over the last year, Palestine solidarity groups around Australia have also shown a range of films on Palestine and hosted international guests such as Mona Al Fara from Gaza.

Dear friends and supporters,
due to overseas and other commitments  we had not been able to keep this blog updated over the last year.  We are hoping to now correct that and restart blogging here in support of the Palestinian BDS campaign, updating this site regularly on BDS and pro-Palestine activism around Australia.

Over the last year, there has been a range of BDS and pro-Palestine activities happening around Australia and we will be collating a short round up of some of them to kick off the relaunch of this site.

August 15, 2012

Palestenian rights activists return to the Max Brenner store at Melbourne’s QV square after their court victory for free speech and assembly in Victoria.

  • Rob Stary
  • From: Herald Sun
  • July 25, 2012 12:00AM
Victoria Police

Rob Stary says management of QV should indemnify Victoria Police for the costs of dispersing the protesters.
Herald Sun

THE exoneration of the Max Brenner protesters on July 23 represented a significant victory for those engaged in peaceful protest.

It provides a salutary lesson to the authorities as to why police should not be engaged where people are simply exercising their democratic right of peaceful protest.

It’s a fundamental right in any tolerant and civilised democratic society.

And this episode raises the question of why scarce police resources were invoked at the behest of a large commercial interest in dispersing lawful peaceful protesters.

The management of QV should indemnify Victoria Police for the costs of this operation. It should not be borne by the general public.

The legal costs that will be ordered against Victoria Police as a result of this case should also be borne in part by the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office, as a result of its advice as to what might constitute wilful trespass or besetting of premises.

A number of demonstrations took place outside the Max Brenner store at QV in April and May 2011, protesting against the involvement of its parent company in supporting the Israeli army’s military operations in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in Palestine.

The protesters were in support of the struggle of the Palestinian people against Israeli armed aggression. At all stages the protest was peaceful. And, as the magistrate found this week, there was no breach of the peace or any other unlawful activity engaged in by the protesters themselves.

The management of QV invoked the intervention of police, essentially to protect its commercial interests.

This ultimately resulted in charges of wilful trespass and besetting premises being laid.

It appears that Victoria Police relied on advice from the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office, and it appears that advice was the foundation of the laying of charges.

After four weeks of argument the magistrate concluded that the portion of the premises where the protest had taken place was a public area.

In fact, a covenant on the QV land title directed that laneways and other public areas remain open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It could not be successfully argued that the protesters were trespassing on land that was either public or private.

Their peaceful assembly could not be construed as a wilful trespass on publicly accessible areas.

The second charge, that of besetting premises, related to the effective obstruction of the Max Brenner business.

What the evidence actually showed was that it was Victoria Police deployed in this operation that impeded the public from entering and leaving the area adjoining the shop.

It could not be argued that the mere fact of a lawful assembly protesting against Israeli army incursions could amount to a besetting of the premises.

In fact, the magistrate alluded to the fact that there were patrons of Max Brenner sipping coffee and eating chocolates while the protests took place.

The whole of the activity was captured on CCTV footage.

The protesters relied on rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression that are enshrined in our Charter of Rights and Responsibilities.

Those common law rights are enshrined in various Bills of Rights from the United States to the United Kingdom to Canada and New Zealand.

This week’s decision is likely to have a major impact on the way other trespass cases, such as any brought against Occupy Melbourne protesters, are handled in the future.

It is the fundamental right in every democratic society for its citizens to participate peacefully in protest.

Victoria Police, to its credit, successfully handled the Patrick Stevedore waterfront dispute where many thousands of people blockaded the waterfront.

Victoria Police acted successfully in a way to defuse a tense situation.

It is a form of policing that has proved successful in the past, and that model should be invoked in any peaceful dispute where there is no risk to property of members of the public.

We do not live in Stalinist Russia, Syria or any other totalitarian regime where lawful peaceful protest is repressed by the state.

Rob Stary is a leading Melbourne criminal lawyer. He represented some of the protesters in court this week

All 16 protesters charged with “Besetting” and “trespass” (at a protest rally against the Max Brenner store last year), have had their charges dismissed. Melbourne Magistrate Court, Monday July 23, 2012.

by ABC news

Legal experts say a Melbourne Magistrate’s dismissal of a Victoria Police case against protesters could influence future disputes.

Sixteen people were arrested and charged after clashing with police during a pro-Palestinian rally outside an Israeli-owned chocolate shop in Melbourne last July.

A Magistrate ruled the protesters were exercising their human rights and said their demonstration was lawful.

Magistrate Simon Garnett also found the protesters did not threaten the peace or disrupt the public order.

He also criticised the police response in some arrests, describing it as ‘heavy-handed’.

Lawyer Rob Stary represented the protesters.

He says the case against his clients was doomed to fail.

“If they (his clients) oppose the occupation of the Gaza Strip or the West Bank they should be entitled to say so,” he said.

We don’t live in a totalitarian regime, this is not Syria or Iraq or Egypt.

Lawyer Rob Stary

 

Mr Stary says he expects the case to set a precedent, including on picket lines.

“I think it’s got very very wide ramifications,” he said.

“I think firstly police should not get involved in political protests, or industrial disputes of this nature, that they shouldn’t be criminalised.

“We live in a democratic robust society, and people should be entitled to express their views.”

Mr Stary says people should be allowed to exercise their right of freedom of speech.

“We don’t live in a totalitarian regime, this is not Syria or Iraq or Egypt,” he said.

“This is Australia where we should be able to engage in robust debate about important issues.”

Protester Vashti Kenway said the decision was a victory for freedom of speech.

“We feel particularly pleased that this result has been made because it leads on to affect other questions, such as Occupy Melbourne.

“It’s a victory for our capacity to protest in places where corporations have previously said they controlled,” she said.

“It’s also useful for us to know that the QV management have no right to say we are not allowed to express our political opinions within that space.”

The protesters demonstrated at the Max Brenner chocolate store in Melbourne’s QV in July last year.

Protesters targeted the Lonsdale Street store claiming the franchise had aided the Israeli Army.

 

Following the police crack down on a BDS protest in Australia last year, a court has found pro-Palestinian activists innocent of a series of charges laid against them, including “trespass in a public place.”

27 July 2012

Activists demonstrate outside Max Brenner’s in Melbourne, 29 July 2011.

(Corey Oakley / Flickr)

Sixteen Palestine solidarity activists arrested during a pro-boycott demonstration have been cleared of the charges of “trespassing” and “besetting” by an Australian court. The 23 July ruling has been hailed as a “landmark victory” for freedom of expression and for the campaign to defend the rights of Palestinians (“‘Landmark victory’ for Max Brenner protests,” ABC News, 23 July 2012).

The 57-page decision by Magistrate Simon Garnett brought an end to a year-long struggle by the protesters.

The activists were among 19 people arrested on 1 July 2011, at a peaceful demonstration outside the Max Brenner chocolate shop in Queen Victoria Square, which is located within the Queen Victoria shopping precinct in central Melbourne. The protest was organized by the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid and sought to highlight the complicity of the company Max Brenner Chocolate and its parent company, the Strauss Group, in Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies. The action was the fourth protest against the company since December 2010.

The Strauss Group is one of Israel’s largest food and beverage companies. On its website, the Strauss Group has highlighted its support for the Israeli military, providing care packages, books, games and sports and recreational equipment for soldiers. In particular, Strauss has boasted of its support for the Golani and Givati brigades, who have a long record of human rights abuses against Palestinians and in Lebanon.

Both brigades were heavily involved in Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s 2008-09 assault on the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the killing of approximately 1,400 Palestinians, including approximately 350 children. Strauss initially removed information about its support for the two brigades from its English language website but information about the company’s support for both brigades remained on their Hebrew language site for some time before it too was removed.

The 16 activists were charged with offenses under the Summary Offences Act (1966). All of the activists were alleged to have “wilfully and without lawful authority beset premises” and to have engaged in “wilful trespass,” while a small number of those arrested were also accused of a number of other charges, including “hindering,” “resisting” and “assault.”

Video evidence contradicts police testimony

The police’s case against the activists was contested over 17 days beginning on 1 May this year. Evidence was given by 26 police officers and four civilians, including the manager of Max Brenner and the manager of the Queen Victoria shopping center and two other staff members.

Almost five hours of video footage of the demonstration and arrests, shot by protesters, police and closed-circuit security cameras, were viewed by the court. However, in numerous instances, the sworn statements and evidence given by police officers was in stark contrast to the video evidence shown.

Witnesses for the police case were subject to intense cross-examination by lawyers defending the 16 activists — in particular about the discussions which took place between police and QV management prior to the demonstration last year. At the end of the hearing, the lawyers acting for the protesters submitted a “no-case” to answer, asking Garnett to dismiss all charges.

Garnett upheld the no-case submissions in all 16 cases relating to the main charges. A number of the other charges are still being contested.

“Lawful right”

In his ruling, Garnett stated that Queen Victoria Square was a public space and that protesters had a lawful right to be there and thus were not engaged in “wilful trespass.” Garnett ruled that because the shopping center had a contract with Melbourne City Council which requires it to keep the square and laneways located within the shopping precinct open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, management “did not have the legal authority to apply conditions on members of the public who wished to enter QV or the laneways.”

Garnett also ruled that “the conduct of the protesters did not promote violence,” and there was no evidence to suggest that the protesters had any criminal intent. According to Garnett, “the protesters had a lawful right to enter QV Square without restriction. They had a lawful right to conduct the political demonstration.”

In dismissing the “besetting” charge (obstructing or impeding the right to leave a premise), Garnett noted, “In my opinion, it cannot be said that it was the actions of the protesters that caused any obstruction, hindering or impediment to members of the public from entering Max Brenner’s, if they chose to do so.”

Instead, he said it was “the establishment of the police lines” at the front of Max Brenner’s which extend across the square and nearby laneways “that caused the obstruction, hindrance and impediment to members of the public.” Garnett found there was no evidence that the protestors had any “hostile intent.” The protestors had engaged peacefully with the public who had been passing by or who were sitting in the Chocolate Bar.

While Garnett ruled that the Victorian Police did not act illegally in arresting the activists, he noted that some of the police actions had been heavy-handed and that “unreasonable force” had been used in some arrests. Video footage of the arrests viewed by the court had shown that one of the arrested protestors was put in a chokehold and lost consciousness, while several other protestors were dragged by their feet across the square and one of the arrested protestors had been put in a headlock.

“Exonerated”

Robert Stary, a lawyer representing a number of the activists, told journalists that the protesters had been “completely exonerated” by the ruling.

“The judge ruled that there was nothing unlawful engaged in in the activity of the protesters; there was no breach of the peace, they were not involved in any other conduct in the protest itself that would constitute a disturbance [and] in a public place; they had the right to express themselves in that manner,” he said.

Stary noted that the ruling has “very, very wide ramifications,” particularly in relation to the right to engage in political and industrial protests in public spaces.

“Firstly, police should not get involved in political protest or industrial disputes. They should not be criminalized,” said Stary. “People should be entitled to express their views, if they oppose the occupation of the Gaza Strip or the West Bank; they should be entitled to say so.”

Decision to arrest made before demonstration

The arrested activists noted in the immediate aftermath of their arrests in 2011 that the police attack on the peaceful action in Melbourne not only highlighted the increasing attacks on civil liberties and freedom of speech by the state government in Victoria, but that it also highlighted the increasing attempts to criminalize Palestine solidarity activism both in Australia and internationally.

This was borne out by evidence given by the Victorian police during a bail variation hearing on 27 July 2011. During the hearing, the Victorian Police confirmed that the decision to arrest activists was made before the demonstration and that this decision had been made after discussion with Zionist organizations, the Victorian government, QV Center management and the management of Max Brenner. The Victorian Police also confirmed that they had deliberately targeted activists who they believed to be leaders of the protest.

Reports in the Australian Jewish News also confirmed that in April 2011, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria had made representations to the Victorian police and had called on them “to stamp down harder on aggressive protesters” (“Police questioned as protests turn violent,” 15 April 2011) .

Similar calls for government and police crackdowns on activists urging boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel were made in June 2011 in the New South Wales state parliament (“Police called to action on BDS,” Australian Jewish News, 24 June 2011).

A month later, Vic Alhadeff, the chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies confirmed that the various calls for police and government crackdowns on BDS activism was part of “a nationally coordinated strategy” developed in conjunction with the Israeli foreign ministry (“BDS: to protest or not to protest?”, Australian Jewish News, 29 July 2011).

Smears in Murdoch media

Following the Melbourne court ruling, one of the arrested activists, Omar Hassan, told The Electronic Intifada that Garnett’s decision was a “triumph for free speech, in particular the right to campaign for Palestine.”

Hassan noted that the magistrate’s ruling “cut against the lies of the Murdoch press, that we were violent, anti-Semitic and fanatical.” He was referring to smears made against Palestine solidarity campaigners in media outlets owned by the tycoon Rupert Murdoch (“Prominent Australians fight anti-Semitism with hot chocolate,” The Australian, 28 July 2011).

In the three months following the arrests the Murdoch press ran at least 16 articles on the Melbourne protests and Palestine solidarity activism in Australia, the majority of which were negative. Palestine solidarity campaigners were regularly denounced as “anti-Semitic” and compared to Nazis (“The campaign against the Max Brenner protesters,” ABC, 22 August 2011).

Another protester, Louise O’Shea, told The Electronic Intifada that the dismissal of the charges against the demonstrators “shows that it is worth standing up for your rights against the police, government and corporations, as well as the pro-Israel lobby.”

O’Shea pointed out that while the proceedings against the peaceful demonstrators were “an attempt to intimidate us from taking a stance in support of Palestine, what we went through is nothing compared to what the people in Palestine experience and have to deal with every day.”

James Crafti, who was also one of the 16 defendants, told The Electronic Intifada that the court victory was significant because “Australia is one of an increasingly small number of countries who are still prepared to bend over backwards to support Israel and both major parties in Australia, at both state and federal levels, [and] have made it clear that they are prepared to use police force to repress people’s right to freedom of speech and to try and silence pro-Palestine solidarity campaigning.”

Crafti, who is Jewish, noted that “while we were arrested for daring to stand up for Palestinian human rights, the Israeli state continues to carry out war crimes and human rights abuses against the Palestinian people and are not held to account for their occupation and apartheid practices.”

“The fact that Israel and the companies that support these practices are not the ones on trial, is an injustice itself,” he said. “When we start to see Israel on trial in the International Court of Justice and the companies that profit from Israel’s occupation [are] put on trial, that is when we will see real justice emerging.”

Kim Bullimore has lived and worked in the West Bank, is a member of the Melbourne Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid and was a co-organizer of the first national Australian BDS conference, which took place in 2010. She has a blog at livefromoccupiedpalestine.blogspot.com.

By Friends of Palestine WA: 28 June 2012

The prosecution case against two activists dubbed the “Christmas Carol Criminals” collapsed when a Perth magistrate dismissed all charges on June 29.

Alex Bainbridge and Miranda Wood from the Friends of Palestine WA (FOPWA) had been charged with trespass in relation to a December protest outside Israeli cosmetics company Seacret. Seacret benefits from the illegal occupation of Palestine by stealing resources from the Dead Sea to use in its products.

The company has been targeted by FOPWA and other campaigners around Australia as part of the BDS (boycott, divestment & sanctions) campaign against Apartheid Israel.

“This [acquittal] is a tremendous victory for freedom of speech and the right to protest,” Bainbridge said of the result.

“The court action against the Max Brenner 19 in Melbourne and recent attempts by NSW police to prevent a pro-Palestine demonstration from taking place in Sydney demonstrate that there is a notable pattern of legal harassment against the BDS movement,” he said.

“In the current climate, Palestine activists have to fight not only for justice for Palestine, but also for the very right to protest,” he said.

These FOPWA arrests were part of the same pattern. Evidence presented in court demonstrated that the arresting officer was targeting individual activists and that he did not given them any time to comply with a direction to leave the shopping centre. The latter point was explicitly endorsed by the magistrate in his summation and was one of two reasons the prosecution failed.

More than 40 activists joined Father Christmas in attending a support action for the “Christmas Carol Criminals” as their court case began on June 28.

[Friends of Palestine meets fortnightly at the CitiPlace Community Centre. For more information visit http://www.fopwa.org.]