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By Jeff Sparrow: 9 September 2011  

This article was first published on the ABC’s Drum website

As Michael Brull noted here a few weeks ago, the anti-Max Brenner protesters have been widely denounced as Nazis.

Paul Howes, Michael Danby, Andrew Bolt, Gerard Henderson: have all joined in a very public campaign that draws a line between the Brenner protests and Fascist anti-semitism.

It’s certainly true that, throughout Australia, fascists are increasingly taking an interest in the Max Brenner rallies. But here’s the thing: they’re not supporting the protests.

They’re supporting the stores.

The newest face of what’s euphemistically-called the ‘nationalist community’ is an outfit called the Australian Protectionist Party. The APP was formed by Mark Wilson, a former organiser of the fascist British National Party, who emigrated to Australia in the 1980s. One of the APP’s most active members is Nicholas Hunter-Folkes. He was formerly the administrator of a charming Facebook group called ‘F**k off, we’re full’. More recently, however, he launched a new Facebook event entitled ‘Protest Against the Mad Marxists’: essentially, a counter-rally in support of the Sydney Max Brenner shop.

“The hardline left, radical Muslim and student groups have been campaigning for the closure of any business with links to Israel,” he explains, “[…] The left totally ignore the aggression and agenda of the Islamists in the Middle East and also in Australia.”

Another prominent APP leader is Darrin Hodges, a long-time racist activist. Joe Hildebrand once identified Hodges as the semi-anonymous poster on the Nazi Stormfront site explaining that: “I’m more interested in the purer form of fascism… and while I don’t subscribe to the whole ‘worship Hitler’ thing, his comments on multiculturalism and politics in general are still just as relevant today as they were 70-odd years ago.”

Not so long ago, Hodges distinguished himself on the ABC’s Q&A show complaining about Camden being invaded by Muslims.

On Stormfront, the poster identified by Hildebrand as Hodges argued that Hitler’s writings “still have much relevance …” Now, Hodges too, has created a Facebook event urging protests in support of Max Brenner counter protests.

Hodges’s page is in the name of the Australian Defence League. The ADL is another far-right grouplet that, like the APP, draws its inspiration from Britain. Over there, the English Defence League, a group with well-documented fascist connections, has become notorious for sending shaven-headed boot boys into areas with large Muslim populations, while, a few days ago, photos leaked of EDL members posing, military-style, with all kinds of weapons.

In Melbourne, the ADL has tried holding EDL-style marches but fortunately without much success.

Now, it has also made support for Max Brenner a priority.

The blogger calling himself ‘Slack Bastard’, an indefatigable chronicler of the antics of fascist grouplets, notes that other supporters of the Brenner counter-rallies include the Australian Patriots Defence Movement and members of the Southern Cross Soldiers.

Why does any of this matter? Australia’s fascists are tiny and ineffective. Yes, they have sent people to the Brenner rallies in Brisbane and Sydney but they’re incapable of mobilising serious numbers.

Yet their proclamations of support for the chocolatier represents a broader realignment of the far-right, one that’s taking place all over the world.

Take the British National Party, the parent group inspiring the Australian Protectionist Party.

Its head, Nick Griffin, is a long-time fascist, who calls the Holocaust “the hoax of the century” and has named two of the pigs on his farm ‘Anne and Frank’. Yet the BNP under his leadership has positioned itself as one of Israel’s staunchest supporters.

As Ruth Smeed of the Board of Deputies of British Jews says: “The BNP website is now one of the most Zionist on the web – it goes further than any of the mainstream parties in its support of Israel.”

Why? Griffin explains that the real opportunity for his party comes from attacking Muslims. “We should,” he says, “be positioning ourselves to take advantage for our own political ends of the growing wave of public hostility to Islam currently being whipped up by the mass media.”

Hence, in 2009, Griffin could boast that the BNP was the only political party to unequivocally support Israel’s war “against the terrorists” in Gaza.

For the same reason, the EDL now boasts of its ‘Jewish Division’ and marches carrying Israeli flags.

On the European continent, where the far right is a serious force, the fascists have made similar calculations.

In France, for instance, the Front National has gone through a generational change, with Jean-Marie Le Pen making way for his daughter, Marine Le Pen. He was an old-school anti-Semite and Holocaust denier; she tells the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that her organisation has “always been Zionistic”, as she orients her group to a wave of French Islamophobia.

There are plenty of other examples. It’s been widely noted, for instance, that, in his manifesto, Anders Behring Breivik called for support for Israel against Islam.

“So let us fight together with Israel,” he wrote, “with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists, against all cultural Marxists/multiculturalists.”

What’s more, the Israeli Right seems increasingly willing to reciprocate. Der Spiegel has documented a growing trend where leaders of the Islamophobic far-Right, even those with anti-Semitic backgrounds, have been embraced by senior representatives of the Likud and Yisrael Beitenu parties.

What does all this mean for Australia?

In part, it goes to the extraordinary hypocrisy in our politics. Those Greens who, in Marrickville and elsewhere, supported a non-violent boycott directed at Israeli policies were been widely condemned as bigots. Yet, over the last days, we’ve learned that Cory Bernardi has invited to Australia Geert Wilders, a man whom Bernardi calls “charming, charismatic and politically astute”. Now, the anti-Max Brenner protesters have explained again and again and again that their campaign relates not to Brenner’s ethnicity or religious identification but to his store’s political support for the Golani and Givati brigades of the IDF.

By contrast, Wilders denounces Islam as a group, making sweeping statements about how all Muslims behave and think, in the traditional manner of racist demagogues.

Will Bernardi, as Wilders’s facilitator, now be subjected to the kind of sustained vilification that was directed at the Marrickville councillors?

But there’s another point. Obviously, the rise of an Islamophobic fascism is bad news for Muslims. But what does it mean for Jews?

Yes, many of the leaders of the new far right might support Israel. But that doesn’t mean they like Jews.

Here’s Nick Griffin again: “Adopting an ‘Islamophobic’ position that appeals to large numbers of ordinary people – including un-nudged journalists – is going to produce on average much better media coverage than siding with Iran and banging on about ‘Jewish power’, which is guaranteed to raise hackles of virtually every single journalist in the Western world.”

In other words, he still believes in ‘Jewish power’ (indeed, he wrote a whole book about how Jews controlled the media). He just thinks that, for tactical purposes, it’s best not to bang on about it right now.

The right in Israel might have its own reasons for welcoming fundamentalist Christian Zionists and German racial populists and the rest of the crackpot crew who have decided that they can surf the Islamophobic wave into respectability. But it’s a hop, skip and a jump from the tropes of the new Islamophobic bigotry to those of old-style anti-Semitism, and what’s good for Israel might very well have disastrous consequences elsewhere.

Jeff Sparrow is the editor of Overland literary journal and the author of Killing: Misadventures in Violence. On Twitter, he is @Jeff_Sparrow.

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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. 
 
****

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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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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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).

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