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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Expose about two pro-Palestine activists facing court on June 28, 2012 in Perth, Australia.

Miranda Wood and Alex Bainbridge were charged with trespass for singing modified Christmas carols in December 2011. They face a two day trial beginning 28 June 2012.

Find out why Friends of Palestine boycott Seacret:
http://www.fopwa.org/2011/03/information-about-seacret-why-boycott/

Friends of Palestine WA: http://www.fopwa.org

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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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