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

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

 
Max Brenner Chocolate, the other Israeli company subject to BDS protests in Melbourne, is owned by the Strauss Group — one of Israel’s largest food and beverage companies. On its website, the Strauss Group emphasizes its support for the Israeli military, providing care packages, sports and recreational equipment, books and games for soldiers.  Strauss boasts support for the Golani and Givati Brigades, which were heavily involved in Israel’s military assault on the Gaza Strip in the Winter of 2008-09, which resulted in the killing of approximately 1,400 Palestinians, the majority civilians, including approximately 350 children. While Strauss has removed information about their support for the Golani and Givati brigades from their English language website, information about the company’s support for both brigades remains on their Hebrew language site.

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

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

2 September 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friends of Palestine WA organised a speakout in support of the “free speech and a free Palestine” on Friday 12 August. The next major action for Palestinian human rights in Perth is the rally and “rogues tour” on September 17 beginning in the Murray Street Mall at 1pm.

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This article was first published on Palestine Chronicle  on 26 August 2011

 

By Samah Sabawi

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

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video by: on Jul 13, 2011

Omar Barghouti is an independent Palestinian political and cultural analyst whose opinion columns have appeared in several publications. He is also a human rights activist involved in civil struggle to end oppression and conflict in Palestine. Barghouti is a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, PACBI.

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13 August 2011

We the undersigned call on the Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien to withdraw allegations he made singling out several pro-Palestine advocacy groups calling for them to be investigated by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) for an alleged suspicion that they may be involved in  ‘secondary boycotts’ against Israeli-owned businesses in Australia.

These allegations form an ongoing campaign of intensified attacks on Palestine solidarity organising and freedom of expression in Australia. We understand the current round of attacks to be a direct reaction to a growing international solidarity movement in support of Palestinian human rights, so we take the opportunity to reiterate our support for the Palestinian civil society’s call for boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) from Israel.

 

The BDS campaign is based on well-founded criticism of the Israeli state for its ongoing violations of international law, violations that include: Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories; its settlement-building and construction of an apartheid wall on occupied land; its refusal to respect the right of Palestinian refugees to return; and its ongoing military siege on the Gaza strip.

As in the past when the Australian people participated in the boycott campaign against apartheid South Africa, we affirm our right to participate in the BDS campaign against apartheid Israel in our churches, unions, professional bodies, local councils, parliaments and community groups. This campaign has provided a vital and viable framework and non-violent approach to building an anti-apartheid movement grounded in principles of international solidarity.  People of conscience in Australia, have a proud history of principled international solidarity through BDS campaigns – any legalistic attempts, employing anti-union laws such as the ‘secondary boycotts’ law, will fail to deter social justice groups from vocally advocating the BDS campaign and supporting Palestinian human rights.

It is very disappointing that elected politicians choose to launch investigations into human-rights and solidarity organisations, rather than explain to the public why Israel is not held to account for its violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice against Israel’s Wall and colonial settlements. The active attempts to repress Australian organisations that work to promote Israel’s accountability before international law is beyond reproach.

We stress that the BDS movement is an anti-racist movement that rejects all forms of racism including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The consumer-boycott campaigns are aimed at institutions and businesses that provide support for ongoing Israeli violations of international law, they do not target any particular religious or ethnic group.

We note that most of the organisations named by the Minister for the investigation did not take part in the protest he refers to against Max Brenner stores in Melbourne.  This is a clear indication that he has not looked closely into the matter, but is purely targeting all pro-Palestine advocacy groups on the basis of their support for BDS.  Although, we may not have all participated in this specific protest, we strongly believe in the basic right to peacefully protest and raise awareness about businesses that have questionable policies and show blatant disregard for basic human rights.

We urge elected officials to remember that their job is to protect rights and freedoms and to represent democratic values, not to waste our hard earned tax dollars on trying to appease a foreign state and those who blindly cheer for it.

Justice for Palestine (JFP-Qld)

Australians for Palestine (AFP)

Women for Palestine (WFP)
Australian Friends of Palestine (AFOPA-SA)

Action for Palestine (SA)

Friends of Palestine (FOP-WA)

Students for Justice for Palestine (UTS)

Students for Palestine (Vic)

Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC-Melbourne)

Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA)

Australian Palestinian Professionals Association (APPA)

Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN)

Artists Against Apartheid (AAA)

Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine (CJPP-Sydney)

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Originally posted on Electronic Intifada

By Kim Bullimore: 9 August 2011

Australian solidarity activists are facing intense police repression. (Erik Anderson/Flickr)

 

In the largest show of support for the Palestinian-initiated boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign so far in Australia, more than 350 persons marched on 29 July in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle — and in opposition to an attempt by Victorian Police to criminalize Palestine solidarity activism in Melbourne.

A month earlier, on 1 July, a similar, peaceful BDS action involving 120 persons was brutally attacked by the Victorian Police. Nineteen individuals were arrested.

Charged with “trespassing” and “besetting,” those arrested are now facing fines of up to AUD $30,000 (approximately US $32,300). The 1 July action, organized by the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, had sought to highlight the complicity of two Israeli companies, Jericho and Max Brenner Chocolate, with Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies. The action was the fourth protest against both companies since December 2010.

Jericho, located in Melbourne Central Shopping Centre and other shopping centers around the city, produces cosmetics made from minerals exploited from the Dead Sea. While Jericho and other Israeli companies — such as Ahava, also a target of BDS campaigns — 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.

BDS repression coordinated with Israeli government

Trade union and community representatives spoke at the rally on 29 July before the crowd marched through the city. In spite of repeated threats of mass arrests by Victoria Police — and the deployment of police horses in one of the shopping centers — the protest marched into both the Melbourne Central and Queen Victoria centers, staging peaceful sit-ins in front of the Max Brenner stores located within.

Two day earlier, on 27 July, the Victorian police confirmed during a bail variation hearing at the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria (local District Court) for some of the activists arrested on 1 July that a decision had been made to arrest the protesters before the demonstration. This decision was made after discussions with Zionist organizations, the Victorian government, shopping center managements and state and national management of Max Brenner.

In April, the Australian Jewish News (AJN) reported that the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) had made representations to the Victorian police. According to the AJN, JCCV president John Searle had “called on the police to stamp down harder on aggressive protesters” (“Police questioned as protests turn violent,” 15 April 2011). Similar calls for a government and police crackdown on BDS protests against Max Brenner in Sydney were made in June by former AJN journalist Walt Secord, who is now a member of the NSW State Parliament (“Police called to action on BDS,” 24 June 2011).

On July 29, the same day as the BDS action against Max Brenner in Melbourne the Australian Jewish News carried a “debate” piece between Vic Alhadeff, the CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, and Ted Lapkin, a former staffer with the key pro-Israeli lobby group in Australia, the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council. The piece reveals that the various calls for police and government crackdown on BDS activism was part of a “nationally coordinated strategy” developed with and backed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry (“BDS: To protest or not to protest?”).

Arguing against any Zionist-organized BDS “counter” protest, Alhadeff writes: “It is important for the community to be aware that our response to BDS forms part of [a] coordinated national strategy. Furthermore, this strategy is endorsed by counterparts abroad and Israel’s Foreign Ministry.”

Alhadeff outlined this coordinated national strategy in response to BDS, stating that it “included, but is not limited to, engagement with civil society and politicians, patronage of boycotted outlets, cooperation with police, shop owners and center managers and exposure of the motives behind the BDS movement.” According to Alhadeff, Zionist policy in response to BDS should be one which seeks to “speak softly” but to also carry “a suggestion of a big stick.”

Activism leadership targeted

During cross-examination by Robert Stary, the lawyer representing the activists, Michael Beattie, an operational support inspector with the the Victorian Police, conceded that both Melbourne Central and Queen Victoria shopping centers were “public places” and that neither center prior to 1 July had sought any civil injunctions to prevent entry to the public places inside.

The cross-examination by Stary also revealed that the main reason that police had decided to criminalize the actions against the Israeli companies was because they had been well-organized, coordinated and effective.

Victorian Police acknowledged that the demonstrations had been peaceful, that solidarity activists hadn’t damaged property and there was no record of police or any member of the public being injured.

According to the testimony given by Inspector Beattie, the police had specifically sought to target the leadership of the protests, in particular those activists the police perceived as “operating a command and control function,” in order to diminish the possibility of well-coordinated demonstrations — and to ensure “no protesters go to property and disrupt targeted business or additional businesses.”

According to Inspector Beattie, “the protesters had their own way” for too long and a “decision [was] made to draw a line in the sand and make arrests.” Another police officer, Senior Sargent Andrew Falconer, also gave testimony at the court hearing and acknowledged that police infiltrators had been sent to pro-Palestine solidarity meetings in order to monitor the activity of BDS activists.

In a statement issued after their arrests, the nineteen activists noted that “the attack on the peaceful BDS action in Melbourne highlights increasing attempts to criminalize BDS and Palestine solidarity activism internationally. Currently in the US, France and Greece, hundreds of pro-Palestine activists are facing criminal charges for nonviolently standing up for Palestinian human rights” (“Support the Boycott Israel 19 Defence Campaign”).

James Crafti, one of the activists arrested, told The Electronic Intifada that “the attempt by Israel and governments around the world to criminalize pro-Palestinian and BDS activism ignores the fact that the real criminal activity is being carried out by the Israeli state.”

“Since its founding in 1948, Israel has sought to ethnically cleanse the indigenous Palestinian people through war, occupation and apartheid practices. Israel regularly engages in collective punishment, arbitrary arrests, extra-judicial assassinations and the demolition of Palestinian homes and civil infrastructure, all of which are illegal under international law,” he added.

Crafti noted that while the Victorian and Australian governments sought to criminalize support for Palestine self-determination, they refused to hold Israel accountable for its human rights abuses, war crimes and apartheid policies.

All of the arrested activists who spoke to The Electronic Intifada said the police attack on the protest also highlighted the increasing repression of civil liberties and freedom of speech by the Victorian (conservative) Baillieu government.

One Palestine solidarity activist, Sue Bolton, who has been charged with “besetting” (obstructing or hindering the right to enter, use or leave a premise), asserted that the police reaction to the action on 1 July was “over the top.”

“There were massive numbers of police, well over a hundred, not counting those behind the scenes in the loading docks,” she said.

According to Bolton, the Queen Victoria Centre loading docks had been cleared of delivery trucks, allowing the police to set up a processing unit and bring in prison transport trucks to be used as holding cells for those arrested.

Bolton described how police had sought to “kettle” the demonstration by corralling protesters and physically pushing them into a smaller and smaller area. According to Bolton, this resulted in a number of protesters being injured and crushed when the police had surrounded and violently pushed protesters from all sides.

Similar tactics have been used by police forces in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Finland and Denmark. The use of kettling by police in the UK against student protesters in November 2010 has led to legal challenges and the calling for a ban on the use of the tactic in the British High Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

Damian Ridgwell, another Palestine solidarity protester arrested on 1 July, told The Electronic Intifada that he had been standing away from the peaceful picket, speaking on a megaphone when three policemen grabbed him.

“I was dragged behind police lines,” Ridgwell said. “Once they grabbed me and started dragging me, I went limp and dropped to the ground … As I was being carried through the corridors of the loading dock, I lost consciousness because one of the police had me in a choke hold. I am not sure how long I was out, probably a few minutes. I woke up on the loading dock floor and heard the police saying I was ‘out.’”

Ridgwell, who was charged with trespassing, said “while it is outrageous we were arrested for peacefully demonstrating, our arrests have to be seen in the context of the Australia government’s support for Israel and its continued theft of Palestinian land … it’s important we don’t let the police intimidate protests like this. It is important to keep going with the protests and to keep supporting BDS.”

Australian government’s support of Israeli apartheid

Successive Australian governments, including the current Gillard government, have long supported Israel’s colonial and apartheid policies.

Current Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard signaled her uncritical support for Israel when she was still deputy Prime Minster of Australia. During the early days of Israel’s bombing of Gaza in the winter of 2008-09, she blamed Palestinians for Israel’s all-out assault, saying that Hamas must “renounce violence” and that Israel had the “right to defend itself.”

During a visit to Israel In 2009, Gillard was thanked by Israeli government minister Isaac Herzog for standing “almost alone on the world stage in support of Israel’s right to defend itself” (“Israel to Gillard: thanks for standing by us,” The Age, 24 June 2009).

The arrested activists noted that in June, the Baillieu government had established a new 42-member riot squad — and the attack on the 1 July protest was the first time it had been used in any significant way.

According to James Crafti, “the Victorian government thinks it can easily get away with attacking a pro-Palestine action because they think they can label us anti-Semitic.” Crafti, who is Jewish, said that the police and those opposed to the BDS actions, however, “underestimate the sympathy towards both Palestine and the [Palestine solidarity] movement in the broader community.”

“The amount of force used by the police and the response of the political elite to our protests, particularly the fact that the Australian Foreign Minister [and former Australian Prime Minister] Kevin Rudd felt the need to go a few days after our protest to Max Brenner as a public relations stunt is a sign of the pro-Israeli forces’ desperation,” he added.

The eleven activists succeeded in changing the original bail conditions preventing them from entering either shopping center (which also host medical clinics and a major train station) until the end of their case, to a lesser restriction of being prohibited from being within fifty meters of Max Brenner in both centers. However, Stary said he was still “anxious about the criminalization of dissent.”

“The police should not be used to protect the interests of an international commercial company,” he said.

Building on the success of 29 July, Melbourne activists will continue to campaign in support of Palestinian rights and oppose the criminalization of Palestine solidarity activism. The next Melbourne BDS action is scheduled for 9 September, the same week those arrested will plead not guilty to the charges against them. The defense campaign in support of the arrested activists has gained wide attention, with well-known public figures such as filmmaker John Pilger, author Norman Finkelstein and radical thinker Noam Chomsky supporting the campaign.

In a media release issued immediately following the success of the 29 July BDS action, Melbourne activists said the Victorian Police “thought that by attacking the BDS demonstration they would put an end to our movement. They were wrong … [we will] not be silenced” (“BDS returns to Max Brenner in spite of police intimidation,” 5 August 2011).

Kim Bullimore has lived and worked in the West Bank of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. She is a member of the Melbourne Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid and a co-organizer of the first national Australian BDS conference, which took place in Melbourne in October 2010. Kim writes regularly on the Palestine-Israel conflict for the Australian newspaper,Direct Action. She has a blog at livefromoccupiedpalestine.blogspot.com.

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Friends of Palestine WA has called a speakout this Friday to support the BDS (boycott, divestment & sanctions against Apartheid Israel) campaigners who were arrested in dawn raids on August 9 in Melbourne. The speakout will also be taking up threats by the Victorian government to use trade practices law against the BDS movement. This has implications for all progressive campaigners and is a major free speech issue.

The speakout will be in the Murray Street Mall outside the Perth Underground Station from 4:30pm on Friday 12 August.

Join the protest for free speech and a free Palestine.

The speakout will also be promoting the Boycott Apartheid Israel rally in Perth on September 17.

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Civil Liberties in Australia?

Posted on August 10, 2011 by fopwa

The BDS (Boycott, Sanctions and Divestments campaign) is an international campaign to put pressure on Israel’s racist, Apartheid policies until it complies with international law and stops violating Palestinian human rights through the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

The BDS campaign is modeled on the successful campaign which culminated in the dismantling of South African Apartheid. Australians, in the tradition of non-violence, were active in that campaign.

BDS targets businesses that contribute to, or profit from, Israel’s violent military occupation of Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza.

Some BDS targets are Israeli owned, such as Max Brenner and Seacret Cosmetics (which mines the Dead Sea within occupied Palestine). Some BDS targets are international, such as Caterpillar (who produce special equipment to destroy Palestinian homes and agriculture) and Veolia transport and waste management (who are building railways on stolen Palestinian land, for exclusive Israeli use).

On July 5, at a BDS protest outside a Max Brenner shop in Melbourne, 19 peace activists were arrested. They thought consumers should be aware that this corporation directly funds Israeli military units which stand accused of War Crimes against Palestinian civilians.

On August 8, during dawn raids, 4 of these activists were re-arrested, accused of violating bail conditions by attending another protest.

Meanwhile the Victorian Government is trying to use anti-union “secondary boycott” laws to silence dissent against Israel’s appalling record.

Friends of Palestine WA stands in solidarity with the BDS campaigners who were arrested in Melbourne.

Why are Australian politicians shielding Israel, and criticising human rights activists?

Why do Palestinian human rights get ignored, while Australian military trade with Israel continues?

Why shouldn’t consumers know what corporations do with their profits?

Protest, consumer information and boycotts are integral to a democratic society!

For more information on BDS see www.bdsmovement.net.

 

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Boycott apartheid Israel! Boycott Max Brenner!

Max Brenner Chocolates is a 100% Israeli-owned company belonging to the Strauss Group, the second largest Israeli food and beverage company. On the “corporate responsibility” section of its website, the Strauss Group emphasises the support it gives to the Israeli army. The Strauss group is proud that for more than 30 years, it has supported the Golani reconnaissance platoon infamous for its involvement 2006 invasion of Lebanon and other atrocities. As their website puts it: “Our connection with soldiers goes as far back as the country, and even further. We see a mission and need to continue to provide our soldiers with support, to enhance their quality of life and service conditions, and sweeten their special moments.”

PROTEST: Sat August 27
Gather at 1pm in park on cnr of Merivale & Glenelg St for a march to Max Brenner store at South Bank

Phone: 0400 720 757, 0401 586 923
Email: contact@justiceforpalestin​ebrisbane.org

spread the word!

Join the Facebook event and invite your friends:
https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=241364205883144&ref=ts

Download posters and flyers:
http://boycottmaxbrenner.wikispaces.com/flyers+and+posters


boycott Max Brenner.

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