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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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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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