Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘repression’

BNC Secretariat: August 16, 2011

Occupied Palestine – The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the broadest Palestinian civil society coalition and the Palestinian leadership of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, commends human rights and Palestine solidarity organizations across Australia who signed a unity statement reiterating their support for BDS as the most effective and non-violent campaign to end Israel’s systematic oppression of the Palestinian people [1]. We stand with Australian activists in the face of the organized repression and smear campaign they have been facing for the past year, since the attempts to overturn the Marrickville council BDS motion. As Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation, refugees not allowed to return to our homes and Palestinians living as second class citizens in Israel – we are heartened by the courage of Australian activists and their commitment to building a grassroots movement across Australia in support of Palestinian human rights.

Most recently, the repression campaign has culminated with the Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien singling out Palestine solidarity organisations calling for them to be investigated by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) for suspicion that they may be involved in ‘secondary boycotts’ against Israeli-owned businesses in Australia. An article in The Australian reported that the “Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien said the protesters had deliberately pinpointed businesses with Israeli ownership and who they believed traded with the Israeli government” [2]. This is a completely false accusation and a cynical attempt to smear BDS activism in Australia. Nowhere in the world are BDS activities about targeting specifically business with Israeli ownership, based on the nationality of their owner. Businesses and institutions are rather chosen based on their direct contribution to grave human rights abuses and international law violations of the Israeli state and military, or to rebranding campaigns that attempt to whitewash Israel’s crimes.

We admit that it is confounding to Palestinians who lead the BDS movement, that as youth across the Arab world take to the streets and risk
their lives in the fight for basic democratic rights and freedom of expression – in countries that claim to be democratic, such as Australia, politicians are going to great length to curtail freedom of expression and shield the state of Israel from any criticism. The problem lies with staunch supporters of Israel who refuse to admit that universally recognised standards of international law and social justice apply as much to Israel as they do to any other state.

Israel’s long-standing, systematic and deeply consequential violation of international human rights and humanitarian law has come under global scrutiny and criticism like never before. “Apartheid” has, once again, become a household word. Whereas in the 1980s it became synonymous with South Africa, apartheid is now widely recognized as the foundational condition of Israeli policy and practices towards Palestinians.

The Australian people played an important role in the South African anti-apartheid movement, unions implemented the oil embargo, a trade and arms embargo was carried out as well, and the sports boycott actions continue to be remembered internationally with great pride across social movements. We are witnessing today politicians who attempt to criminalize these types of BDS actions, but just as Australians had a right to challenge apartheid then, they have every right to challenge Israel’s system of apartheid, colonialism and occupation as well. The Palestinian-led BDS campaign and supporters internationally will not be deterred by desperate attempts to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

The curtailment of freedom of expression and the smear campaigns are unfortunately consistent with the Australian state’s support for Israel. Australian politicians across the spectrum have boasted about the “special relationship” and “bond” with the Israeli state. Inflammatory accusations of anti- Semitism are patently false, intellectually and morally dishonest, and serve to discredit and silence any form of criticism directed against Israel’s war crimes and human rights abuses.

We remind the government of Australia of its obligations under international law to respect basic human rights and end all support of Israel’s war crimes and other serious violations of international law. The Australian government must urgently end its arms trade with Israel and impose sanctions upon it rather than investigate dissident organizations who, in the tradition of principled international solidarity, are taking the moral responsibility to end Israel’s impunity and Australia’s complicity in it.

We will continue to work closely with human rights and solidarity organizations across Australia, despite all silencing attempts, until Israel respects international law and freedom, justice and equality are achieved for the Palestinian people.

Notes
1.Human Rights and Community Organisations condemn attempts to silence BDS Movement
http://www.justiceforpalestinebrisbane.org/node/37
2. Israeli boycotts: ACCC Called In at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/israeli-boycottsaccc-
called-in/story-fn59niix-1226110465124

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

MEDIA RELEASE      Tuesday 9 August
 
BAILLIEU GOVERNMENT ESCALATES ATTACKS ON CIVIL LIBERTIES
 
Dawn raids see pro-Palestine activists arrested
Police demand activists be held in custody for weeks

 
Raids carried out at dawn this morning by police have seen several pro-Palestine activists arrested, in the most severe crack-down on civil liberties in decades. The activists are being targeted because of their involvement in protests against chocolate shop Max Brenner, a chain store with strong ties to the Israeli military. The protests are part of the worldwide Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which aims to draw attention to the ongoing genocide committed by the Apartheid regime in Israel against Palestinians.
 
Campaign organiser Omar Hassan:
 
“This crack-down on the right to protest should be of concern to all Victorians. The lengths to which the Baillieu government is going to eradicate criticism of Israeli Apartheid and criminalise dissent are unprecedented. We need to be clearly saying; demonstrating is not a crime. Taking action in support of Palestine is not a crime.”
 
The activists were arrested for breaching bail conditions imposed following arrests at a previous pro-Palestine protest at Max Brenner. The bail conditions, which prohibit arrestees going within 50 metres of a Max Brenner shop, are themselves a serious curtailment on the right to protest.  The arrestees have been told they will be held until September the 5th.

 
As Hassan points out:
 
“Actions taken against South African businesses by anti-Apartheid protests were important in generating opposition to that racist regime. To outlaw similar actions today can only be motivated by a desire to protect the reputation of Israel, and represent an unacceptable attack on our right to express dissent and show solidarity with oppressed people around the world.”
 
http://boycottisrael19.wordpress.com/

Read Full Post »

Biggest BDS action in Australian history! Over 300 rally against Max Brenner in Melbourne.

On July 1 the Victorian police, in cahoots with the Victorian Liberal Government and Zionist groups, arrested 19 peaceful pro-Palestine demonstrators. It was a calculated attempt to intimidate BDS activists from continuing the campaign against Israeli apartheid. They thought that by attacking the BDS demonstration they would put an end to our movement. They were wrong.
In solidarity with the Max Brenner 19 and in defiance of a police intimidation, over 300 people came out tonight to demand Max Brenner be removed from QV and Melbourne Central. The largest BDS action in Australian history was determined to send a message to those who want to protect Israel from criticism, that we would not be silenced. The rally heard from Trade Union and community representatives before marching through the city. The demonstration confidently marched to the Max Brenner store in Melbourne Central chanting what became the trademark of the rally “Max Brenner, come off it! There’s blood in your hot chocolate!”
In spite of repeated threats of mass arrests by Victoria Police – and their deployment of horses within the shopping centre – the protest marched into QV and staged a sit-in in front of Max Brenner. The greatest victory of the demonstration was that it not only returned to QV and defied bans by the Police and the courts, but did so without a single arrest!
We have resolved to use this success to push towards larger actions in the future. The next protest has been called for Friday 9 September

Read Full Post »

Stand up for Palestinian human rights!

Stand up for civil rights in Victoria!

Oppose the criminalisation of protests in support of Palestine!

On 1 July 2011, the Victorian police viciously attacked a peaceful pro-Palestine demonstration in Melbourne’s CBD. In one of the largest political arrests in a decade, 19 non-violent protesters were arrested during a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) action against Israeli-owned Max Brenner store. The chocolateria in the Queen Victoria Centre is owned by the Israeli conglomerate ‘Strauss group’; a company that provides “care rations” for the Israeli military, including the Golani and the Givati brigades – two of the key Israeli military brigades involved in Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza in December 2008/January 2009, which killed more than 1300 Palestinians, the majority of whom were civilian, including over 300 children.

The peaceful picket was ‘kettled’ by police before leading activists were individually targeted in an unprovoked attack by the police riot squad. The tactic of completely surrounding a group of protesters is called “kettling”.

The majority of those arrested have been charged with “trespass” and “besetting”, while a small number of the demonstrators were also charged with “behaving in a riotous manner”. Video taken of the demonstrations shows that the pro-Palestinian activists were completely peaceful and they were attacked in a violent and unprovoked manner by the Victorian police.

The protest against Max Brenner occurred as part of the global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the apartheid Israeli state.  Inspired by the South African struggle against apartheid, the BDSanctions campaign was launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005.  Endorsed by more than 171 Palestinian civil society organisations, including political parties, women’s groups, trade unions, associations, the BDS campaign is conducted in the framework of international solidarity and resistance to injustice and oppression and calls for non-violent punitive measures to be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognise the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with international law.

The attack on the peaceful BDS action in Melbourne highlights increasing attempts to criminalise BDS and pro-Palestine solidarity activism internationally. Currently in the US, France and Greece, hundreds of pro-Palestine activists are facing criminal charges for non-violently standing up for Palestinian human rights. The attack also highlights the attacks on civil liberties, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in Victoria by the Baillieu government. In June 2011, Bailleu’s Coalition government introduced new laws extending police powers, allowing the Victorian police to issue on-the-spot fines of up to $240 for using “offensive” language. The new laws do not define clearly what “offensive” language is, allowing individual police officers to arbitrarily decide what is offensive or not.

The government has also established a new 42 member “Public Order Response Team”. According to the Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper, one of the primary functions of Baillieu’s new riot squad will be “breaking up public protests”.   

Civil liberties lawyer Rob Stary in a media release issued by the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid in the wake of the violent police attack on the peaceful BDS protest outside Max Brenner said the attack and arrests showed that “the new Victorian [Baillieu] government is prepared to criminalise legitimate dissent.”

We call on all supporters of human rights, freedom of speech and civil liberties to stand in solidarity with the 19 BDS/pro-Palestine activists who were beaten and arrested by the Victorian police on July 1.  Support and/or join the “Boycott-Israel19″ Defence campaign today!

For more information and to sign on to the solidarity statement visit: Boycott-Israel19


Read Full Post »