Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Video: Omar Barghouti speaks about BDS

video by sternchenproductions; 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.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Twittering about Palestine, politics, life, the universe and everything ...

Dear friends,
I have finally succumbed and joined twitter. I am pretty new to all this so I have no idea what I will tweet about or how often, but no doubt once I get the hang of this new fandangled thing, there will be tweets about Palestine, as well as politics both here in Australia and internationally. Hopefully, in the words of the late, great Douglas Adams, there will also be some about life, the universe and everything (even if the answer is 42! :)

If you are interested, you can follow me at @rafiqa65

in solidarity, Kim

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Murdoch Press and the Fictional Jewish Chocolatier

Dear friends,
an excellent piece published on Palestine Chronicle and written by my friend Samah Sabawi discussing the Murdoch media's appalling coverage of BDS and the Max Brenner protests in Melbourne. As Samah notes if you are looking an accurate representation of what the BDS campaign is about or what is really happening in relation to the Max Brenner protests you are not going to find it the pages of The Australian.

In solidarity,


Murdoch Press and the Fictional Jewish Chocolatier

By Samah Sabawi: Palestine Chronicle: 26 August 2011

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

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Loewenstein on BDS and the Max Brenner protests: Enough with the Nazi Slurs

As mentioned in my introduction to Michael Brull's article in my previous post, Brull's article is the first article to appear in the Australian “mainstream” media which has actively challenged the demonization of the BDS campaign and the Max Brenner protests in Melbourne. Brull, while being publicly on the record as not being a supporter of BDS, correctly points out that there is a concerted and undemocratic attempt to not only crush the Melbourne Max Brenner BDS protests but also that this attempted to forcibly crush the protests has been aided by the Murdoch Press in their relentless promotion/accusation that BDS and the protests are equivalent to Nazism.

Yesterday on the New Matilda webjournal, another well-known Australian Jewish blogger and author, Antony Loewenstein published an article addressing head-on use of the Nazi slurs being thrown around in an attempt to discredit BDS and the Max Brenner protests in Melbourne. Loewenstein, who is a non-Zionist and a supporter of the Palestinian BDS campaign, notes that not only are the Nazi accusations false but that Australian Zionists have cheered and supported the accusations in order to distract from Israel’s anti-democratic behaviour. Loewenstein points out that falsely accusations are not only offensive but also have the effect of undermining the ability to challenge real anti-Semitism when it does occur.

Please find below Loewenstein's New Matilda article (Loewenstein's article, like Brull's has a number of links in it. For some reason, however, the links did not automatically transfer when I posted the article here, so I have included a link to the New Matilda website and the original article, so you can check out the links)

In solidarity, Kim


Enough With The Nazi Slurs
By Antony Loewenstein, New Matilda, 25 August 2011

Equating the BDS movement with Nazism is both offensive and outrageous. So why aren't members of the Jewish community speaking out on this, asks Antony Loewenstein
Joseph Stalin changed his name and so did New South Wales Federal Greens MP Lee Rhiannon.
Stalin, writes Alan Howe, executive editor and columnist with Rupert Murdoch’s Herald Sun, was "perhaps the 20th century’s greatest murderer".

Rhiannon backs the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and, argues Howe, people should know about "the 1930s where violent protests against Jewish traders may end. It was a colourful time of brownshirts, blackshirts and yellow Stars of David".

In this fashion, Rhiannon is likened to a supporter of fascism and remains "against the only democracy in the Middle East and the one country in which the region’s Arabs are guaranteed safety".

Welcome to the level of debate in Australia over the Israel/Palestine conflict. The last months have seen a litany of public figures that should know better accusing anybody associated with the BDS movement of embracing Nazism, anti-Semitism and outright Jew-hatred.

It shames the Australian Jewish establishment that no leading voices have challenged this odious and absurd comparison. Instead, they’ve cheered it on, coordinating nationally, with the support of an Israeli government desperate to distract from its own anti-democratic practices.

The Australian Jewish News has editorialised that boycotting Jewish businesses here will remind Jews of similar Nazi tactics in Germany and Austria in the 1930s. How on earth will the paper cover real anti-Semitism when they so casually compare today’s behaviour to Hitler’s Third Reich?

Back in early July, 19 pro-Palestinian activists were arrested and charged for protesting in front of a Max Brenner chocolate shop in Melbourne. Max Brenner was targeted because its parent company Strauss Group supports elements of the IDF accused of war crimes in both the West Bank and Gaza.

This campaign has continued globally for years. For example, a reader of my website in 2009 sent me a copy of a letter they sent to Max Brenner outlining the reasons the company was a legitimate target for boycott.

The Victorian Government recently continued to threaten the activists with further legal punishment, imprisonment and fines.

Max Brenner’s parent company Strauss Group is an openly political business that proudly states on its Hebrew website that "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". Some of these soldiers were directly implicated in war crimes allegations during incursions into the West Bank and the invasion of Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.

In late July, The Australian reported the campaign against the BDS movement in Australia with a story called, "Anti-Jew protest condemned". Federal Labor MP Michael Danby, journalist Jana Wendt and union head Paul Howes met for a hot chocolate inside a Max Brenner shop in Melbourne, condemned the "violent" protest against the shop and again talked about Nazi Germany. Former Labor Party president Warren Mundine was quoted by journalist Leo Shanahan as saying BDS was not "not anti-Israel but anti-Jewish".

Howes said the protesters were "mimicking the behaviour of the Nazi thugs" and it was necessary to "nip this in the bud". Howes said most people who voted for the Greens had no idea how "xenophobic" its policies were. Not one journalist asked him whether he truly believed waving placards outside a shop in Melbourne is akin to the Gestapo arresting and murdering millions of Jews in the gas chambers. And no Jewish leaders took him to task for the comparison.

Last weekend’s article by The Australian’s Cameron Stewart allowed this misperception to perpetuate. Like Shanahan, Stewart quoted Wendt as saying that, "As the daughter of refugees whose lives were critically affected by both fascism and communism, I’m grateful for what Australia has to offer".

A week later, the Victorian Government announced that it was investigating "anti-Israel activists" — by asking the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) if the BDS-ers were breaking federal law by "threatening" Israeli stores.
The state’s Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien raised the spectre of 20th century attacks on Jewish businesses and claimed BDS was a threat to democratic order. Bizarrely, he singled out the Maritime Union Of Australia, Geelong Trades Hall Council, the Green Left Weekly magazine, Australians for Palestine and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. For the record, Australians for Palestine had nothing to do with the BDS protest against Max Brenner, though they do back BDS.

The Australian followed up with a story recently headlined, "Targeted chocolatier ‘a man of peace’". "Max Brenner says he is a man of peace who hates all forms of violence," the article says. Reporter Cameron Stewart doesn’t mention the serious allegations against the IDF soldiers supported by Max Brenner. (And besides, Max Brenner is the name of the business — not of the company owner. Actually, it’s an amalgam of two names.)

One of the activists interviewed by Stewart, Kim Bullimore, spokesperson for Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, told me that little of what she said to the journalist ended up in the article.

The Australian editorialised further on the matter last week by arguing "for any student of 20th-century history there is something deeply offensive about targeting a Jewish-owned business".

And the Jewish establishment said nothing.

BDS is a peaceful, non-violent movement, like that which campaigned against apartheid South Africa. It aims to put pressure on a state that refuses to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

What Australian politicians will not acknowledge is the real face of modern Israel. Calling for BDS inside Israel is now illegal. As an Arab member of parliament recently told the New York Times, a member of the Knesset wanted to sue him for simply calling for a boycott against the illegal settlement of Ariel. This is in "democratic" Israel.
With Israel announcing yet more illegal colonies in the West Bank, the international community has a clear choice: engage in empty rhetoric about "democratic" Israel or find alternative ways to target a state with one of the most unequal class systems in the developed world.

Australian politicians and all public figures should be strongly challenged on comparing BDS to fascist hoodlums, and rejected.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The campaign against the Max Brenner protesters

Dear friends,
as many of you will know there is a concerted attempt to repress the Australian BDS movement since late last year when the Greens dominated Marrickville Council passed a motion in support of BDS. In Victoria we have seen the Victorian Police violently attack a peaceful BDS demonstration and the Victoria state government call in the ACCC to try and stop BDS actions. In the last couple of weeks, we have also seen the pro-Zionist Murdoch Press go into overdrive trying to smear the non-violent civil dissent as anti-semitic and violent. The Murdoch press have made it clear that they will continue the campaign against BDS which they started against the Marrickville Council earlier this year.

This article by Michael Brull, a well-known Jewish anti-Zionist writer/commentator, is the first in the mainstream press which has not sought to demonise the BDS campaign or the non-violent protestors. Brull, while publicly being on record as not being a supporter of BDS, correctly points out that there is a concerted, undemocratic attempt to not only crush the Melbourne BDS protests outside of Max Brenner, but this attempt to forcibly crush the protests has been aided by the Murdoch Press in their relentless promotion/accusations that BDS, the Max Brenner protests and the protests are an equivalence to the Nazis.

(Brull's article has a number of links embedded in it, but for some reason the links did not transfer when I reposted the article. You can read the original article with all the links HERE)

In solidarity,


22 August 2011

by Michael Brull

On July 1, a small group of activists protested Max Brenner in Melbourne. Here in Sydney, similar protests have taken place over the last few years, and have seemingly passed without incident.

The reasons for the protest were explained by one of its participants, Benjamin Solah. He explained that "the company sends care packages of chocolate and other goods to show their support for the Golani and the Givati brigades". One protester's sign less plausibly explained, "MAX BRENNER PROUDLY SUPPORTS THE DISPLACEMENT, TORTURE AND GENOCIDE OF PALESTINIANS".

Max Brenner, for his part, has described himself as a "man of peace". In a typically non-probing Australian article, he explained:

'Everything that has to do with conflict seems stupid (to [him]),' he said.

'Whether it is in Israel or not, anything to do with violence, aggressiveness or appearing at protests or boycotts seems silly (to me). But then again, I am just a chocolate-maker.'

This would presumably have stretched the credulity of any journalist who had interviewed him. Obviously, if Mr Brenner sends chocolate to his favourite Israeli army brigades, he is not quite as apolitical as he portrays himself. He does not, after all, send chocolate packages to fighters in Hamas, or Hezbollah. Or if he were entirely disinterested in the conflict, perhaps instead of sending chocolate to soldiers, he would try to send it to Gaza (which the Israeli government wouldn't allow, on account of the blockade for purely security reasons).

As for the aims of the protest, they are perhaps not entirely clear. A website in support of the protesters says its aim is "to draw attention to the ongoing genocide committed by the Apartheid regime in Israel against Palestinians". For those who are not part of the small Leninist groups that seem to comprise the core of these protests, it is not clear how picketing a chocolate store will demonstrate to the public that genocide is occurring in Palestine. Even Australians for Palestine - the largest such group in Melbourne - did not get involved in these protests. Presumably, they too did not think Max Brenner was the best choice of target to raise consciousness of suffering (let alone an alleged "genocide") in Palestine.

Suppose, for example, that the protests were successful. Max Brenner suffered crippling financial losses because of the protests. They respond by no longer giving out chocolate to Israeli soldiers. Does anyone think that that would improve life for the Palestinians? That this is the infrastructure of the occupation? That when Israeli soldiers don't get Max Brenner's (mediocre) chocolate products, they'll stop humiliating Palestinians at checkpoints in the West Bank?

I don't think it would be that difficult to find a more appropriate target for protests. For example, at the University of New South Wales, there is an alleged Australian Human Rights Centre. Amazingly, last year it had a talk called "The Fight Against Terror". One of the speakers was Colonel Sharon Afek, Deputy Military Advocate General for the Israel Defence Forces, who apparently "held the positions of legal advisor for Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), Military Advocate General for the Israeli Air Force and, Head of the International Law branch of the IDF". Considering the Israeli army's open contempt for international law, this should have been considered a scandal for an alleged human rights centre. When I have been asked about the centre, I have pointed out this fact and urged people to steer clear of it.

People protest things all the time in Australia. Obviously, most protests do not inspire most Australians: most protests are very small, for fringe causes that many Australians have only the vaguest idea about. Yet these protests have been treated differently from the many other unpopular protests in Australia: they have faced harsh repression.

There are three videos of the July protest. In this one, at about 2:30, you can see a woman asking the police to settle down, saying the protesters are non-violent. The police then rush into the crowd of placid protesters to drag away a woman. There does not appear to be any cause for the arrest: she is plainly not harming or threatening anyone.

Here, you can see a video of the protesters chanting "This is not a police state/We have the right to demonstrate". At 0:49, the police swoop on another person they have plainly singled out for arrest: again, with no apparent cause. At about 3:07, the police advance on the protesters, and one police officer says brusquely "Move" and violently shoves a woman in a hijab.

The third video appears to be the first in order. It shows the arrival of the police in the midst of the protest. The police do not appear particularly interested in negotiations. When they arrive, the protesters boo them. The police seem to be pushing protesters within 30 seconds. At 1:50, they appear to grab a protester who was walking away from them, back into the crowd. Around 3:30, we see the incident from the first video again from a different angle: a woman saying they are non-violent, asking police to settle down, then the police rush in to grab someone.

From the videos, it appears that the protesters were not misbehaving when they were arrested. One of the protesters claims that in subsequent trial testimony, the Victorian police acknowledged the following. Firstly, they had targeted protester leadership in making arrests. Secondly, police infiltrators had attended meetings of the protesters to monitor their activities.

Solah alleges that police violence in making arrests caused one arrestee to lose consciousness. Nineteen protesters were arrested, and 13 of them had bail conditions banning them from going within 50 metres of Max Brenner. Presumably, such conditions are to further criminalise protests against Max Brenner. On August 9, four of the 13 were arrested again in morning raids. They had allegedly protested Max Brenner, in defiance of their bail conditions. Three of them had bail set at $2,000. One of them had bail set at $10 000, presumably with the intent of keeping her in jail until her hearing on September 5.

This is part of a broader campaign against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, targeted at Israel. As I've noted before, there is an extensive and widening literature of comparing people who advocate BDS to the Nazis. Paul Howes, the Australian Workers Union secretary, said the protesters were "mimicking the behaviour of the Nazi thugs". Labor MP Michael Danby explained that "We remember the precedence of the 1930s; my father came from Germany, and (at) any sign of this kind of behaviour we have to draw a line in the sand". Kevin Rudd claimed to learn a similar lesson from history.

Gerard Henderson sought to be circumspect, so he made different point: "the historical parallels. In the mid-1930s, Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists used to go on rampages outside Jewish-owned shops in London's East End - some were boycotted, others smashed up".

This atmosphere of pervasive demonisation of the protesters has made possible repression of the protesters that should be considered shocking. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission has been asked to investigate whether injunctive relief and damages can be inflicted on the protesters. Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O'Brien "singled out the Maritime Union Of Australia, Geelong Trades Hall Council, the Green Left Weekly magazine, Australians for Palestine and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign" for such measures.

The reason is that such organisations "may have engaged in secondary boycotts for the purpose of causing substantial loss or damage to Max Brenner's business".

It is worth considering the significance of this. Firstly, do we think it is reasonable that Australia should become a country where activists are prevented from advocating consumer boycotts that cause substantial loss or damage to what they consider an unethical business? Suppose that this is successful. What about those who engage in secondary boycotts for the purpose of causing substantial loss to Australian coal companies, for the purpose of reducing Australia's carbon footprint? In this instance, Australians for Palestine expressly did not take part in the protests at Max Brenner. They simply advocate BDS - and the activists at Max Brenner thought that fit into that campaign. Applying similar logic, next time Climate Camp activists decide to lock themselves to a coal station to shut down production, police may arrest intellectuals, like Clive Hamilton and Guy Pearse. Does this sound like the kind of democracy we want to live in?

Indeed, it is striking how untroubled Australian commentators seem by these developments. In Israel, a law was recently passed which provided that anyone who calls for a boycott of Israel, or the settlements, could be sued. This was considered outrageous in Israel, and a black mark on its claim to being democratic. As I noted in July, Meretz called the law "an embarrassment to Israeli democracy and makes people around the world wonder if there is actually a democracy here". Kadima complained that "you're sending people to the gulag for their opinions". The American Jewish paper Forward described this as an "an odious law for the ways in which it chills free speech in Israel", noting that "democracy's greatest test is its ability to allow the harshest criticism, whether the flag burners or the boycotters".

Here in Australia, the Australian Jewish News ran two op eds blasting the law. They both came from board members of a new organisation the New Israel Fund Australia. Its chairman is Robin Margo, who used to be the president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. That is, his ""Jewish establishment" credentials are beyond reproach", as Galus Australis noted. In the AJN, NIFA board member Mandi Katz condemned this "broad reaching law that uses the power of the state to silence dissenting political expression. This is indisputably undemocratic, as will be clear to anyone who values democracy, however strongly opposed they may be to boycotts as a means for political change." That is, the one in Israel.

The point is plain. One could be a fanatical Zionist, love everything the Israeli government does, and still think people who disagree should not face criminal or financial penalties for believing otherwise. That is kind of the point of liberal democracy. Even people with really unpopular points of view should be allowed to say what they believe. It is sad that what is considered a black mark on Israeli democracy isn't considered a big deal here. It is comical that the demonisation of boycotters of Israel appears to be more intense in Australia than it even is in Israel. It is a shame that opponents of the Max Brenner protests are not content to simply say: 'I believe your protests are silly, and believe I can convince the public of this.' Instead, there is a campaign to forcibly crush the protesters, assisted by the Murdoch media's relentless promotion of their equivalence to the Nazis.

Michael Brull has a featured blog at Independent Australian Jewish Voices, and is involved in Stop The Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS).

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Palesitnian BDS National Committee Condemns Repression of BDS Activism in Australia

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.

1.Human Rights and Community Organisations condemn attempts to silence BDS Movement
2. Israeli boycotts: ACCC Called In at

UNIFIED STATEMENT: Human Rights and Community Organisations condemn attempts to silence BDS movement

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)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Israeli BDS campaigners stand in solidarity with Australian BDS movement

Dear friends,
as you will be aware, since early July, there has been an attempt by the Victorian state and the Victorian police to intimidate pro-Palestine and BDS campaign and to try and criminalise pro-BDS activism. In early July, Israeli pro-BDS campaigners issued a statement in solidarity with the 19 Melbourne activists arrest on July 1, when a peaceful non-violent BDS action outside of Max Brenner in the Queen Victoria centre was brutally attack by police.

Israeli activists from the pro-BDS campaign in Israel, on 11 August, issued a second statement in solidarity with pro-Palestine solidarity activists and the Australian BDS movement, which is currently facing police and state repression.

Please find below a copy of both their statements, as well as a video by the Alternative Information Centre in Israel at the end of the statement, which includes an interview with Boycott from Within activist, Ofer Neiman.

In solidarity,

14 July 20011

Statement in solidarity with the 19 activists arrested on July 1.
We, Israeli citizens, members of Boycott!, would like to express our solidarity with the Australian citizens who were brutally arrested by the police during a non-violent demonstration near a Max Brenner store on July 1 in Melbourne. We consider these activists as friends, and we thank them wholeheartedly for promoting the BDS initiative, as well as challenging the Australian’s government’s complicity in Israel’s policies of apartheid and occupation.
Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within

11 August, 2011

Following anti-Democratic Arrests and Intimidation Attempts: Israeli Citizens in Solidarity with Australian BDS Activists!

We, Israeli citizens, members of Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within, would like to express our solidarity with the numerous Australians who are involved in the burgeoning BDS campaign in Australia.

Witnessing first-hand the brutality of our government against the Palestinian people, we have joined the July 2005 Palestinian call for a comprehensive boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against the state of Israel and its institutions. Such means should be applied as long as Israel continues to flout international law and UN resolutions and refuses to acknowledge the Palestinian people’s universally recognized human rights: The rights of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories, the rights of Israel’s Palestinian citizens, and the rights of Palestinians who were expelled from their homes during the Nakba (the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine).

As Israeli citizens, we are angered by the outrageous attempts to exploit the horrors committed by the Nazi regime, through a comparison of the Palestinian led BDS campaign to the 1933 Nazi boycott campaign, in order to try and silence the Palestinian non-violent popular struggle for freedom and justice. The deplorable and racist Nazi boycott campaign targeted all Jews, without exception, and only for being Jewish. The Australian BDS campaign does NOT target Jewish businesses, as argued by demagogues in Australia! The lesson from the Jewish Holocaust should be, in our view, the need to oppose all forms of discrimination and violence committed against different ethnic groups in the name of nationalist or supremacist ideologies. The state of Israel has failed to learn that lesson.

To reiterate, we are concerned that some politicians in Australia have accused the activists involved in BDS of being anti-Semitic. We reject those accusations. The BDS campaign is a legitimate form of non-violent political action, whereby people and organizations are required not to participate in or support violations of international law. We take a clear stand against all forms of racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia. Not only does the BDS campaign oppose anti-Semitism, it is also a responsible call that targets only complicit institutions rather than individuals. BDS is neither anti-Jewish nor anti-Israeli, since it does not oppose all that is Israeli because it is Israeli: the campaign simply insists that Israel abide by its obligations under international law. Furthermore, by attempting to lump together all Jews around the world as a monolithic block that is expected to support its criminal policies, the state of Israel is denying the fact that many Jews, including in Israel, oppose the occupation and apartheid policies inflicted on the Palestinian people.

The current debate within Israeli society shows us that the boycott campaign is extremely effective. The latest attempt by the Israeli government to silence its own citizens, the new anti-boycott legislation, in addition to other explicitly racist laws, is yet another indication of the need for this Palestinian-led non-violent global movement, in order to insure the rights of all people in this region.

The recent Australian BDS actions have been a great inspiration. We are encouraged to know that as far-away as Down Under there are individuals and groups active in the BDS campaign, promoting the Palestinian people’s unassailable rights. The BDS movement needs your help and support. We call upon all Australians to join and support the struggle for freedom and equality in Palestine.

With the deepest gratitude and all our support,

Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within

video by Alternative Information Centre

Saturday, August 13, 2011

An interview with The Australian newspaper on BDS and the Max Brenner Protests ... OR ... What The Australian doesn't tell its readers...

On Thursday, I received a text from Cameron Stewart, a reporter from The Australian, wanting to interview me in relation to the BDS protests in Melbourne focusing on the chocolate store, Max Brenner.

Max Brenner is owned by the Israeli company, Strauss, one of Israel's biggest food and beverage companies. According to Strauss' website, the company runs a number of community programs, including one which supports the Golani and Givati brigades of the Israeli military, by supplying soldiers in those brigades with games, sporting equipment, spending money and books [NB: this information has since been removed from Strauss' english language site but remains on their Hebrew language site - here].

What is not mentioned by Strauss is that these two brigades were heavily involved in Israel's 22 day assault on the Gaza Strip in 2008/2009 known as Operation Cast Lead, a brutal military assault which resulted in more than 1300 Palestinians killed, the majority of whom were civilians, including 350 children.

The Melbourne BDS protests highlighting Brenner's complicity with Israeli's occupation and apartheid policies have been taking place since December 2010.

After receiving the text, I did a 10 minute interview with Stewart and was informed that an article would be appearing in Saturday's paper. Well, the article was published in The Australian on Saturday but given the pro-Zionist bent of the paper it was unsurprising to discover that the majority of what I had told Stewart in the interview was not included.

As you can see from Stewart's article below, only the barest of information is included about why pro-Palestine/BDS activists were actually in fact protesting at Max Brenner, despite the fact, I had explained this in detail to Stewart - including the connection between Max Brenner/Strauss and the Israeli military.

In addition, while Stewart notes in the article that "the protests have been condemned by both sides of Victorian politics", he deliberately declined to include my response to his question about this, in which I noted that it was very telling that both sides of politics had condemned the protest but they had nothing to say about Israel's human rights abuses or Israel's killing of more than 1300 people in Operation Cast Lead, or the fact that Israel was continuing to build more illegal settlement or the fact that Israel was in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and rulings made by the International Court of Justice.

Please find below the article as written by Stewart and published in The Australian.

I have also included after the article an outline paraphasing of what I told Stewart in the 10 minute interview I did with him, so you can see what exactly what he chose to leave out.

in solidarity,

Targeted chocolatier Max Brenner 'a man of peace'

by Cameron Stewart: The Australian: August 13, 2011

MAX Brenner says he is a man of peace who hates all forms of violence. So how has this chocolate maker become the target of anti-Israeli protesters in Australia who accuse him of being complicit with the Israeli military?

It's a claim which has outraged many who see the campaign against the 24-store Max Brenner chocolate chain in this country as an ugly echo of the anti-Semitism of 1930s Germany when Jewish businesses were targeted.

Anti-Israeli activists counter that the current global campaign of protests against international Israeli retail chains like Max Brenner are a legitimate means of highlighting what they say is the deeply flawed human rights record of Israel and its military.

But the activists are under growing pressure to abandon their campaign since 19 people were arrested following violent clashes with police outside the Max Brenner store in Melbourne's CBD on July 1.

The protests have been condemned by both sides of Victorian politics.

This week, the Baillieu government asked the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission to examine whether the protesters could be prosecuted for alleged secondary boycotts.

"We remember the precedent of the 1930s,' says Jewish federal MP Michael Danby. "My father came from Germany and (at) any sign of this kind of behaviour, we have to draw a line in the sand."

Kim Bullimore, a spokesperson for the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, vows that the campaign against Max Brenner will continue, with more protests planned in Brisbane on August 27 and Melbourne on September 9.

But it seems Max Brenner, the company's founder, is perplexed and dismayed at finding himself as an unwitting symbol of the Palestinian-Israel conflict.

A Max Brenner spokesman said Mr Brenner, who lives in New York, was on leave and was unavailable for interview. But when asked in July 2009 about protests against his Sydney stores, Mr Brenner said he was no more than a chocolate-maker.

"Everything that has to do with conflict seems stupid (to me),' he said. "Whether it is in Israel or not, anything to do with violence, aggressiveness or appearing at protests or boycotts seems silly (to me). But then again, I am just a chocolate-maker."

The link between the 43-year-old Mr Brenner and the Israeli military is accidental and indirect, notwithstanding the fact that Mr Brenner, like other Israeli-born men, had to complete mandatory military service as a young man.

In 2001, the Max Brenner chain became part of the much larger Strauss Group, Israel's second-largest food and beverage company. But Strauss also provides food and care packages to Israeli soldiers. This, in the eyes of anti-Israeli activists, justifies a boycott.

Ms Bullimore, the co-ordinator of the protest campaign in Australia, denies that activists are simply targeting an innocent chocolate-maker.

"We are trying to highlight Israel's human rights abuses,' she told The Weekend Australian.

In a statement last night, the general delegation of Palestine to Australia said it was aware of the recent incident at the Max Brenner shop in Melbourne but that it did not dictate positions or actions to such civil society initiatives "either within Palestine or in other countries".


Kim's notes on interview with Cameron Stewart:

Stewart (the reporter) wanted to know when was our next action. I told them Sept 9. He wanted to know if we would be picketing Max Brenner. I told him our upcoming action would once again be a non-violent peaceful rally which would highlight Israel’s human rights abuses and that we would be continuing to highlight Max Brenner and Strauss’ complicity with Israeli apartheid and occupation.[ Strauss is Max Brenner's parent company. Strauss gives direct support to the Israeli military by providing care packages, spending money, games, books and sporting equipment to Israel's Golani and Givati Brigades, two of the key military brigades which were active on the ground in Operation Cast Lead in 2008/2009, which resulted in the killing of more than 1300 Palestinians, including 350 children].

Stewart asked if other companies had been protested against as part of the BDS campaign in Austrlaia – I pointed out that protests had been held against Israeli owned companies, Seacret and Jericho. Both companies sell Dead Sea products and while Israeli companies profit from exploiting the Dead Sea, Palestinians living under occupation and living around the area of the Dead Sea are regularly prevented access to not only their lands but also the Dead Sea because of Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies.

Stewart wanted to know if there were other actions happening around the country, I pointed out that there were solidarity actions being organised in several states with those arrested and that there would also be a protest in Brisbane later this month. And I also pointed out that there had been protests in Sydney outside of MB.

He asked me what I thought of Ted Lapkin (former AIJAC staffter) saying that it was hypocritical for us to protest at Max Brenner, when we oppose the blockade of Gaza! I pointed out while we are holding a non-violent peaceful demonstration which lasts for an hour or so, once a month to highlight the complicity of MB/Strauss (via their support for the Israeli military) in Israel’s human rights abuses, as well as occupation and apartheid policies, the Israeli state has been conducting a 4 long year blockade of Gaza, which ensured that medical equipment, building equipment, foods supplies etc can not get in to Gaza. To try and compare the two is hypocritical and outrageous.

Stewart also asked what I thought about the fact that both sides of politics have come out and condemned the protests. I said I thought it was quite telling that both sides of politics felt the need to condemn our legitimate non-violent civil resistance (and that boycotts had long been a legitimate form of civil dissent in liberal democratic society), but did not have a word to say about Israel’s ongoing human rights abuses, Israel’s continued building of illegal settlements in violation of International law or that the fact Israel killed more than 1300 people during Operation Cast Lead, the majority of whom were civilian, including 350 children.

He also asked about the ACCC being called in. Again, I pointed out that it was appalling that politicians are trying to set up investigations into a legitimate non-violent civil resistance movment but fail to say a word about Israel’s human rights abuses, occupation and apartheid policies or that it was in violation of the 4th Geneva convention and rulings by the International Court of Justice.

I pointed out that non-violent civil resistance has long been a legitimate and acceptable part of liberal democratic practice. That it has been used by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jnr, as well as many others. I pointed out that the campaign was a Palestinan initiative and that was supported by Palestinian civil society.

When I raised the issue of MB/Strauss’ connect to the Israeli military, he asked me (to paraphase) “well what about the fact that there are many companies in the US who have supported the US military”. I pointed out that there has been in fact boycotts and protests around companies involved in the wars in Iraq and that non-violent civil resistance is a legitimate form of dissent.

He asked how we knew that Strauss supported the Israeli military. I pointed out that they had had the information up on their english language website but have since taken it down but it remains on their Hebrew site and this had been translated for us by Israeli activists involved in the boycott campaign. I also offered to send him a copy of the statement issued by the Israeli BDS activists in support of Australian BDS activists and he declined to have me send it to him, instead saying he could find it on the web.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Australia’s repression of BDS movement coordinated with Israel

by Kim Bullimore
The Electronic Intifada: 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

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Four Austalian pro-Palestine/BDS activists arrested in dawn raids

Dear friends,
as many of you will be aware things have started to heat up in Australia on the BDS front. Yesterday, Tuesday 9th August, the Victorian Police conducted morning raids arresting four pro-Palestine/BDS activists. The police attempted to execute 5 arrest but only ended up arresting 4 activists. The activists were arrested for breaking their bail conditions.

The activists were four of the nineteen activist who were arrested on July 1 when our peaceful BDS protest outside of the Israeli owned company, Max Brenner, was violently attacked by the Victorian police. At the time of their arrest 11 of those arrested signed bail conditions which would have prohibited them from entering two major shopping centres, including one which has a major train station and medical centres. On July 27 their bail was varied and they were prohibited from going within 50 meters of the two Max Brenner stores in the two centres.

Our next demonstration on July 29 was attended between 350 to 400 people, makig it the biggest pro-BDS activity so far in Australia. The action was completely peaceful (as was the action on July 1. The police were out in force but did not attack or arrest anyone.

Please find below, information on the arrest and the detention of activists yesterday, including a media release and an update on the arrests. All activists were released by 11.30pm Australia time last night, after paying surety.

In solidarity,


July 29 BDS action against Max Brenner and Israel, Melbourne

MEDIA RELEASE Tuesday 9 August


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.”


please circulate widely...

Police persecute Palestine solidarity activists to defend Israeli Apartheid

The Victorian Police and courts went to outrageous lengths to criminalise solidarity activism with Palestine today. For the crime of attending a peaceful demonstration against Max Brenner chocolate store and their support for Apartheid, four activists were snatched from their homes in the early hours of the day, locked in a holding cell, and made to pay a combined total of $16,000 in surety to be allowed to leave.

The four activists were part of the Max Brenner 19, peaceful demonstrators who were savagely attacked by police at a demonstration on the 1st of July. Some weeks after the protest the magistrates court imposed anti-democratic bail conditions on 11 of this 19. Which explicitly denied their right to assembly by prohibiting them on the threat of months of imprisonment from protesting against Max Brenner. This attempt to intimidate the Palestine solidarity campaign in Melbourne, has taken place in the context of a hysterical campaign by Zionist organisations, the Victorian Premier Ted Bailieu, and the Victorian Police, to silence protest calling for Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions against Apartheid Israel.

Today the courts and the police went out of their way to try to punish these four activists by any means possible, when none have been convicted of any crime. Indeed, no crime has been committed except to attend pro-Palestine demonstrations. The four activists were denied their right to phone calls when placed in remand, in an attempt to isolate and demoralise them. It was over 7 hours after their arrest that they were allowed to speak to their lawyers.

Once they were brought before a magistrate for a bail hearing, excessively punitive conditions were placed on their liberty for their alleged offenses. The magistrate chose the harshest possible conditions for bail. For the explicit purpose of preventing them from protesting at or even near Max Brenner. Three were made to pay $2,000 in surety each to be granted bail. One was singled out for far harsher conditions on the basis that she has been a public spokesperson at these demonstrations. For the crime of speaking their mind, they were made to pay $2,000 in surety plus another $8,000 the following week. A sum of money that is many times the maximum sentence for her alleged offense.

Once all four were granted bail on these conditions, they were further punished by deliberately delaying their release. Friends of the detainees have been made to wait over 5 hours to pay the surety for their release. Despite people being present at 5pm to pay for their release, it was 9:30pm before a single detainee was let out. At the time of writing this report only 2 had been released.

It appears that in the eyes of the courts, protesting in solidarity with the Palestinians struggle for freedom is a heinous crime, while Max Brenner's support for genocide and occupation is not.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Palestinians and the "Housing Crisis/Tent Protests" in Israel

Dear friends,
as you will have probably heard for the last two weeks, thousands of ordinary Israelis have been involved in "tent protests" through out Israel opposing the high cost of housings and other economic issues. Last night more than 300,000 Israelis marched in Tel Aviv.

As a number of radical Israeli activists have noted on their blogs and in articles, there has been a reluctance by a number of the organisers to incorporate into these social justice protests the issue of the occupation or the issue of inequality and discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel. As a number of commentators have noted there seems to be a disconnect, not only in the Israeli media, but also amongst many of those involved in the demonstrations/protests between Israel's economic woes and the massive spending on ISrael's occupation and apartheid policies, as well as the social injustice suffered by Palestinians both in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territories. In the last week, a number of Israeli activists have sought to introduce these issues into the protest and to make the links.

I have included below two articles which give a Palestinian perspective of the protests. The first is an article by Abir Kopty, a Palestinian activist with Israeli citizenship and the second is an article by Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, who has interviewed a number of Palestinian activists in the Occupied West Bank about their thoughts on the protests.

In solidarity, Kim


Tent 1948
By Abir Kopty ⋅ August 6, 2011 ⋅

If you are Palestinian, it will be difficult to find anything to identify with in Tel Aviv’s tents’ city on Rothschild Boulevard, until you reach Tent 1948. My first tour there was a few days ago, when I decided to join Tent 1948. Tent 1948′s main message is that social justice should be for all. It brings together Jewish and Palestinian citizens who believe in shared sovereignty in the state of all its citizens.

For me, as a Palestinian, I don’t feel part of the July 14 movement, and I’m not there because I feel part. Almost every corner of this encampment reminds me that this place does not want me. My first tour there was pretty depressing, I found lots of Israeli flags, a man giving a lecture to youth about his memories from ’48 war’ from a Zionist perspective, another group marching with signs calling for the release of Gilad Shalit, another singing Zionist songs. This is certainly not a place that the 20% of the population would feel they belong to. The second day I found Ronen Shuval, from Im Tirtzu, the extreme right wing organization, giving a talk full of incitement and hatred to the left and human rights organizations. Settlers already set a tent and were dancing with joy.

The existence of Tent 1948 in the encampment constitutes a challenge to people taking part in the July 14 movement. In the first few days, the tent was attacked by group of rightwing activists, who beat activists in the tent and broke down the Palestinian flag of the tent. Some of the leaders of the July 14 movement have said clearly that raising core issues related to Palestinian community in Israel or the occupation will make the struggle “lose momentum”. They often said the struggle is social, not political, as if there was a difference. They are afraid of losing supporters if they make Palestinian issues bold.

The truth is that this is the truth.

The truth is, this is exactly what might help Netanyahu, if he presses the button of fear, recreates the ‘enemy’ and reproduce the ‘security threat’, he might be able to silence this movement. The problem is not with Netanyahu, he is not the first Israeli leader to rely on this. The main problem is that Israelis are not ready yet to see beyond the walls surrounding them.

Yet, one has to admit, something is happening, Israelis are awakening. There is a process; people are coming together, discussing issues. The General Assembly of the encampment decided on Friday that it will not accept any racist messages among its participants. Even to Tent 1948 many Israelis arrived, read the flyers, listened to what Tent 1948 represent and discussed calmly. Perhaps if I was a Jewish Israeli I will be proud of the July 14 movement. But, I am not a Jew, I am not Zionist, I am Palestinian.

I don’t want to beatify the reality, or hide anything for the sake of ‘tactics’ and I will not accept crumbs. I want to speak about historical justice, I want to speak about occupation, I want to speak about discrimination and racism, I want to put everything on the table, and I want to speak about them in the heart of Tel Aviv.

Social justice can’t be divided or categorized. If it is not justice to all including all Palestinians, then it is a fake justice, elite justice or “Justice for Jews only” exactly as the Israeli democracy functions “for Jews only”. July 14 is a great opportunity for Israelis to refuse to allow their state to continue to drown into an apartheid regime.


Palestinian pride: Israel protests influenced by Arab world
By Amira Hass, 6 August 2011, Haaretz

Palestinian social leaders believe Israel is 'inadvertantly becoming part of the Middle East', however, there is little Palestinian interest in the protests that have erupted throughout Israel in recent weeks.

Palestinian social leaders believe the social protests that have erupted throughout Israel are largely influenced by the Arab Spring, contending Israelis must realize they too are suffering due to the occupation and money spent on settlements in the West Bank.

Israelis are imitating the Arab world, and West Bank Palestinians believe this to be a good thing. According to the Ma’an news agency, 14,032 (nearly 75%) of the 18,722 readers who responded to their online survey, believe that what is happening in Israel’s streets is influenced by and imitating the “Arab Spring”.

“Israel is inadvertantly becoming a part of the Middle East,” said sociologist Honaida Ghanim, who researches Israeli society, adding that“this is the power of bottom-up activity, when the country’s ideologists aren’t consulted.”

Ghanim wasn’t surprised when the protests began. As an Israeli citizen, born in Marja and General Director of “MADAR” the Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies, the sociologist is well acquainted with Israeli polarization. However, she is certain that the recent events in Egypt and Tunisia had a large impact on the Israeli protest movement.

Sufian Abu Zaida is a member of Fatah and former prisoner, who currently teaches about Israeli society in the Birzeit University and the Al-Quds Open University. He was born in Jabaliya, a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, to a family of refugees from the town Burayr (today Bror Hayil).

The Palestinian teacher promises to remind his students next year that “this might be the first thing Israelis learnt from Arabs. They have always presented themselves as the only positive ray of light in a pitch black Middle East. Suddenly there is something to learn from these retards."

Ghanim cited additional sociological factors as part of the impetus for change in Israel, saying "on the one hand, there is neo-liberalism and globalization that have resulted in an unacceptable gap between the wealth of the state and individuals and the harshness of life for the masses. On the other hand, these are similar tools – online social networks, with Facebook heading the list, which had a far-reaching effect on the media.”

Despite this, there isn’t much interest among the Palestinians in the protest occupying Israel for over three weeks. “We are a people in perpetual struggle with the government, three weeks of protest are not long enough to seriously catch our attention,” said Nariman al-Tamimi, from Nabi Salih, and Afaf Ghatasha, a feminist activist and member of the Palestinian People’s Party.

However, they are both impressed – as are other Palestinians –that the Israeli movement is geared toward improving the already high level standard of living in Israel in comparison to that of most Palestinians. Israelis are making “demands that are luxuries,” according to Ghatasha.

“I know something about the housing crisis,” said Tamimi, who was wrongfully placed under arrest for eight days a year and six months ago, for the attack of a policeman with a sharp object. She was eventually convicted of “obstructing a police officer in the performance of his duties,” during a demonstration against the appropriation of town land and a well.

Her husband Bassam was arrested four months ago and is charged with organizing the demonstrations in their town. “For us Palestinians, it isn’t a housing crisis we are facing but a housing ban. Though the Israeli government being at fault is a common denominator,” she said.

The Civil Administration issued a demolition order for her house built in Area C. The original house, built in 1963, wasn’t large enough for the entire family, and they were forced to expand their house without a permit; a permit Israel doesn’t issue.

From their home, which could be destroyed any day, the family members can see the settlement of Halamish growing. “A few days ago, my daughter saw the Israeli protests with me as I was surfing the web,” Tamimi said, when we met at the al-Bireh Popular Resistance Committees offices.

“She asked me, are they also dispersed with tear gas, are they hit? I told her they weren’t. She couldn’t understand the difference; we are also fighting for social justice, are we not?” Tamimi said.

The main element missing in the Israeli wave of protests, according to Tamimi, is the disconnect between social struggle and the Israeli occupation.

Abu Zaida is the only who seems optimistic about the protests, saying“the public will start reckoning with its government on what it is spending on the settlements and settlers. It’s about to happen. Social justice means an equal distribution of the country’s resources. Everyone knows that this isn’t the case due to political and ideological reasons.”

Ghanim, however, believes the Israeli protest movement will fail because political correctness will prevent people from seeing the natural link to the occupation, with the government continuing to make settlements the highest priority and depriving the Palestinian people of their freedom.

“The movement is headed by the middle class and many intellectuals, as a social class that generates much knowledge in the sociological sense but not in the spiritual sense, Ghanim said, adding "they will eventually make the connection to the occupation. However, strategic processes take a long time historically, while the leadership will have the short-term in mind, not treating the root of the problem. And then the movement will collapse. Netanyahu will bring the West Bank to Tel Aviv, meaning he will upgrade apartheid, and that’s all.”

Tamimi and Ghatasha believe this is an opportunity for Israelis to understand that they too are victims of the occupation. “All the tear gas grenades thrown at us in demonstrations cost money which cannot be spent on improving social conditions for Israelis,” Tamimi said. However, said she heard that one of the protest leaders spoke out against the anarchists, because they demonstrate against soldiers.

“These are the activists standing by our side in recent years,” she said, “How can you demand social justice for only one group?”

Ghatasha , who was born in the al-Fawwar refugee camp, to a family from the depopulated Palestinian town Bayt Jibrin, also found herself hard pressed to see any difference made by the protests that have swept up the country.

This May she met with Israeli leftist activists, who came to a conference for Palestinian leftist parties in Hebron. At the conference she talked about two processes hindering feminist Palestinian activities and female participation in the struggle against the occupation.

On one hand, she claimed, NGO-ation (the channeling of activities to NGOs funded by different countries), reduces the influence of women groups. On the other hand, militarization of the second intifada pushed most of the population, including women, out of the struggle’s public sphere.

“What is it that makes some Israelis get it and others not?” she mused in her party’s Hebron offices. “I’d like to understand the rationality of the Israeli people,” she added.
“On one hand there’s this selfishness, of a people living off another people’s misery, with no regret. On the other hand, it is obvious that they would be better off were they to live like a normal country, not squandering their money on upholding the occupation, Ghatasha said.

Despite their misgivings, all four agree the protest will allow the Palestinians – most of whom know Israelis only in the form of settlers and soldiers – to see that “Israeli society isn’t one-dimensional, that it is complex, that it shouldn’t be flattened, that it has struggles and oppressed classes of its own,” Ghanim said.

“The protest is shattering the Palestinians image of Israel as a perfect country, where all are full, own villas and trade in their cars every year," Abu Zaida added.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Opposing police intimidation, pro-Palestine supporters in Melbourne call for the boycott of Israel

Dear friends,
Please find below a video I have put together from the highly successful BDS action in Melbourne on July 29.

Between 300 -400 people participated in the action against Max Brenner Chocolate, an Israeli company which is owned by the Strauss Group, one of Israel’s biggest food and beverage companies. On its website, the Strauss Group emphasis its support for the Israeli military. Strauss boasts that it supports both the Golani and Givati Brigades of the Israeli military, providing them with care packages, sports and recreational equipment, books and games. Both of these brigades were heavily involved in Israel's 2008/2009 military assault on the Gaza Strip, which resulted in more than 1300 Palestinians being killed, the majority civilian, including approximately 350 children.

The atmosphere at the July 29 action was fantastic, with lots of new people attending. According to an “eyewitness” report published by the Zionist media in Australia, “protesting were Socialists, Muslim Arab community members including, Palestinians, Sudanese, Somalis, Ethiopians and a group of multicultural activists”.

As many of you will be aware our last peaceful BDS action against Max Brenner on July 1 was violently attacked by the Victorian Police, with at least one non-violent protestor being choked unconscious by the police as he was dragged by them out of the peaceful demonstration. Police arrested 19 people charging them with “trespass” (in a public place) and “besetting”.

Video of the police attack on the peaceful demonstration can be seen here and here.
The police attack on the July 1 action marked a clear escalation in Victorian police violence against pro-Palestinian demonstrators. This reasons for this escalation was made abundantly clear on July 27 at a bail variation hearing for 11 of the 19 who were arrested.

At the court hearing, the police made it clear that their attack on peaceful demonstration came only after discussions with Zionist groups, the Victorian government, shopping centre management and the state and national management of Max Brenner. A lot of the police testimony revolved around the fact that the protests were well organised and coordinated (and therefore effective, although they didn’t use the word “effective”). They made it clear that their main aim in arresting people was to disrupt the ability of pro-Palestine solidarity activists to organise.

Police stated during the hearing that “the protestors had their own way” for too long and a “decision [was] made to draw a line in the sand and make arrests”. The Victorian Police also admitted that police infiltrators had been sent to pro-Palestine solidarity meetings in order to monitor the activity of BDS/Palestine activists.

However, in the wake of the police attack, Pro-Palestine/BDS activists resolved not to be intimidated by the police and to continue to organise our non-violent peaceful actions highlighting the complicity of companies like Max Brenner in Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies.

After hearing a range of speakers at the State Library, pro-Palestine protestors took to the streets and marched through Melbourne city. They then entered Melbourne Central Shopping Centre and held a peaceful a half hour sit-in outside the Max Brenner located there. The protestors then proceeded peacefully to the Queen Victoria Shopping Centre and held another half hour sit-in outside of Max Brenner in the QVB.

Although the Victorian Police had deployed a large number of police officers and had once again hidden Police Prison trucks in the loading docks of the QV shopping centre, no police attacks on the peaceful demonstration occurred (unlike on July 1) and the non-violent peaceful protest proceeded unhindered (On July 1, the police had established a mobile processing unit in the QV loading docks and had brought in a number of prison transport trucks to hold arrest protestors).

The next BDS action in Melbourne will be held on September 9. On September 5, those arrested will appear in court and will plead not-guilty to the charges laid against them.

For more information on the Defence Campaign in support of the “Boycott-Israel19” please visit: