A motion condemning anti-apartheid protests targeting the Max Brenner chain of chocolate and coffee shops was passed by the Australian Senate on September 13.
The motion was moved by Queensland Nationals Senator Ron Boswell and supported by all parties except for the Greens.
Another motion, from Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, “condemning the Australian Greens and their leader for failing to condemn the vile boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel” was defeated.
The Senate debate, premised on the slanderous assumptions such as that Max Brenner was targeted for being Israeli-owned or even for being Jewish-owned, was littered with accusations of anti-Semitism and lurid comparisons to attacks on Jewish businesses in Nazi Germany.
Liberal and Labor politicians, like the mainstream media, have consistently ignored the fact that Australian BDS supporters have targeted the Max Brenner chain because of its advertised support for the Israeli military.
Promotional material on the Hebrew language website of Max Brenner’s parent company advertises the company’s adoption of the elite Golani and Givati brigades, both of which have carried out atrocities against Palestinians including house demolitions, massacres, extrajudicial executions and the killing of children.
On September 15, the NSW upper house adopted a similar motion condemning the Max Brenner protests, put by Liberal MP David Clarke.
In this instance, the slurs of anti-Semitism were included in the motion as well.
Putting the motion, Clarke singled out federal Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon who he colourfully described as “at the apex of the BDS campaign here in Australia”.
In a diatribe straight out of the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s, he tried to link her with “the Soviet Union or Cuba or North Korea or any of the other satellite communist nations of eastern Europe” because of her one-time membership of what is now the Communist Party of Australia. She left that party more than 20 years ago.
Continuing with the redbaiting, he accused her of uniting in the BDS campaign with the Socialist Alliance, “an outfit that has its origins in the Trotskyite Socialist Workers League”.
“It is anti-capitalist and it is linked with the Green Left Weekly … In its pantheon of heroes, apart from Karl Marx himself, you will find Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Apart from BDS, the Socialist Alliance has been active in all sorts of campaigns. For instance, in 2008 it organised protests against the visit to Sydney of Pope Benedict XVI,” he warned.
In reality, the Socialist Alliance is just one of the many groups involved in the BDS campaign and Max Brenner protests.
NSW Greens policy supports the BDS campaign, and some Greens members have been involved. But the NSW Greens have not been part of organising the Max Brenner protests.
Greens MP John Kaye responded in parliament: “This motion is a cheap attempt to smear the boycott, divestment and sanction movement as anti-Jewish when it is not.
“It is an attempt to allege that there is anti-Semitism on the side of the boycott, divestment and sanction debate when there is no evidence of such anti-Semitism.
“There is direct evidence that the anti-boycott, divestment and sanction side is being supported by those with excellent fascist connections, the Australian Protectionist Party — and not just fascist connections, but connections to holocaust deniers.”
He accused the motion of pointscoring, which “cheapens the memory of the six million people who died in the holocaust and the many more who suffered terribly under Nazism”.
He said: “Just as the consumer, trade and sporting boycotts against South Africa brought about change in that country, it is the Greens’ belief that these boycotts can bring about change in Israel and Palestine …
“The Greens recognise that there were those during the campaign against apartheid in South Africa who … felt that the boycotts would not help the blacks in South Africa — the Liberal Party and the Nationals were full of such people.
“Who can forget Joh Bjelke-Petersen, a former Premier of Queensland, who fought vigorously against the boycotting of South African sporting events? History shows that those people were dead wrong.”
Kaye pointed out that Clarke “twice — once in April 2005 and then in April 2007 — attended a commemoration of the rise of the fascist Ustasha government into power in Croatia in April 1941 … There is no excuse for … David Clarke moving this motion when he so shamefully supported the celebration of the Nazi regime in Croatia.”
Kaye and NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge voted against Clarke’s motion.
However, NSW Greens MPs Jeremy Buckingham, Jan Barham and Cate Faehrmann voted for it.
Faehrmann repeated the baseless accusation against BDS supporters of anti-Semitism. She told parliament that “certain chants used at the [Max Brenner] protest have descended into that domain”.
In the federal parliament, Boswell also successfully put anti-BDS motions in the Senate on August 18 and August 23.
The Coalition is using the broader campaign of slander against BDS to tar the Greens as “extremist” and to create and exploit divisions in the Greens.
Boswell’s September 13 motion included a clause that agreed “with the New South Wales Greens MP Mr Jeremy Buckingham’s assertion ‘that the tone and the public perception of the Max Brenner protests may be counterproductive to the cause of peace and human rights in the Middle East’”.
Buckingham’s remarks were reported in the September 9 Sydney Morning Herald, which said “he [had] also joined the Parliamentary Friends of Israel, as well as the equivalent Palestinian friendship group”.
Other Greens politicians, including federal parliamentary leader Senator Bob Brown (who opposed the anti-BDS motions in the Senate), have also expressed concern about “the public perception” of the NSW Greens’ support of BDS.
Following Marrickville Council’s December 2010 resolution supporting BDS, the Murdoch media led an intense campaign slandering the Greens as anti-Semites.
“Max Phillips, a Greens councillor on Mr Buckingham's staff … was one of two Greens on the council who changed their vote and sided with Labor and independents against the mayor, Fiona Byrne, to scrap the policy,” the SMH said.
However, responding to Clarke’s September 15 motion in the NSW upper house, Shoebridge quoted Nobel Peace Prize-winning South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s letter to Marrickville Council.
The letter said: “Sometimes taking a public stand for what is ethical and right brings costs, but social justice on a local or global scale requires faith and courage.”