Baillieu tries to silence protest in Victoria

August 9, 2011
Boycott Max Brenner signs.
Boycott Max Brenner signs.

The Socialist Alliance (archived by Internet Archive 07/10/2011) released the statement below on August 10.

* * *

Our right to demonstrate in support Palestinian human rights must be protected.

Millions of people across the Middle East have been protesting for freedom of speech and freedom to protest, while in Victoria, the Ted Baillieu Coalition government is proceeding to criminalise political protest, particularly protest in support of Palestinian human rights.

The government is trying to shut down Palestine solidarity protests by:

  • The arrest of 19 people for protesting outside chocolate shop Max Brenner in the Queen Victoria shopping centre on July 1 and the imposition of bail conditions preventing them from going within 50 metres of the Max Brenner shops in the Queen Victoria and Melbourne Central shopping centres. Max Brenner is part of the Strauss group of companies, which has strong ties with the Israeli military.
  • The re-arrest of four of these people on August 9 for allegedly going within 50 metres of the Max Brenner shop at a later Palestine protest and the imposition of a total of $16,000 in bail surety.
  • A request that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigate whether groups that support the boycott of Max Brenner are in breach of 45D of the Trade Practices Act — the section that bans secondary boycotts. The consumer affairs minister named the Maritime Union Of Australia, Geelong Trades Hall Council, Green Left Weekly, Australians for Palestine (archived by Internet Archive 18/08/2011) and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as organisations to be investigated as supporters of the campaign.

The Palestine solidarity protests outside Max Brenner shops are part of an international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel to draw attention to the ongoing genocidal policies being practiced by the Israeli apartheid regime against Palestinians.

There have been regular protests outside Israeli stores in the Melbourne CBD which profit from the oppression of Palestians and/or which have strong ties to the Israeli state.

The Victorian police have been increasingly repressive with each demonstration. At the July 1 demonstration - where 19 protesters were arrested - more than 100 police attacked the protest wildly before targeting the protest leaders, and then other demonstrators sitting down with linked arms, for arrest. There was no media at that protest.

At the later protest on July 29, the police riot squad was mobilised but there were no arrests, no doubt because there was a big media presence. If the police had behaved as wildly as they had at the earlier demonstration in front of the media, the police would have lost all credibility.

The protests have been smeared by Victorian consumer affairs minister Michael O’Brien and federal foreign affairs minister Kevin Rudd as anti-Jewish.

“Such smears are designed to intimidate and silence Palestine solidarity activists from criticising Israel’s gross violation of international humanitarian law,” said Sue Bolton, one of the arrested protesters and Socialist Alliance state convenor.

“There are many Jewish people, including in Israel, who support the BDS campaign. Max Brenner and other companies have been targeted for protest because of their strong ties to and support for the state of Israel and its violations of the human rights of Palestinians.

“Even the Victoria police were forced to concede in the Magistrate’s Court that there is no evidence of any anti-Jewish comments by the BDS campaign.

“The BDS campaign is part of a long tradition of using consumer boycotts to pursue justice. Such a campaign of boycotts and sanctions was critical to ending the apartheid regime in South Africa, which has inspired people around the world to seek to use similar measures to end Israel’s apartheid-like policies towards Palestinians.”

Bolton added that “consumer boycotts have been used in countless campaigns — animal rights, protection of native forests, fair trade, and human rights issues in a range of countries. In my 30 years of activism, I have never known a government to threaten a community boycott campaign with secondary boycott action”

Bolton asked: “Why suddenly target the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign protests against Israeli-owned businesses that have strong ties to the state of Israel?”

“The Victorian government is going to extraordinary lengths to silence any criticism of the state of Israel and its human rights abuses. It is attempting to make Palestine solidarity protests illegal with its threat to use secondary boycott legislation and the police in the service of Israel.

“The right to protest is a fundamental human right and needs to be defended. Human rights activists will take our inspiration from the uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa. We will continue supporting the BDS campaign while the Palestinians are stripped of their human rights.

“We call on the ACCC to reject the Victorian government’s request to conduct a political vendetta against organisations supporting the BDS campaign and the Baillieu government should drop all charges against the Palestine Solidarity protesters.

“Our right to demonstrate in support of Palestinian human rights or any other issue must be protected.”


Why don't we see you the greens protesting the slaughter in Syria? Thousands of civilians have been killed in the past months. in 1980 over 20,000 Syrians were killed by the Syrian regime in Hama. But we don't see any boycott agaisnt Syria. Or the many other extremly brutal regimes around the world and the Middle East. Why? Why is Israel singled for special censor, out of all the countries in the world? A state which is surrounded by 22 Arab countries bent to see Israel destroyed.
Protesting Israel makes more sense given that our government is one of the major international backers of the Zionist state. There have been protests against what is happening in Syria which I'm sure have been supported by Green Left readers. You'll probably read about those protests in its pages too. But like most pro-Israel commentators, I suspect your motivation has nothing to do with supporting the people of Syria, merely to deflect attention from Israel. Let's be clear. Israel is a state that is racist. It has waged war on its arab neighbours and is enacting a program of gradual ethnic cleansing against the Arab and Bedouin inhabitants of historic Palestine. We should be boycotting Israel. It is a peaceful tactic that can succeed. That's why Israel is so upset about the international boycott campaign.
At what point do we acknowledge or disregard the historic inhabitants of a country. Its easy here in Australia Aboriginal history goes back many many thousands of years with no clearly known occupant prior to them. However in Israel how can any person argue against Israel on the grounds that The Arab and Bedouin are inhabitants of historic Palestine. Any student of history can site jewish occupation of that same area prior to the arab and bedouin. As well as boycotting Israel how about we boycott all the other countries that incite hatred towards Israel. So lets see; the list for boycotting would be Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan Iran etc etc etc etc and force them all to get on. There are always two sides to a coin but to the green left its only politically expedient to target Israel.
If Israel was not demolishing Palestinian homes, denying Palestinian refugeees the right of return, evicting whole villages of Bedouin, stealing land for settlements, causing humiliation and disruption with its spider-web of checkpoints etc etc etc.... then maybe the Israeli state would not be so hated by the rest of the region (and much of the world). And no doubt Green Left would not single it out for such attention. Until that time, I hope GLW keeps this racist bastard state in the spotlight.
I went to an anti-Israeli picket on friday and a rally for the people of Syria on sunday. If you have ever actually bought a copy of green left Weekly and not just read one article on the website you would see that it has consistently advocated human rights in the Middle East, alongside the boycott campaign against Israel, aimed at ending an illegal occupation. The reason there is a boycott of Israel is that the Palestinian people asked for one, with over 140 civil society organisations putting out a call asking for boycotts. I love when people ask why we don't boycott Syria, Egypt, etc etc, because these are always the people who would never get off their asses to boycott any country regardless of that countries actions. Do you know how long it takes to build an international boycott campaign? The Israeli occupation of Palestine has been happening for decades, it is a long term event that a non-violent campaign can be built around. It took decades for the boycott campaign against South African Apartheid to become affective. There has been terrible government repression in Syria and we are extending solidarity and doing what we can at the moment, but a boycott campaign is not feasible, nor is it going to be the best tactic to help the Syrian people at this time. Israel, with the most powerful military force in the region, nuclear weapons and the support of the most powerful country in the world can hardly continue to play the 'poor defenceless Israel'card. Do you not realise that Israel will never be safe unless it stops it colonisation and expansion that causes it to be a pariah state? Only when it engages with its Arab neighbours and integrates economically and diplomatically in the region will a lasting peace ever be achieved.
Do you know what a theocracy is? A dictatorship? Nearly every state in the middle east has waged war on its neighbours. By your logic I assume you are boycotting all of them. Or is your motivation nothing to do with supporting the Palestinians, merely a way to deflect attention from anywhere BUT Israel?
GLW singles Israel out because it is the WORST state in the region. For what? Gender equality? Gay rights? Genocide? Racism? Religious freedom? As a liberal minded Aussie lefty, I bet you'd prefer to live in Israel than any other country in the region. I take it you've been over there?
"Only when it engages with its Arab neighbours and integrates economically and diplomatically in the region will a lasting peace ever be achieved." This is a lovely idea, perhaps when Israel's wreath wearing, dove clutching neighbours recognise her existence and lift their trade boycotts then all this hand holding may commence. Also those 140 civil societies submitted their kind request five years after the BDS kicked off in Durban. It wouldn't hurt you to read a book every now and then, even wikipedia could help.
Many Zionists have claimed that any opposition to the state of Israel is "antisemitic". Rather silly considering many Jews, including religious Jews, have always been opposed to the existence of the state of Israel and the Zionist ideology. I know plenty of people who have visited and lived in (and sometimes fled from) various arab regimes. There is sometimes racism and nationalist/ethnic chauvinism (e.g. against the Kurds). But to say every state in the region is racist is ridiculous - unless you define opposition to Israel as "racism" as in "antisemitism". So it's just another self-serving Zionist circular argument. Yawn.
You could start with Norman Finkelstein...
I don't think Israel considers it self defenseless at all, which seems to be a major problem that the Left / Right has with Israel. They just wont roll over and take it like a good Jew should. Completely surrounded by nations that are engaged in open hostilities or covert hostilities and with them. A complex domestic situation with a Palestinian almost state that is run by an organization that is sworn to kill every last Jew (read the Hamas Manifesto its not a secret). Still they wont buckle and have a vibrant democratic culture, compare the recent mass protests in Israel compared with what has happened during protests in every surrounding country....

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