Israel boycott sparks furor, death threats

Coalition for Palestine poster in support of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.

The councillors of Marrickville, in Sydney’s inner west, voted by a 10-2 majority on December 15 to support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

A month later, they have belatedly become the subjects of vilification in the Rupert Murdoch-owned media, and of death threats from Australia's lunatic fringe.

"What does the desert theocracy of Saudi Arabia have in common with Marrickville Council in Sydney's Inner West?" howled a January 13 article in Murdoch's Daily Telegraph, under a headline comparing the council to North Korea.

The piece — which manages to be factually inaccurate on subjects as diverse as kosher food laws and Palestine Liberation Organisation factions — goes on to hail Israel as "one of the most innovative and entrepreneurial countries in the world. Its products and inventions find their way into computers, mobile phones and medicines."

The online version of the article seeks to demonstrate Israel's virtues by illustrating it with a photo gallery of Israeli swimsuit model Bar Refaeli and a video of her writhing in the sand on a photo shoot.

"This is what passes for 'journalism' and commentary over Israel/Palestine in Australia," laments Antony Loewenstein, the Sydney-based author of Australian bestseller My Israel Question and co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices.

His blog also points out the inconsistencies and omissions in recent coverage of the incident by The Australian, supposedly a more serious Murdoch paper than the Daily Telegraph.

The January 13 Australian quoted Anthony Albanese, the federal Labor MP whose constituency covers Marrickville council's turf.

Albanese claimed, “foreign policy is a fair way outside the parameters of the role of Marrickville Council” and suggested that the local authority stick to "local" issues.

But Greens Marrickville councillor Cathy Peters, who moved the boycott motion, rejects the suggestion that boycotting Israeli products is outside her remit as a council representative.

“It's not a matter of foreign policy at all, but rather the right of a council to make decisions regarding our purchasing policy and the relationships and engagements we have with outside organisations," she said in an interview with The Electronic Intifada.

“It's completely within our purview to make those decisions. We've done it before. We have an ongoing boycott of companies involved in Burma. The council has a long, proud tradition of making ethical decisions.”

Peters also stressed that many Marrickville residents had expressed their concerns about Israeli actions towards the Palestinians to local councillors.

Marrickville mayor Fiona Byrne, writing on the ABC’s Drum Unleashed on January 13, said: “Marrickville Councillors interact with the people we represent on a day-to-day level.

“We have spoken with many local residents, with community and multi-faith groups who have told us of their feelings towards the unresolved issue of Palestine and Israel and their desire to be able to take direct action.”

She said members of Jews Against the Occupation have supported the boycott motion. She also cited many Australian church and trade union organisations that have supported whole or partial boycotts of Israeli products and groups.

Albanese has in the past been supportive of Palestine solidarity campaigns and critical of Israel's human rights record, so his stance has surprised some local people.

Jennifer Killen, a Marrickville resident who strongly supports the council's sister city relationship with the West Bank Palestinian town of Bethlehem, and the council’s boycott initiative, told The Electronic Intifada: "I'm very disappointed in my local member of parliament for not being more supportive of our hard-working local councillors at this time."

Killen also pointed out that the contact details of the councillors who voted for the boycott motion are on the website of the Sydney-based Coalition for Justice & Peace in Palestine. She called on international activists to support Marrickville, even though its local MP had failed to do so.

Peters emphasised that the boycott motion at Marrickville had cross-party support and that the former mayor of Marrickville, who visited its sister city of Bethlehem in 2010, was a member of the Australian Labor Party.

But Loewenstein and other Sydney commentators have suggested that the realpolitik of future elections could be behind Albanese's condemnation of the boycott vote. The Australian's article mentioned the risks to Albanese's seat from the Greens.



But it failed to highlight the fact that Carmel Tebbutt, the state Labor member for Marrickville who was quoted in the same article, is also Albanese's wife.

Her seat is under threat from Byrne in upcoming state-level elections.

The NSW Greens adopted a strong boycott, divestment and sanctions position in December. Albanese's attacks on the boycott motion could, Sydney commentators suggest, be an attempt to put some political space between himself and Tebbutt, and their Green challengers.

Outside the mainstream media, Australia's nastier extremists have also waded in on the Marrickville debate.

An article on the Australian Islamist Monitor website titled “Australian council disgraces itself” berated Marrickville council, saying: “You have got it all wrong — you have sided with the aggressors, the bullies, the friends of Hitler and those whom Hitler considered his friends in their antisemitism [sic].”

The writer went on to claim: “Israel is a tiny land surrounded by aggressive Muslim nations and as David Horowitz has pointed out repeatedly, the aim of those nations is to deny Israel the right to exist.”

Horowitz is a US commentator and founder of the Freedom Center who claims that “free societies” are “under attack by leftist and Islamist enemies at home and abroad”. As well as attacking Arab and left-wing campaigners, he has also been accused of racism against African-Americans.

One comment on the Australian Islamist Monitor article said: “This is insane I hate these people. I would like to have a 22 and pick them off one by one for target practice.

“Better still a suicide bomber in their midst. In fact I might make a giant blow up of the photo and sell it to a shooting range.”

A “smiley” emoticon follows the comment. Immediately after it, the same commenter, “Skipping Girl”, added: “God Bless Israel.”

Despite its claims to be "anti-racist in all its forms" and to support freedom of speech when this does not lead to violence, the Australian Islamist Monitor site is rife with hysterical and sometimes violent comments about Muslim people.

Some of its contributors have links to more extreme hate sites and have made openly racist comments in other forums.

The website's membership is strictly controlled. Potential members are approved by a moderator and electronic tests. However, in more than three weeks it has made no move to remove Skipping Girl's bloodthirsty comments.

Peters says she has been made aware that some threatening comments have been made regarding Marrickville councillors, but that the matter has been turned over to the council's general manager for consideration.

For her, the larger concern is how the issue of Palestine is debated in Australia.

"I think it's unfortunate that these kind of emotional comments have been triggered by an overall reluctance by the Board of Deputies and other groups to tolerate debate and criticism of Israeli policies regarding Palestine and the occupied territories," she said.

She rejected charges that Marrickville's councillors have been influenced by “political correctness” or ideology. Her fellow members, she points out, include some “very experienced” local councillors with diverse backgrounds and political opinions.

“The problem at the moment is one group [is] trying to close down dialogue on the subject,” Peters insisted. “What is really needed at the moment is a mature, calm debate on Israel's policies on Palestine and how Australians should respond to them.”

[Reprinted from www.electronicintifada.net . Sarah Irving is a freelance writer. She worked with the International Solidarity Movement in the occupied West Bank in 2001-02 and with Olive Co-op, promoting fair trade Palestinian products and solidarity visits, in 2004-06.

Her first book, Gaza: Beneath the Bombs, co-written with Sharyn Lock, was published in January 2010. She is now working on a new edition of the Bradt Guide to Palestine and a biography of Palestinian activist Leila Khaled.]

Comments

“The problem at the moment is one group [is] trying to close down dialogue on the subject,” Peters insisted. “What is really needed at the moment is a mature, calm debate on Israel's policies on Palestine and how Australians should respond to them.”

Interesting. I wrote to Cathy Peters a couple of times over the issue and never got a response, while mayor Fiona Byrne admitted in interview to being clueless on Middle East matters. Unfortunately its become very fashionable in the left to oppose the one state in the region that genuinely enshrines human rights and freedoms and offers equal rights and protection to women, ethnic and religious minorities, gays and lesbians . TheNSW Greens opposition to Israel is without qualification, it doesn't oppose specific policies, or encourage debate on issues, it supports a cause which seeks the destruction of Israel.

To say it isn't the business of a local council to get involved in the Middle East is an understatement. It would be far better if then Greens renounced this policy entirely. Then I may be able to vote for them again.

You people are out of your minds.Your debate in 100% on the Palestinian side.

As GLW has often reported, (most recently here http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/46489), apartheid Israel does not "genuinely enshrine human rights and freedoms", or "offer equal rights and protection to women, ethnic and religious minorities [do you mean Palestinians!!!!], gays and lesbians." The exact opposite is the case.

As Issac Shuisha points out: "At least five different levels of citizenship for people under Israeli control can be identified. They can be considered “civil castes”, as people get locked into them from birth and mobility is almost impossible."

"The exact opposite is the case."

Really, where is your evidence of this? Its true that some segments of society are less privileged economically than others (including many ultra Orthodox Jews). That doesn't make it apartheid or a "caste" system, any more than the treatment of our own indigenous population makes Australia an apartheid state. The fact is Arab Israelis and other minorities have exactly the same rights and protections under the law, so it is patently not an apartheid state, unlike many other regimes in the region (such as Iran). If your concern is with economic inequality, then you might be better off focusing on problems closer to home before criticizing other countries.

The nation of Israel has made a greater contibution to humanity than both the Palestinians and the Greens put together. If this lunatic Mayor wants to truly boycott Israel, here is (partial) list of Jewish contributions that she will have to forfeit:

Prozac, Valium, The Polio Vaccine, Radiation,Chemotherapy, the Artificial Kidney Dialysis machine, the Defibrillator, the Cardiac Pacemaker, Vaccination against the deadly “Hepatitis B” virus, the Vaccinating Needle, Laser Technology.

Discount Stores, Pawn Shops, the Shopping Cart and the Ready-to-Wear Clothing Industry. Levi Jeans, Lipstick, the Ballpoint Pen, Contraceptives, Instant Coffee, Television Remote Control, Traffic Lights, Scotchguard, the Flexistraw.

Google, the Wire Transmission Facsimilie (FAX) , the Microphone, the Gramophone, the Microprocessing Chip, Optical Fiber Cable, Laser, Cellular Technology, the Videotape Recorder.

Monotheism, Psychoanalysis, the Theory of Relativity, the Weekend (the Sabbath). The Atomic Bomb, the Thermonuclear Bomb, Genetic Engineering, the Nuclear Chain Reactor, Virtual Reality.

Hollywood, the Sit-Com, the Long Playing Record, Woodstock, Sound Movies, Videotape, Color Television, Instant Photography, Holography.

Drip Irrigation, Scale Model Electric Trains, the Pager, the Walkie-talkie, Refrigerated Railroad Car, High-vacuum Electron Tubes, the Incandescent Lamp, Kodachrome Film, the Blimp, the Adding Machine, Stainless Steel, Tapered Roller Bearings.

At least 178 Jews have been awarded the Nobel Prize, accounting for 23% of all individual recipients worldwide between 1901 and 2008. Yet, they only make up 0.25% of the world’s population.

The Jews have done a lot to improve our quality of life. How does it benefit us to turn them into enemies?

Most of those things you list were invented before Israel even existed. It's amazing how Zionists feel they can take credit for thousands of years of Jewish history, especially given how unpopular Zionism was amongst Jews during most of that time.

Every single sentence you write is a lie.

"Really, where is your evidence of this?"

Ashkenazi Jews are smarter than everyone else in the world, and have made a huge contribution to the world's scientific progress. Nobody knows why they are so smart, but they clearly are. Non-Ashkenazi Jews, on the other hand, have only made an average contribution the same as most other peoples.

Ashkenazi Jews are very successful in western countries, which is where they developed most of their inventions. The world doesn't gain anything if they move to Palestine. Those Ashkenazi Jews who do invade Palestine tend to be the stupider ones.

Israel's main industry is as a global arms dealer selling weapons to rogue states, and propping up corrupt dictatorships. It does a lot more harm to the world than good.

Whether Palestinians contribute anything to the world or not is irrelevant to whether they should be allowed to keep their country and their humanity.

Well said. I Tried on 5 different occasions to start debate with the NSW Greens on the issue. I have sent emails and had no reply, I have posted messages on there facebook page and had them deleted and had my posting privileges revokes.

The problem doesn't just lie in the NSW green, it is in all Left wing groups. The Green Left weekly has never published one of my letters. There have been 4 terror attacks on Israeli civilians on in the last month, none of which have been covered by this newspaper or website. Anyone who is anti-BDS and some what supportive of Israel has there voice suppressed.

Sorry, but you and others that agree with you will just have to make do with having the corporate media and most of the world's governments on your side.

No one would seriously expect the alternative media to publish viewpoints already over-represented in the mainstream press. And in any case, Green Left has always openly sided with the oppressed over the powerful. Your complaints about bias are totally hypocritical and are just another attempt to sling mud at BDS supporters.

Judging by the comments Zionists have made on this site, they dont seem interested in a proper debate, because they cant win it on any kind of moral ground. The majority of Zionist responses to facts about Israel's actions have been met with hysterical claims of anti-Semitism against critics of Israel, racist epithets against Palestinians and a whole range of factually incorrect assertions about Israel/Palestine.

Most supporters of Israel only like "debate" that ignores the suffering and humanity of the Palestinian people, so they can moralise about "security" and "terrorism" out of context.

The evidence of Israel's apartheid nature is written in Israeli law, in the rulings of Israeli courts, in the landscape of the occupied territories including the illegal settlements and apartheid wall, in the prisons full of Palestinians, in the actions of the Israeli government and military, and most of all in the everyday lives of Palestinians.

The majority of Zionist responses to facts about Israel's actions have been met with hysterical claims of anti-Semitism against critics of Israel, racist epithets against Palestinians and a whole range of factually incorrect assertions about Israel/Palestine.

The majority of GLW accusations against Israel have been false and offensive comparisons with apartheid, ethnic cleansing and even Nazism while opinions that differ are derided as being the "Murdoch Press", "Israel Lobby" or "Zionist Conspiracy".

"And in any case, Green Left has always openly sided with the oppressed over the powerful."

Israel is the one tiny sliver of land in the Islamic world which so far has managed to stand up to the religious intolerance and violence enshrined in Islam. Elsewhere Hindus are persecuted and massacred in Bangladesh, Copts in Egypt, Christians in Lebanon, Sudan, Iraq, Sufis, Dervishes, Bahais in Iran, Kurds in Turkey, Christians and animists in Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Ahmadiyyans in Java, Hindus (and westerners) in Bali, Christians in Aceh, gays are reviled and punished everywhere, and women are subjugated everywhere.

There has been a big silence from GLW on all of this. Yet the numbers of people affected are far greater than live in the disputed areas around the former Palestine. Yet you demand that the remnants of the race that survived the holocaust roll over and submit to the same kind of treatment, even as increasing numbers of refugees are knocking on Israel's door to escape persecution.

Its time to get over your obsession with Israel and take a broader view of the world. Denounce intolerance and violence, not "The Jews".

What a poor and unbalanced article which fails to investigate or mention key facts in the Marrickville story such as the relationship between Kileen and the Marrickville Greens and like most coverage of this has glossed over the great big and ultimately disappointing lie is that there was no expression of interest in this from residents or business in Marrickville and no community consultation at all.
It was a shady backroom deal the sort of thing that for so long, we all have railed against in the corporate and mainstream political world. If it had been a conservative council making a shady deal with the Q Society to boycott Indonesia, Cuba or Venuzela this paper would be up in arms.

To try and frame opposition to this Boycott as simply Q society nutters making death threats or some shadowy right wing conspiracy led by Rupurt Murdoch is deluded and an insult to the 500 LOCALS (+ the many local supporters who didn't get to sign the petition) who signed a petition for the recession of the motion, and I'm sure wont be forgotten in this electorate.

Like an earlier commentator as a resident (who foolishly had voted for her) I contacted Cathy Peters via email over this issue and received a poisonous response that suggested I was a supporter of murder and genocide possibly not even really from Marrickville.
Im afraid that this is what seems to constitute "calm mature debate" for the Marrickville Greens.

You can say all you like about Islamic countries, you can claim Mohamed was Satan himself, I don't care. Israel is conducting ethnic cleansing in Palestine. What do you have to say about that? Is it OK because it is Muslims they are attacking? Your smug sense of superiority doesn't do you or your cause any favours.

Again: do you support ethnic cleansing, or not?

Green Left has never published any article denouncing "the Jews" in its 20 year history. Please feel free to check the archives on this site if you like.

Like many Israel supporters, you seem to misunderstand the differentiation those on the left make between the political ideology of Zionism and the religion of Judaism. Many Jewish people are not Zionists, and many supporters of Zionism are not Jews. Israel supporters like to conflate the two to deflect criticism and smear critics as anti-Semitic.

You might not like the comparison with apartheid, but that comparison has come from the mouths of people who fought against apartheid in South Africa. I think its safer to trust their judgement about what qualifies as apartheid than someone like you, who tries to deny that "ethnic cleansing" happens in Palestine.

Its quite amusing that you tell people to "start thinking for yourselves" and then go on to spout a thoughtless, lazy and racist characterisation of Islam (and by extention all Muslim people) and completely ignore facts about "religious intolerance and violence" by the Israeli government.

Why would Green Left end its "obsession with Israel"? The whole world is interested in what happens there. The mainstream media seems to think its pretty important - running regular stories that say it is a peaceful democracy holding off barbaric hordes and telling lies about the crimes it commits. Correcting this bias is a legitimate task for alternative media, even if there was no other moral dimension to it.

The left's scrutiny of Israel comes from the fact there is a massive worldwide campaign, built up over many decades, for justice for Palestine. Struggles in other places have not had this luxury. Green Left is certainly not "silent" on other struggles, but its lack of regular coverage on some reflects the lack of political momentum and information available.

You might like to point the finger elsewhere (as supporters of apartheid South Africa did back in the day), but that doesnt excuse what the Israeli government does, nor does it mean people should stop campaigning for justice for Palestine.

"I don't care. Israel is conducting ethnic cleansing in Palestine.What do you have to say about that? "

Where is the evidence of "ethnic cleansing"? Under GLW's definition if a couple of houses in Jerusalem built without permits are demolished that constitutes "ethnic cleansing". At the same the persecution of minorities in the Islamic world- which may include massacres, torture and systematic rape are totally ignored. Planning regulations are the least of concerns to Christians living in Darfur.

The inconvenient truth for leftists is that Israel is the only country that tolerates and protects religious, racial and sexual minorities, and upholds democratic freedoms - to the point of defending their right to attack it.

On the other hand, many Muslims believe this to be the literal word of God:

"Qur'an (33:57) - "Lo! those who malign Allah and His messenger, Allah hath cursed them in this world and the Hereafter, and hath prepared for them the doom of the disdained":

"The left's scrutiny of Israel comes from the fact there is a massive worldwide campaign, built up over many decades, for justice for Palestine. "

Yes its trend fashionable because there are nearly 2 billion Muslims in the world and only 15 million Jews and Arab states have been at war with it since its founding (don't confuse that with "justice for Palestine").

"Struggles in other places have not had this luxury. Green Left is certainly not "silent" on other struggles, but its lack of regular coverage on some reflects the lack of political momentum and information available"

You mean these are genuine minorities being persecuted by a totalitarian ideology and unable to get their message out? Its obvious you're not looking to support the helpless and oppressed, but to help the tyrants who already have the "political momentum" to crush all resistance. I knew it all along but its the first time I've seen it openly admitted.

Now you just need to admit that Islam is involved in here somewhere...

You can say all you like about Islamic countries, you can claim Mohamed was Satan himself, I don't care. Israel is conducting ethnic cleansing in Palestine. What do you have to say about that? Is it OK because it is Muslims they are attacking? Your smug sense of superiority doesn't do you or your cause any favours.
manipulacna technika | catering | kabelky | osobni trener fitness

If you like our work, become a supporter

Green Left is a vital social-change project and aims to make all content available online, without paywalls. With no corporate sponsors or advertising, we rely on support and donations from readers like you.

For just $5 per month get the Green Left digital edition in your inbox each week. For $10 per month get the above and the print edition delivered to your door. You can also add a donation to your support by choosing the solidarity option of $20 per month.

Freecall now on 1800 634 206 or follow the support link below to make a secure supporter payment or donation online.