Justice for Palestine Brisbane activists branded former Queensland premier Peter Beattie a hypocrite on July 27 as they crashed a lunch at the Hilton Hotel at which he was the keynote speaker.
Activists pointed out that speaking at an Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce event gave implicit support to the apartheid state — a stance in direct contrast to Beattie's arrest 40 years ago for opposing South African apartheid.
The Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce is the peak body promoting trade between Australia and Israel, and a prime target for the 11-year long boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) campaign initiated by Palestinian civil society.
Beattie, now Chairperson of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation, was slated to talk about games' planning and the expected benefits to the Queensland economy flowing from the games, but instead was asked, in the words of the famous song: "Which side are you on?"
Activists occupied the Hilton's Victoria Ballroom from around midday holding banners and a Palestinian flag in distress, chanting, singing and asking questions. Beattie initially engaged with the questions but then the diners went back to eating lunch — even when confronted with the nature of Israeli apartheid, the ongoing genocide and the UN's prediction that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020.
After about 30 minutes police arrived and asked the activists to leave. As they left, Justice for Palestine members assured Beattie and the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce that their support for Palestine and BDS was strong and would continue.
Activist Elizabeth Jones said: “Beattie has no excuse for not being aware of the situation in Israel.
“Desmond Tutu himself, the veteran South African anti-apartheid campaigner has spoken of the parallels between the treatment of Palestinians and the treatment of Blacks in apartheid South Africa.
“Palestinians called for action on the BDS campaign 11 years ago. It's about time people like Mr Beattie got on board, especially since he has used his actions opposing South African apartheid as political capital over the past decades.
“All the Palestinians want is respect of their rights in compliance with international law, after an occupation going on 70 years!”