Smear campaign targets Greens in Marrickville

Vandalised Greens campaign billboard, Marrickville, March 26. Photo: Peter Boyle

A vicious smear campaign against the Greens candidate for Marrickville Fiona Byrne in the NSW state election reveals just how worried the powers-that-be are about the prospect of the NSW Greens winning a lower house seat.

This smear campaign focused almost exclusively on the Greens pro-Palestine stand, in particular their support (along with ALP councillors) for Marrickville council’s decision to sign on to the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

In the context of an election rout of Labor, and a shoo-in for the Coalition, the Greens had a real chance in two lower house seats.

But because Labor couldn’t convincingly fight against the Greens over environmental, social and economic policy. So it opted to carry out a scare campaign over the Marrickville Council BDS motion (that the Greens and Labor councillors had all supported).

Backed by powerful interests, it was game on. The Greens were unprepared, and the result is history.

There was a de facto anti-Green alliance of both major parties, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, the Daily Telegraph and the Australian Jewish News.

Helped along by the former Greens MP Ian Cohen the Australian Protectionist Party, this powerful alliance ran a slanderous campaign implying that the Greens are anti-Semitic because they support BDS and Palestinian rights.

The anti-BDS and anti-Greens campaign in Marrickville — which reached fever pitch in the last two weeks of the election campaign — included the outrageous accusation that the Greens are “fascists” and “Nazis”. Greens billboards in the Marrickville electorate were plastered with swastikas, as well as racist and sexist abuse.

The attempt to slur those who criticise Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as fascists — or supporters of the Nazi’s attempts to wipe out the Jewish population in Eastern and Central Europe during World War II is a crude and desperate attempt to silence critics.

Two weeks out from the election, a succession of editorials, comment pieces and articles asserted, hysterically, that Byrne (who is also the mayor of Marrickville) was one or more of the following: deranged, an extremist, immature and anti-Semitic.

The March 28 SMH editorial said: “They [the Greens] may have paid a price for their Marrickville candidate’s indulgence in childish gesture politics as a local councillor. Fiona Byrne’s support for an absurd ban on firms with links to Israel from doing business with Marrickville Council only cast doubt on her and her party’s commonsense.”

An anti-BDS comment to the online Green Left Weekly put it a little more crudely: “Singling out israel [sic] for boycotts and ignoring all the human rights violation in the Muslim world is anti Semitic, no matter if ur [sic] Jewish or not …”

The argument that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic is ridiculous, but supporters of Israel’s apartheid policies routinely use it to try to silence critics.

The accusation that critics of Israel’s policy towards Palestinians ignore other human rights abuses around the world and just pick on Israel is also wrong. Anti-racists are just as outspoken about Western justifications for imperial wars, the treatment of refugees, and the treatment of Indigenous people in this country.

On the other hand, most of the people doing the smear job on the BDS campaign are not noted for speaking out against these injustices.

Israel is a Jewish religious state: it privileges Jewish people over others and gives the right to people from this religion from all over the world to become Israeli citizens.

And yet, about 30% of Israeli citizens are not Jews, a further 4 million Palestinians live in the virtual concentration camp that is the Occupied Territories and a further 4.7 million Palestinians are still living in refugee camps fighting for their right to return.

The only reason the Israeli government has been able to continue with its flagrant human rights atrocities and the dispossession of the Palestinians has been because it has backing from the West. In Australia, that includes support from both major parties.

Anti-Semitism — a hatred of people of Semitic “race”, which includes Palestinians and some Jews — is racist. Racism, in all its forms (including the anti-Arab racism that is virulent in Israel), should not be tolerated.

Ironically, this vicious opposition to one council’s BDS motion shows just how powerful a peaceful campaign, such as the BDS, can be if we take on the attacks and don’t back down. Consciousness-raising and community organisation is once again proving itself to be a powerful tool in the struggle against injustice and racism.

[Pip Hinman ran for the Socialist Alliance in Marrickville.]


If it wasn't working, the Zionists wouldn't be so incensed about it. Keep going! This campaign is winner!
I am disappointed that this article misrepresents Ian Cohen and his position on the BDS campaign. Firstly, you do him an injustice by linking him by juxtaposition to the Australian Protectionist Party. Secondly, to suggest that he sought to 'help along' the "powerful alliance [who] ran a slanderous campaign implying that the Greens are anti-Semitic because they support BDS and Palestinian rights" itself borders on slander. To the best of my knowledge, he was never part of such an alliance, and he expressed his views as an independent and concerned citizen. Are you insinuating that just because Ian Cohen publicly voiced reservations about BDS &/or Greens' support of it, that he opposes the Palestinian struggle against Israeli oppression? Surely such an insinuation would be wrong, both factually and politically. The BDS campaign is not above criticism, and nor should friendly critics be smeared. Paul Rubner.
The reasons behind the Marrickville loss can be explained without the 'sour grapes' commentary about a smear campaign. There would be little doubt that that controversy over Byrne's anti-Israel stance contibuted greatly to her loss in the NSW election. Let's face it, mud sticks. But let's not muddy the waters further by mistaking effect for cause. There are several big reasons why that sort of policy wouldn't fly with your average inner city resident (me included). Firstly, people are understandably more concerned about local issues even if we just consider traditional 'green' concerns like overdevelopment, lack of adequate infrastructure to encourage less cars on the road and better community healthcare provision. Secondly in a relatively inclusive country like Australia, talk targeting specific nations carries with it the stink of divisive politics, especially when human rights abuses and disempowering of citazens is evident in many other Middle Eastern counties and beyond. It's time the Greens started to act like a responsible party and admit they get it wrong occasionally. We even had one of the Party's original founders coming out publicly last week nationally saying it has lost its way and has really strayed from its core platform. I'm with him in predicting that this lack of cohessiveness will end up prying the Party apart. Unless strong leadership is brought to bear on some of these fanciful policies, I fear the Party will not last much longer than the Democrats did after Don Chipp left. There's been enough rope let out for many to hang themselves - and it's already started.
The use of "occupied/occupier is misapplied when referenced to Israel, but it applies directly to the definition of the hamas, hezbollah, and many of the other foreign terrorist's cadre hired and supplied by syria, iran and others to dominate the residents of Lebanon and exploit it's population for political purposes. Those are clearly occupiers, sent to wage war against Israel using the terrorist model of attrition. Also, all of the land in dispute was won fair and square after Israeli's successfully beat and routed the arab invasions. It is disingenuous to ignore the glaring fact that the arab countries were the invaders. They had no UN mandate. No exit plan. The arabs did promise to murder and enslave the population that they could captured. Claim to the land was forfeited in the war gambit by the arabs. There is no precedent in history that territory won by a defending country must be returned. The question of returning the land is the sole option of the attacked/winning country. The arabs should be grateful instead that the UN persuaded the IDF to halt it's pursuit of the fleeing egyptian forces before they got to Cairo. Next time, we will LET them win..completely,fair and square. You may release your usual histrionics now.

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