Australia cracks down on BDS

Socialist Alternative       August 16, 2011


Four Australian activists involved in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israeli apartheid have been unjustly arrested.


IN ONE ofAustralia’s most severe crackdowns on civil liberties in decades, four pro-Palestine activists were arrested in dawn raids on August 9 in the city ofMelbourne.


The raids are part of an ongoing attempt by the Victorian government, the Victoria Police and the Zionist establishment to target activists involved in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.


The campaign, part of a global movement to draw attention to Israel’s apartheid regime and the ongoing genocide of the Palestinians, has successfully mobilized hundreds of people across the country in demonstrations against companies that support or profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.


All of the arrested protesters had participated in peaceful actions against Max Brenner, a chocolate shop owned by the Strauss Group. Strauss has provided material support to the Golani Brigade–an Israeli infantry unit that participated in the 2006 invasion ofLebanonand the murderous 2009 attack onGaza. The most recent protests were organized under the slogan “You can’t sweeten apartheid.”


The activists were arrested for breaching bail conditions imposed following arrests at a previous pro-Palestine protest at Max Brenner. The bail conditions, which prohibit arrestees going within 54 yards of a Max Brenner shop, are themselves a serious curtailment on the right to protest.


What you can do


BDS campaigners can send messages of support for the Australian activists to The next protest against Max Brenner will be held September 9, at 5:30 p.m., at the State Library of Victoria.


Protest organizer Omar Hassan told Socialist Alternative, “This is a significant attack on anti-apartheid activism. It is a continuation of the tactic of intimidation.” In an earlier press release, Hassan also pointed out:


 Actions taken against South African businesses by anti-apartheid protests were important in generating opposition to that racist regime. To outlaw similar actions today can only be motivated by a desire to protect the reputation ofIsrael, and represent an unacceptable attack on our right to express dissent and show solidarity with oppressed people around the world.


Sydney City Councillor Meredith Burgmann, one of the key activists in the anti-South African apartheid movement and arrested five times in little more than one month at the height of that campaign, described the actions of Victoria Police as “a gross overreaction to peaceful protests in support of Palestinian human rights.”


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IN OTHER developments, the Victorian Liberal government has approached the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to investigate whether more activists can be charged under federal secondary boycott laws. Those laws were designed to prohibit trade unionists from taking industrial action in solidarity with other groups of workers.


Whether or not the ACCC actually has the power to intervene under the Competition and Consumer Act is yet to be seen, but for the laws to be used against anti-apartheid activists would have ramifications far beyond the pro-Palestine campaign. As Victorian Greens MP Greg Barber, quoted in The Age, said, “I’m telling people to boycott Reflex Paper because it’s made from native forest woodchips, so maybe I’ll be next.”


These latest developments represent a significant ramping up of the establishment campaign to protect the image ofIsrael. The tactics have been slanderous–painting anti-racist activists as anti-Semites and suggesting that the protest movement is somehow related to the Nazi campaigns to boycott Jewish shops inGermanyin the 1930s.


These claims are despicable and trivialize the Nazi terror that rained down on one of the most oppressed groups inEurope. It is significant that those now claiming some moral high ground on racism have said little or nothing about the genocide carried out against the Palestinians, the bulldozing of homes, the separate identity cards, the daily humiliations and terror that they endure.


It is important that the left and progressive activists now stand unequivocally behind Palestinians. The ruling elite inAustraliahave, as they almost invariably do out of consideration of their own geopolitical interests, chosen the side of the oppressor.


The protesters have vowed to stand up against the vilification, continue the campaign, and see to it that human rights win out over propaganda and thuggery. We need to come out again to show solidarity and let the Victorian government know that they will not intimidate us.


First published at Socialist Alternative.

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