Australian BDS Movement Begins to Emerge


By Phil Monsour

2010 may yet prove to be a turning point in the Palestine solidarity movement in Australia.

Activists in a number of cities have embraced the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign called for by Palestinian civil society and are beginning to organize more coordinated consumer boycott actions, stronger outreach within the labour movement and work to spread the academic and cultural boycott among cultural and academic workers.

Seacret's worker closes down stall at Mt Gravatt shoppping centre in Brisbane following BDS action organised by Justice for Palestine (Brisbane). Upon leaving he yelled out: "Can I shoot them now?"

The BDS campaign began to gain strength and spread geographically after 150 Palestine solidarity activists met in Melbourne for the first BDS conference to develop an understanding of the BDS call and initiate coordinated actions through a national campaign.

The conference participants agreed to work together to promote an activist based BDS strategy and adopted key campaigning dates for 2011 including Israeli Apartheid Week.

Although Australian trade relations with Israel are relatively small, Australian political institutions and sections of the trade union movement have strong relations with the apartheid state.

A seventeen member delegation of politicians from both major Australian parties (accompanied by a large number of journalists) have recently joined a delegation to Israel largely funded by private Australian Zionist business interests. Israel is reportedly the most visited destination by Australian politicians. The current Australian Prime minister visited Israel shortly after operation Cast Lead destroyed Gaza and has consistently espoused unconditional support for apartheid Israel. High level delegations of Australian academics and university executives, as well as defence forces officials are a common occurrence.

In light of this, activists and emerging BDS campaigners felt it was necessary to launch a creative and determined grassroots campaign to challenge Australia’s complicit relationship with the apartheid state of Israel until it complies with international law, as per the demands of the BDS call signed by 170 Palestinian civil society organizations.

There have been a few important gains for the BDS campaign within the Australian labour movement, with over 21 trade union organisations and councils adopting BDS motions in the past nine months. Israel’s blatant and ongoing human rights violations, particularly the war on Lebanon followed by the war on Gaza and the ongoing siege, have created significant momentum for the BDS campaign in the trade union movement. Fact finding trips that took Australian unionists to Palestine and Palestinian refugee camps in surrounding countries have also played a crucial role in pushing the Palestine solidarity campaign forward, as the unionists on those tours come back and speak about the realities on the ground for Palestinian workers and the apartheid policies they have to survive every day.

Ordinary Australian workers are genuinely moved when presented with information about the reality of Apartheid for Palestinians and are easily convinced to support the boycott call. Union BDS motions have resulted in research being undertaken into divestment options in superannuation (pension) funds. This work is still at its beginnings and much education at the rank and file level has to take place in the next period, as well as serious discussion on the implementation of the motions passed. The Australian Council of Churches has also adopted a selective boycott motion and has so far resisted pressure to reverse this decision.

On the consumer boycott level, BDS activists are targeting a number of Dead Sea Cosmetics products that are sold in small stalls in large shopping malls across the country. The stalls are generally staffed by Israeli guest workers. On a number of occasions these stalls were shut down in a series of creative actions. This campaign also has a critical educational component, hundreds of pamphlets have been distributed to shoppers explaining the goals of the BDS movement and highlighting the apartheid practices of the Israeli government, particularly in relation to colonisation around the Dead Sea. Actions have taken place in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and Melbourne; the videos from these actions have circulated widely on social media networks and are inspiring further creative actions across the country (you can see clips of the various actions at this link: For December a “Don’t buy apartheid for Christmas campaign” is being coordinated nationally.

Although many challenges lie ahead, the understanding of Israel as an apartheid state and the importance of the Palestinian-led BDS strategy and respect for the unified BDS call is growing quickly in Australia. Israel’s decades long disrespect for international law, it violent wars and brutal occupation are beginning to culminate in determined ongoing international opposition. The 2009 Gaza war may yet prove to be its “south Africa moment” and Australian activists hope to play their role in the global movement and honour the courage and resistance of the Palestinian people. They may yet emulate the earlier anti-apartheid struggles against South Africa in which Australian anti racists and workers played a proud and historic role.

Phil Monsour is a musician, songwriter and union activist based in Brisbane.

8 thoughts on “Australian BDS Movement Begins to Emerge

  1. Given the failure of the much vaunted US led peace process to end the building of jewish settlements in Palestine, it looks as if Palestinians are looking outside existing political organisation (the Palestinian Authority and Hamas) to find some way forward.

    The Palestinian Authority has only been able to represent a section of the Palestinian movement – mainly those living in the West Bank.

    Hence it is not surprising that Palestinian unions and NGOs have made the call for a Boycotts Divestments and Sanctions campaign that Phil Monsour refers to above. The BDS has the potential to be a broader movement that may represent the aspirations of many who have been denied the right of return and have spent decades in exile hoping for a political shift to occur.

    The BDS campaign may be the trigger for that shift to occur. It is interesting that the BDS began with a call from within the Palestinian movement asking for help from the outside in countries where the Palestinian diaspora can gain support from ordinary people owing no allegiance to policies long since proven ineffective.

    Ian Curr

  2. loewdabulleaaa says:

    Palestinian family sends mentally ill son to Israeli “settlement,” hoping IDF would shoot him
    When faced with a moral challenge, find a way to blame the Jews and claim victim status, even while in the act of trying to commit murder. Islamic antisemitism and Islamic supremacist evasion of responsibility find their apotheosis: “Palestinian family sends mentally ill son to settlement in hope IDF shoots him,” by Chaim Levinson in Haaretz, December 23 (thanks to all who sent this in):

    A Palestinian caught trying to infiltrate a settlement Wednesday night claims he was sent by his family members, who had hoped he would be killed by soldiers during the infiltration.
    Israel Defense Forces soldiers patrolling the central West Bank near the settlement of Beit El on Wednesday spotted a Palestinian walking toward the settlement and subsequently arrested him.

    According to the investigation into the incident, the boy was behaving in a strange manner and the soldiers originally thought that he was drunk. Later on in the investigation, it was clarified that he was actually suffering from a mental illness.

    The boy told investigators that his family wanted him dead. He said they threatened him at gunpoint, forcing him to walk towards the settlement with the hope that soldiers would think he was trying to infiltrate and would shoot him.

    IDF scouts who searched the area confirmed the boy’s version of events and found four family members who had tried to flee the area.

  3. loewdabulleaaa says:

    I note your joy at the Palestinian Arabs’ objections to Jews building in their own land, Ian.
    I also note your joy at Arabs and their terror groupies (you’re one of ’em)using tactics used by genocidal Arabs in Palestine against Jews decades ago and by the Nazis who exterminated them in Europe, said extermination being initiated by the Palestinan Arab Mufti of Jerusalem who was great pals with Hitler and Himmler and had his own Muslim SS units in Bosnia.

    You ceertainly do know how to pick your battles! The nastier and more antiSemitic they are, the better!

    Do you have children, by the way?

  4. loewdabulleaaa says:

    You also don’t seem to have acknowledged that the originator of BDs is himself not a Palestinian and is taking advantage of Israeli academia to further his own social status in this world.

    Kind of like Sheik Qaradawi, who urges Muslims to perform jihyad but makes sure his daughters qualify as doctors in the UK. Or Hamas leaders whose own children study overseas and do not kill themselves in jihad.


    This does not seem to bother you?

  5. loewdabulleaaa says:

    ‘April 28, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    ‘This (ie honor murder) is one of the things that makes me scream that Islam has no business being named in the same sentence as Christianity and I do scream it, well mention it, as often as possible when the whole “three great religions” bumph comes up.

    ‘Many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away (ie, my youth) I worked for a year for Magen David Adom and in a pub one night I met this big, horrible, skinhead Russian import who was doing his time in the IDF.

    ‘He was about 18 **and was back from a tour of duty in the West Bank where he and his buddy had found a 13 year old girl battered senseless, barely alive and wrapped in a plastic sack.** {my emphasis – dda}.

    ‘He was, honestly, not the nice face of the IDF or anything else but he was sober and crying.

    ‘I never forgot.’ END.

    Compare and contrast. The local Arab Muslim family – those dear sweet ‘Poor Palestinians’ that everybody sentimentally weeps over – bashing their 13 year old daughter/ sister/ cousin/ niece till they thought she was dead, and then coolly wrapping her in a big plastic bag (was she otherwise naked?), and…dumping her, as if she were a dead cat. In a wadi or some other hole in the ground, presumably. I bet they never wept a single tear for her. The tears were wept, instead, by one of those IDF guys that the Palestinian Solidarity Movement, and the ISM, and the EAPPI and all the rest of them just love to hate: a big burly Russian Jewish boy with a buzz haircut…sitting in a bar weeping for that little nearly-dead Arab girl that he and his mate had stumbled across while on patrol (and, one presumes, scooped up and carted off to be attended to by Jewish medics).

  6. loewdabulleaaa says:

    Tundra Tabloid reports that a Saudi mental hospital has 300 patients whose conditions have improved to the point that they no longer need hospital care, and for whom the best thing would be to return to their families; but their families refuse to take them back.

  7. loewdabulleaaa says:

    Slaughter of the innocents. “Christmas requiem for Iraq’s Christian community,” by Zvi Bar’el for Haaretz, December 24 (thanks to AINA):

    In order to meet Iraq’s Christians this year, Santa Claus will have to steer his sleigh to Jordan, Syria, Kurdistan or Europe. After Al-Qaida’s October 31 massacre at a central Baghdad church, thousands of Christians have decided that their homeland is no longer safe. […]
    “Contacting the authorities forces us to identify ourselves, and we aren’t certain that some of the people threatening us aren’t the people in the government offices that are supposed to be protecting us,” one Christian Iraqi told the newspaper Sawt al-Iraq. Others have reported masked men coming to their homes at night and demanding that they “convert to Islam, leave or die.”

    Though the Iraqi authorities have posted security forces at churches in major cities, community leaders have decided they will celebrate Christmas Eve only the following afternoon, and are calling upon Christians to celebrate in modest home ceremonies and not to be overly visible in the streets….

    Iraqi Christians also have serious complaints about U.S. President Barack Obama, who they say is not doing enough to protect their rights. Vice President Joe Biden has indeed condemned the murder of the Christians in Baghdad and has called upon the new Iraqi government to protect its minorities, but beyond that it does not appear the administration is able to do anything to stop the attacks.

    Representatives of the Iraqi Christian community fear that this Christmas will not only be a memorial for the 58 killed in the Baghdad church, but will also mark the loss of the country’s Christian minority as a whole. Nassir Sharhoom, 47, who fled last month to the Kurdish capital, Erbil, told The New York Times: “It’s exactly what happened to the Jews. They want us all to go.” In the meantime, it appears that “they” are on the way to achieving their goal.

    So, you’re going to boycott jihadist murderers who are ethnically cleansing Christian Iraqis?
    No – they might actually hurt you cowardly thugs.
    Gee it’s a good thing you’re boycotting the country these people will seek asylum in! We wouldn’t want their attempts to survive made easy …

    hey Ian, it’s Truth and Ethics calling on the phone!
    They want to know why you keep ignoring their calls!

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