There have been a series of articles and pronouncements made opposing the Boycott, Divestments & Sanctions of Israel (BDS) campaign. In 2005 Palestinian unions, NGOs, and civil society groups made the following modest demands:
- An end to Israel’s “occupation and colonization of all Arab lands”, as well as “dismantling of the Apartheid Wall;”
- Israeli recognition of the “fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;” and,
- Israeli respect, protection, and promotion of “the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194.”
What none of the articles in THE AUSTRALIAN , Australia’s leading Zionist Daily newspaper, say is that the motion put at Marrickville council in Sydney was passed by all the ALP (4) and all the Greens members (5) of council plus 1 independent. The motion was opposed by 2 independents.
The minutes of the 14 December 2010 Marrickville council show that the Boycott, Divestments & Sanctions of Israel (BDS) motion was not put up by Fiona Byrne nor did she speak to the motion.
The minutes further reveal that Margaret Hale and Jennifer Killen (a member of the NSW Teachers Federation) spoke for the boycott of Israel by the council.
Ms Killen is not a member of the Greens nor is she a councillor. Killen spoke to the council meeting as a Marrickville resident who supports the Boycott Israel (BDS) campaign:
“I did speak to Marrickville council as a resident who supports BDS — as I remember I said that I support ethical purchasing and investment policies, — that the Palestinians within Israel, in the Occupied Territories and refugee diaspora are living under apartheid and that we should support their non-violent resistance. “
I asked Ms Killen who is active in Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine (CJPP, Sydney) if the Greens support is crucial to the campaign (i.e. if the Greens get cold feet will that be greatly significant)?
Ms Killen replied:
“Yes and no… in the West .. they (the Greens) may be the first political party to support BDS… there was a friendly amendment to the motion put by Mary O’Sullivan (ALP)”
[in Marrickville council meeting 14 Dec 2010].
Letters to the editor of the Australian
THE “anti-Israel” part of the heading in your article attacking Lee Rhiannon misses the main issue. When all else has failed, the world-wide boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, encouraged incidentally by many Israeli citizens, stands a chance of bringing militaristic-minded politicians to their senses and so might end the decades of violence which have brought neither independence for Palestine nor security for Israel…In so many countries, including Israel, Lee Rhiannon’s views would be regarded as unexceptional.
Stuart Rees, University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW
I’m Jewish. I’ve volunteered in Israel and Palestine for nearly 40 years. Jews and Muslims, Palestinians and Israelis are among my dearest friends.
I’ve boycotted and divested from Israel for most of my life. I’m not anti-Israel; I’m anti-occupation.
Judy Bamberger, O’Connor, ACT
Looking at the minutes and listening to the commentary of protagonists, opponents, the anti-Boycott Israel (BDS) campaign by THE AUSTRALIAN and the pro-Israel political parties (state and federal ALP and Liberals), the attitude of the Greens may not be significant.
I say this because I have been involved in Palestinian campaigns for over 30 years, long before the Greens even existed. There has been support for the Boycott Israel (BDS) campaign by unions and by the Australian Council of Churches. While this support may not be universally strong and may be based on a two state solution, it is nonetheless significant.
Israel is the beneficiary of trade surplus with Australia – for example it exports $80M worth of gems while importing only $14M worth. Israel imports $60M worth of coal and $24M worth of live animals. [Source: Dept of Foreign Affairs and trade 2009-2010]
While some members of the Greens have supported Justice for Palestine they represent only a small part of broadening support for Palestine over the years. Greens leader, Senator Bob Brown is reported in the AUSTRALIAN to have ‘carpeted future Senate colleague Lee Rhiannon for her anti-Israel stance, telling her the policy was a mistake that cost the party votes in the NSW state election.’ [1 April 2011]
Parliament is not the place where a Boycott Israel (BDS) campaign will flourish. Support of the Greens is problematic in any social justice campaign and even more so when Israel is involved because the Greens are seeking to be a third force in Australian politics. For example, even though the Greens oppose the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Greens MP in the federal house of reps, Adam Bandt, supported the ‘No Fly Zone-over-Libya’ motion in the UN. This amounts to support for foreign intervention (i.e. a bombing war on Libya) by the US and its allies. I can’t recall, did the Greens strongly oppose the first Gulf War in Iraq (1991)? I don’t think the Greens as a party even existed then.
Boycott divestments and sanctions of Israel may be almost non-existent in the parliamentary arena. It was not always like this, people of the Facebook generation may not realise that the strongest support for Palestine came from the ALP and curiously little support from the Communist Party of Australia. The Australian accuses Lee Rhiannon of being the daughter of communist party members. Do they realise how pro-Israel the leadership of CPA was (the Aarons brothers, sic)?
In the 1970s and 80s, in particular the Victorian branch of the Labor Party — people like Bill Hartley and Joan Coxsedge — were strong supporters of Palestine.
From Queensland Senator George Georges was the patron of Palestinian Human Rights organisation here. The Greens did not exist then and the ALP had a Socialist Left. in the end, Bill Hartley was expelled from the ALP. And George George resigned from the Labor Party over Bob Hawke’s de-registration of the Builders Labourers Federation (BLF).
Will Senator-elect, Lee Rhiannon, take a principled stand over Palestine and resign from the Greens? Time will tell, but I doubt it.
The progressive legacy in the ALP was never taken up by the beneficiaries of the strong stance of Joan Coxsedge, Bill Hartley, and George Georges. Did Qld Senator Claire Moore ever stand up for Palestine in the Australian parliament when Gillard and Rudd were parading their pro-Israel stance? But I digress.
Based on the growing level of support, the Palestine cause is unstoppable – despite pronouncements by political leaders [Policy is stuff of pre-schoolers: Rudd ] in this tiny outpost of the United States alliance (Australia).
The Boycott Israel (BDS) campaign is one strategy more focussed on unions and their members where power to intervene in trade lies. There is a consumer aspect to the boycott as well and that is maintained by activists focussing on Israeli retailers in big shopping centres like Myers.
To this point unions have supported the Boycott Israel by motions, but more action needs to be taken by union members. Groups such as Justice for Palestine (Brisbane), Australian for Palestine (Melb) and Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine should maintain their focus on working class organisation – unions.
Regardless of opposition by the Murdoch Press, by Israeli aggression, by Liberal, ALP or Greens’ leaders — political parties and their leaders come and go — but Palestine will be free from the river to the sea.
1 April 2011