On July 1, the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) in Melbourne Australia held a non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) action in Melbourne’s CBD. The non-violent and peaceful demonstration of more than 120 people was violently attacked by the Victorian Police and 19 activists were arrested. They are now facing fines of up to $30,000.
The non-violent BDS action sought to highlight the complicity of two Israeli companies, Jericho and Max Brenner Chocolate, in Israel’s occupatoin and apartheid policies, as well as Israel’s ongoing war crimes and human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.
Jericho produces cosmetics made from minerals exploited from the Dead Sea. While Jericho profits from the Dead Sea, the Palestinian people who live on the land surrounding the Dead Sea are regularly denied access by Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian lands. Restrictions are enforced on the Palestinian people via network of apartheid and occupation policies, including military checkpoints, exclusion zones and Israeli only roads. Max Brenner Chocolate is owned the Strauss Group, one of Israel’s biggest food and beverage companies. On its website, the Strauss Group emphasises its support for the Israeli military. The Strauss Grpups provides care packages, sports and recreational equipment, books and games for soliders. Strauss boasts that it supports both the Golani and Givati Brigades of the Israeli military. Both of these brigades were heavily involved in Israel’s 2008/2009 military assault on the Gaza Strip, which resulted in more than 1300 Palestinians being killed, the majority civilian, including approximately 350 children.
The non-violent BDS action called on the public to boycott the two Israeli companies and to join the Palestinian initiated BDS campaign against Israel.
In the wake of the police attack on Palestine solidarity activists, a defence campaign has been set up in support of the 19 pro-Palestine/BDS activists and to oppose the criminalisation of pro-Palestine activism and the attack on civil liberties by the Victorian police. The campaign has issued a statement and is calling on all supporters of Palestinian rights and civil rights to endorse the statement and support the campaign in defence of the “Boycott-Israel19” (please email the campaign email address email@example.com).
The attack on the July 1 action marked a clear escalation in Victorian police violence against pro-Palestinian demonstrators. CAIA had held a similar action to the July 1 a month earlier on May 20 which also focused on Max Brenner Chocolate and Jericho While there was a strong police presence, the BDS action was not attacked by the police, as it was a month later. You can see the May 20 BDS action footage here:
You can find out more about the campaign by visiting the campaign website at: www.boycottisrael19.wordpress.
Kim Bullimore is a volunteer with the International Women’s Peace Service in Palestine (www.iwps.info). Kim writes regularly on the Israel-Palestine conflict for the Australian newspaper, Direct Action (www.directaction.org.au) and has a blog atwww.livefromoccupiedpalestine.