Victoria (Australia) threatens further crackdown on boycott activists

Israel/Palestine
on 52 Comments

Things are heating up in Australia. The turmoil over boycott arrests previously covered here has escalated. A group called Defend the boycott Israel 19 has issued a press release today announcing Pro-Palestine activists arrested in dawn raids calling this “the most severe crack-down on civil liberties in decades”. Protesters were arrested on the pretense of “breaching bail conditions”, and it is said that they will be held until September 5th. 

This is just days after the Victoria government issued an unprecedented request by calling in the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission to investigate citizens who have joined the BDS campaign.


ANTI-Israel activists face investigation for alleged secondary boycotts (ed note: section 45D of the Competition and Consumer Act) under landmark attempts by the Baillieu government to curb the global campaign to target companies and businesses linked to the Jewish nation. Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien said the protesters had deliberately pinpointed businesses with Israeli ownership and who they believed traded with the Israeli government.

Clearly the government is pulling out all the stops to end this boycott. Boycott Israel 19 Campaign organiser Omar Hassan:

“This crack-down on the right to protest should be of concern to all Victorians. The lengths to which the Baillieu government is going to eradicate criticism of Israeli Apartheid and criminalise dissent are unprecedented. We need to be clearly saying; demonstrating is not a crime. Taking action in support of Palestine is not a crime.”

“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 of Israel, and represent an unacceptable attack on our right to express dissent and show solidarity with oppressed people around the world.”

I predict restricting Australians’ civil liberties so as to protect Israel will backfire against the Australian Government, while escalating attention and support for the BDS campaign leading into Palestinians seeking membership in the United Nations General Assembly next month. 

Australian blogger and journalist Antony Loewenstein:

If any establishment figure wants to charge people for speaking up for Palestine and highlighting in a peaceful way that corporations with ties to the Zionist state should be boycotted for profiting on the back of repression, I’m happy to pronounce; I back BDS completely as a moral responsibility to defend the rights of Palestinians.

This is a global movement and growing and has everything to do with damning Western governments too afraid to speak truth to Zionist power

Go Australia!

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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52 Responses

  1. yourstruly
    August 10, 2011, 12:40 am

    the spectre of humpty-dumpties everywhere being toppled is what terrifies the powers that be

    a continuation of all the 19th & 20th centuries’ revolutionary struggles?

    updated & made to order

    by the usual suspects?

    the popular will

    the turning point?

    justice for palestine

  2. Hostage
    August 10, 2011, 1:48 am

    I predict restricting Australians’ civil liberties so as to protect Israel will backfire

    Here is some recent evidence of a changing trend in denial laws that supports the legal right to hold and express an opinion. The Reut Institute and others have been lobbying for a definition of antisemitism that would include anyone who questions the right of the State of Israel to exist or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination (never mind if either of those things involve a violation of the rights of others). General Comment 34 of the Human Rights Committee on freedom of expression was adopted during its recent session. It touched on legislation in many countries dealing with denial of historical events like the Holocaust or the Armenian genocide. It says

    “Laws that penalise the expression of opinions about historical facts (fn 166) are incompatible with the obligations that the Covenant imposes on States parties in relation to the respect for freedom of opinion and expression.”

    Footnote 116 says “So called ‘memory-laws’, see Faurisson v. France, No. 550/93.” – a reference to a Holocaust denial case that the Committee had previously endorsed. So, it looks like the views of the Committee have shifted and that it no longer accepts the validity of Holocaust and similar denial legislation.

    The Australian law doesn’t appear to be entirely applicable in this case. In order for section 45D to apply, the participants must act in concert to prevent Max Brenner from supplying its customers and intentionally cause the Max Brenner customers “substantial loss or damages”. The participants aren’t preventing the acquisition of goods and services, they are merely protesting.

    It is an affirmative defense to section 45D if the primary purpose of a person’s conduct is substantially related to environmental protection or consumer protection. The UN has adopted scores of resolutions about the compensation owed for the theft and destruction of Palestine’s natural resources by the illegal Israeli settlements. i.e. untreated sewage, demolition of springs and wells, lack of permits or environmental planning. So, the protestors are inherently demonstrating for the cause of environmental protection. They could always adopt that as one of their stated objectives, if they haven’t already.

    • annie
      August 10, 2011, 2:30 am

      the protestors are inherently demonstrating for the cause of environmental protection. They could always adopt that as one of their stated objectives, if they haven’t already.

      hopefully they will be reading this and follow your advice hostage. tweet it! i have. btw:

      Attempts to stop ‘BDS’ campaign

      I have viewed the YouTube video (see below) of the protest at Max Brenner and there is no evidence of a blockade of customers or an act which prevents people from buying chocolates or coffee at the store.

      • Philip Munger
        August 10, 2011, 4:02 am

        Environmental degradation by Israeli West Bank settlers is far more important, in terms of gaining international support for BDS, than has generally been recognized. I can’t yet write about some of my recent efforts in this area, but hope to be able to do that by October.

        It has struck me as almost profound how little cooperation there is between worldwide and international environmental advocacy agencies in the eastern Mediterranean. There are international cooperation groups, like that of Friends of the Earth, that have cross-border working groups there, but they communicate with each other far less than is necessary to overcome rapidly deteriorating ecosystems. Greenpeace is even worse.

        The Levant is such a small, precious place.

  3. radii
    August 10, 2011, 2:55 am

    who knew Australia was so much under israel’s thumb ? how did it happen?

    I remember in the 80s when New Zealand told America “no” to letting U.S. nuke ships in their ports and they were pressured mightily and even had the French sink a Greenpeace ship as part of it (people died)

    The South Pacific should be left alone – it is far far away from the problems of the Middle East, Africa, Europe, America and most of Asia – they should enjoy their distance from these problems and certainly the governments should not serve as surrogates for foreign regimes, particularly those that are racist and impose apartheid

    • Shingo
      August 10, 2011, 8:17 am

      It’s not the Australian government, it’s the government of Victoria, which is one of 6 states. Victoria has long been an Israeli stronghold, but in any case, the Baillieu government seems to be using existing laws to stifle BDS, not introducing any anti BDS laws per se.

      The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission is a government body that regulates trade practices. As Hostage has explained, there is nothing they can do to stop people protesting against Israeli businesses or participating in BDS. The Victonian government is resorting to some desperate measure to try and stifle protest, but it won’t work.

      The most the Victorian government could theoretically do is to introduce laws that pertain to Victoria only, but that’s a stretch. There is no precedent.

      Furthermore, the Green Party, which holds the balance of power in the Senate is right behind BDS, so O’Brien is wasting hsi time and everyone else’s.

      He’s just pulling this stunt to score points with Jewish voters.

      • davidsc
        August 10, 2011, 9:05 am

        Shingo claims “The Victorian government is resorting to some desperate measure to try and stifle protest, but it won’t work.” Shingo, how do you get to be such an expert!
        This insinuation is pure left-wing gutter sniping propaganda as well as being completely false. There are laws in Australia that have existed so that the country runs with a semblance of order, which the socialist left alliance misfits don’t appreciate because they tend to be anarchists.

      • KimB
        August 10, 2011, 9:39 am

        Hi Shingo,
        just to clarify, the Greens aren’t necessary “right” behind BDS. The NSW Greens did pass an excellent BDS motion last year and the Greens dominated local Council in Marrickville in Sydney also passed a good motion in support of BDS (it was support by Labor party members and independents).

        However, Zionists and the Murdoch Press (in particular the only “national” paper, The Australian) went after both the Greens and the Marrickville Council in the lead up to the NSW State elections in early 2011. Murdoch Press slandered outrageously the Greens and used it to wedge them (in September 2010, The Australian ran an editorial announcing it wanted to “destroy” the Greens link to blogs.crikey.com.au )

        Unfortunately, the all-out attack on the NSW Greens saw quite a lot of their state members, as well as national members turn tail and run. Bob Brown, the parliamentary leader and national leader of the Greens announced that the Greens nationally did not support BDS. (Brown is quite conservative on a range of issues, including industrial/workers issues, as well as social justice issues such as Palestine). In an appalling interview an the ABC (one of Australia’s government run national broadcasters), Brown stated that the BDS motions adopted by the NSW Greens and the Marrickville Council were “not in the interests of the people of Israel or of Palestine”http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2011/s3182181.htm (this of course totally ignores that BDS is a Palestinian initiative. His statement was an appalling example of racist colonialism).

        Individual Greens members, including some of the pollies have been great and stood by their principles in relation to Palestine (for example Lee Rhiannon, Sylvia Hale and Fiona Byrne, the embattled mayor of Marrickville), but others such as Cate Faerhmann (NSW State Greens politician) threw her support for Palestine and her principles out the window as soon as things got tough, proving that she was willing to sellout her supposed beliefs if it mean she and her fellow Greens in order to get better press. It was actually quite disgusting. link to smh.com.au

  4. davidsc
    August 10, 2011, 8:11 am

    The bias exudes. Insinuation that the charge of “breaching bail conditions” is a pretense is a very hollow untrue remark as I have photographic evidence to the contrary. The protestors are welcome to stand in any public forum in the state of Victoria and present their case for Palestine. Just please no bullying, no intimidation and no teasing the cops, who have been listening to the news from London and won’t be toyed with. The intemperate behaviour demonstrated at the frequent BDS rallies certainly won’t help persuade the Australian government to vote for a Palestinian state in September.

    • Woody Tanaka
      August 10, 2011, 8:57 am

      LOL. Not so surprising, I guess, that the usually suspects are rooting for, and excusing, the jackboots against the people. I guess the color of the shirt – - black, brown, red, white — doesn’t matter, as long as the boot keeps crushing that human head, forever.

      • davidsc
        August 10, 2011, 9:08 am

        Well painted Woody – I see the Communists overthrowing the Bolsheviks, the promise of a glorious victory over capitalism and freedom to the masses.

        • Woody Tanaka
          August 10, 2011, 9:39 am

          LOL. Didn’t really understand what I was talking about, I see. More’s the pity.

    • Shingo
      August 10, 2011, 9:02 am

      Insinuation that the charge of “breaching bail conditions” is a pretense is a very hollow untrue remark as I have photographic evidence to the contrary.

      Yeah sure, and then your dog aate your CF card right?

      The protestors are welcome to stand in any public forum in the state of Victoria and present their case for Palestine.

      They are legally allowed to yes, but O’Brien is asking the ACCC to investigate all groups that endorse BDS, including those that weren’t even present or represented when the arrests were made.

      Just please no bullying, no intimidation and no teasing the cops, who have been listening to the news from London and won’t be toyed with.

      Teasing the cops? Are you serious? The cops didn’t arrest peopel becvasue they were being teased.

      The intemperate behaviour demonstrated at the frequent BDS rallies certainly won’t help persuade the Australian government to vote for a Palestinian state in September.

      Yeah right David. I’m sure the fact that Julia’s uhum, “partner” is an Isreli lobbyists won’t influence her descision right? Thatnks for demiostraitng that even Ozzy Zionists are half wits.

      • davidsc
        August 10, 2011, 9:25 am

        Shingo, you response came out like the bullet from gun – maybe you should have given it more thought.

        “They are legally allowed to yes, but O’Brien is asking the ACCC to investigate all groups that endorse BDS, including those that weren’t even present or represented when the arrests were made.” >> This happens to be the law of the land. The lawyers have to nut it out and we’ll see. You guys are such sticklers for international law, aren’t you.

        “Teasing the cops? Are you serious? The cops didn’t arrest peopel becvasue they were being teased”. So pray tell was it because the demonstrators got too aggressive and defied police lines?

        You don’t give a rat’s arse for Australia’s vote in September?

        Finally I need to find out how to highlight the intemperate remarks of my detractors in my replies. Any helpers?

        • annie
          August 10, 2011, 9:33 am

          you response came out like the bullet from gun

          apparently not or you’d be dead. his aim was perfect.

      • Kathleen
        August 10, 2011, 9:27 am

        “They are legally allowed to yes, but O’Brien is asking the ACCC to investigate all groups that endorse BDS, including those that weren’t even present or represented when the arrests were made.”

        Way over the top. Sounds illegal. But when did “illegal” stop the lobby

    • KimB
      August 10, 2011, 9:50 am

      Lol davidsc,
      the Australian government has absolutely no intention of voting for a Palestinian state, whether there are BDS rallies or no BDS rallies. Gillard has already indicated that Australia will vote with Israel. Rudd, the former Prime Minister, has argued that Australia should abstain. John Howard, the Prime Minister before Rudd has been described by Zionists as one of Israel’s “best friends”. Australia has long been a vocal and active supporter of the Israeli state for decades. This should come as no surprise, given the fact that Australia, like Israel, is a white colonial settler state and that Israel’s ambassador to Australia in 2006 describe Israel and Asia as “two white sisters in Asia” (he got recalled and replaced as ambassador for that racist little gem!). link to electronicintifada.net

      • annie
        August 10, 2011, 9:59 am

        good to see you here once again kim.

        • KimB
          August 10, 2011, 10:20 am

          Thanks Annie! Oh and just a small correction to my last post – it should be that the Israeli ambassador described Israel and Australia as “two white sisters”.

        • annie
          August 10, 2011, 10:27 am

          two white sisters? unbelievable!

        • annie
          August 10, 2011, 10:30 am

          kim, i wanted to ask you. is the “Defend the boycott Israel 19 ” site i linked to in the post the ‘main’ site representing the boycotters in australia? is there any other site i should keep tabs on to follow the up to date coverage of these events? is there another ‘bsd australia’ site or anything?

          also, do you or the group have a twitter account?

        • KimB
          August 10, 2011, 2:41 pm

          Hi Annie,
          the Defend the Boycott Israel 19, is the “defence campaign” website for the 19 arrested.

          There is also a blog which we used last year for the organising of the national BDS conference, which we continue to update with BDS actions from around the country and other relevant news. If you have a look here you will get an idea of what else is going on around the country (we don’t have absolutely everything, but we do all the major actions etc that have been happening)

          Its at: link to australianbdscampaign.wordpress.com

          There is also a blogsite for the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid but we haven’t been as diligent in keeping that updated (but we are getting on top of that now as the Max Brenner BDS actions in Melbourne have been called under CAIA’s name)

          We don’t have twitter, but that is something we should definitely consider.

          Hope this helps!

        • KimB
          August 10, 2011, 2:44 pm

          Opps, sorry, its 4 am here…so not on the ball… forgot tfor the CAIA blog: link to ozcoalitionagainstisraeliapartheid.wordpress.com

  5. Kathleen
    August 10, 2011, 8:29 am

    thanks for this annie

  6. straightline
    August 10, 2011, 8:44 am

    “won’t help persuade the Australian government to vote for a Palestinian state in September.”

    You are of course coming the raw prawn? There is no way Australia will vote for Palestinian statehood in September! The best we might hope for is the Rudd line – abstention – and Julia is set to vote against it.

    Please be more specific about your evidence and the intemperate behaviour you have apparently witnessed at BDS rallies. And why were you there taking photographs?

    • davidsc
      August 10, 2011, 9:32 am

      Photographs? To show my grandchildren.

      • straightline
        August 10, 2011, 4:12 pm

        So they must be suitable to show us then – please do – really we’re interested. Do you mean that, heaven forbid, these nasty protesters came within 50 meters of the Max Brenner store? Is that the bail condition they breached?

  7. Kathleen
    August 10, 2011, 9:25 am

    “”the most severe crack-down on civil liberties in decades”. Protesters were arrested on the pretense of “breaching bail conditions”, and it is said that they will be held until September 5th. ”

    We all know how far Israel and the I lobby will go to shut down the debate the facts, the efforts. Can you say execute human rights activist.

    • annie
      August 10, 2011, 9:32 am

      there are other actions planned kathleen. i imagine this lengthy detainment may have something to do with those actions. but the last time it backfired. i relatively small protest mushroomed to over 500 people as a result of the first arrests.

    • davidsc
      August 10, 2011, 9:44 am

      No it’s the very opposite. Israelis are ready to talk tachlis while the Palestinians wriggle and squirm to find new ways to oppose Israel’s right to exist. See poll link to jpost.com where, according to an intensive, face-to-face survey in Arabic of 1,010 Palestinian adults in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip completed in July by American pollster Stanley Greenberg, it reports that 73% of 1,010 Palestinians in W. Bank, Gaza agree with the ‘hadith’ quoted in Hamas Charter about the need to kill Jews hiding behind stones, trees.

      • justicewillprevail
        August 10, 2011, 11:11 am

        The Israel Project is another PR front for Zionism. You can see the answers they were fishing for, hoping to make some headlines. In fact, reading the poll there are plenty of grounds for optimism, if Israelis wanted it, which apparently they don’t, preferring to conjure up demons in order to justify the ongoing dispossession and apartheid actions of their tinpot fascist government and military state.

        link to theisraelproject.org

        The jpost is utterly irresponsible in fanning the flames of hatred with this typically slanted report. Notice they don’t give a link, so that people can check it out for themselves, or understand the context of the questions.

        • annie
          August 10, 2011, 5:44 pm

          i can’t believe people take these polls seriously, or think we do.

        • davidsc
          August 10, 2011, 6:25 pm

          The only thing you take seriously is your own propaganda machine. You want to tell me that the Palestinians want a two state solution? When poll after poll says the same thing you eventually get the message.

        • Hostage
          August 10, 2011, 9:07 pm

          Poll: Majority of Palestinians now support two-state solution

          When the US and Israel (predictably) say no, they will get one of these: Poll: Most Palestinians view talks as precursor to 1 state

          Commentators have been telling you Zionists for years that Israel can either embrace a two state solution or become an apartheid state. Well, you’ve succeeded.

        • davidsc
          August 10, 2011, 11:05 pm

          You publish a link to a poll that was conducted in 2005! Even then no give by the Palestinians on Jerusalem and wasn’t an agreement on Jerusalem supposed to be wrapped up in the whole deal? We can all speculate on the reasons for the new Palestinian intransigence and Islam has heaps to do with it.

      • Hu Bris
        August 10, 2011, 4:31 pm

        So – these photos you keep blabbering on about – when are you gonna put-up-or-shut-up?

        Somehow I suspect we won’t be seeing any photos from davidsc in the near future. All his yapping about photographic evidence is probably just another Zionist lie – they DO lie a lot these Zionists, don’t they?

      • straightline
        August 10, 2011, 4:39 pm

        The Palestinian papers make it very clear that Israel was offered everything it claims it desires by PA including almost all of East Jerusalem, right of return limited to a few thousand, and very generous land swaps and still said no. We have seen the same “Israel is willing to talk” ruse time and time again. As someone else said, you do not negotiate how to share a pizza while the other person is eating it.

  8. davidsc
    August 10, 2011, 11:12 pm

    Oh yeh.
    Saeb Erekat dismissed the Palestinian Papers as “a bunch of lies” in an interview with al-Jazeera shortly after they were released.
    link to bbc.co.uk

    • annie
      August 10, 2011, 11:30 pm

      interesting. did any israeli politicians involved also claim they were lies?

      • Hostage
        August 10, 2011, 11:38 pm

        Saeb Erekat subsequently admitted that secret files leaked on the Middle East peace process had come from his office when he offered his resignation. link to bbc.co.uk

        Robert Werdine has been looking for denials from Israeli officials recently without much success.

        • davidsc
          August 11, 2011, 1:06 am

          From the last BBC link:
          “The al-Jazeera TV network released details of some 1,600 confidential documents detailing Palestinian negotiating positions.
          The files suggested the Palestinians were ready to make big concessions, despite public claims to the contrary.”

          Typical Palestinians tactics – say one thing and do another. Arafat was a champion at that kind of tomfoolery.

        • Shingo
          August 11, 2011, 2:02 am

          Robert Werdine has been looking for denials from Israeli officials recently without much success.

          Faioling that, he and Jonah will insist that the denials were made, but our reading of them was biased and flawed.

        • annie
          August 11, 2011, 3:08 am

          david. it is true. the negotiators offered everything, even jerusalem and the settlements. livni said no. the palestinians (people/public) didn’t know about it and when the leak happened they were outraged and stormed the offices of AJ. this is why Erekat offered to resign. this is why the palestinians said they were going to the UN, after the leak..the leak revealing they had offered everything. where have you been? is your head in the sand. this was big news, happened between wikileaks and the arab spring. some might even say it shot off the arab spring. cat. out. of. the. bag. palestine has no partner for peace. btw, the plaestinians didn’t leak it. do some research and find out who did. this is like..old news. you can’t fix it because it is on the record. bigtime. watch the videos

        • davidsc
          August 11, 2011, 5:48 am

          I see one very inconclusive 4 min video. What were the stumbling blocks? What were the full terms of any potential agreement? It seems to me that we are just seeing the evidence of negotiations and manoeuverings. All very vague and obscure. Has the Guardian newspaper got some kind of monopoly on the Palestinian Papers? If they were so incriminating of Israel they would have been gobbled up by the mass media.

        • Cliff
          August 11, 2011, 6:14 am

          Why would they be ‘gobbled up’ by the mass media?

          Is that some rule? That the mass media follows a good story (regardless of politics)?

          Nope it’s not.

          However, when the Palestine papers story broke, a lot of mainstream sources did report about it.

          David, you aren’t very informed.

        • Shingo
          August 11, 2011, 6:35 am

          Typical Palestinians tactics – say one thing and do another. Arafat was a champion at that kind of tomfoolery.

          Umm, I know you’re from Victoria David, but you can’t keep blaming the weather for your idiocy.

          The Palestinians made the offer. Livni said no. Nother else needed to be done. Speaking of saying one thing and doing another, apprently you haven;/t heard about the Peace Road Map, that Israel not only signed, but ratified through the Knesset in 2002. It agreed to stop building settlements as part pf Phase 1 before moving to negotiations under Phase 2.

          So remind us, who is it that is saying one thing and doing another?

          As for Arafat, do you think that crap is going to wash here? Try it with your limp brained school buddies or the other ignoramuses you hang out with.

        • Shingo
          August 11, 2011, 6:36 am

          What were the stumbling blocks?

          Linvi said thanks but no thanks.

          Stop being a moron, I mean, if you can help it.

          BTW. Isn’t this your cue to being up the BS about Abbas rejecting Olmert’s offer? Please do it, I beg you.

        • davidsc
          August 11, 2011, 8:24 am

          The bluster of the fluster. It’s all so simple when you choose to make everything black or white – the reductionist approach will not work. This is the thinking that never leads to a solution and gives us this irreconcilable conflict.

        • eljay
          August 11, 2011, 8:41 am

          >> davidsc: It’s all so simple when you choose to make everything black or white – the reductionist approach will not work.

          Yes, let’s not make everything black and white:
          >> davidsc: The Palestinians need to take the blame for the situation they are in, because they have significantly contributed to it.

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