On December 7, more than 140 Palestine solidarity activists and human rights supporters in Melbourne staged a peaceful BDS action as part of the “Don’t Buy Israeli Apartheid for Christmas” national week of action around Australia. The Melbourne action was organised by Students for Palestine and supported by the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (Melbourne).
Palestine solidarity activists sang Christmas Carols, which had been adapted to reflect the situation faced by Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and apartheid, to encourage Christmas shoppers to think about the oppressive conditions faced by Palestinians and to encourage them to join the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign in support of the Palestinian people.
Joining the “festive” spirit at Melbourne’s City Square, where a huge Christmas tree and Nativity setting are located, Palestine solidarity “carolers” sang a version of “Ode to Joy” and John Lennon’s “So this is Christmas”. Jeremy Gibson and Patrick Alves from Students for Palestine noted the similarities between the struggles of the Palestinian people and the struggle of Indigenous Australian, acknowledging Aboriginal ownership of the land and giving respect to Aboriginal elders past and present.
Owen Cosgriff from Students for Palestine also noted that if the “three wise men” of the Nativity “were to try and follow the star to Bethlehem in this day and age that they would find themselves detained at one or multiple checkpoints in the West Bank”. He went on to point out that this was the lived daily reality for Palestinians who continue to live under Israel’s brutal military occupation. Cosgriff noted that the caroling action hoped to highlight that at Christmas time when many people were out doing their Christmas shopping and there were songs being sung about peace and good will to everyone, that the suffering of Palestinians does not stop in the West Bank and Gaza.
Palestine solidarity activists then took their “caroling” to the streets of the Melbourne CBD, singing renditions of “Little Drummer Boy” and “I wish you a Merry Christmas”. Outside the Myer Christmas windows in Bourke Street Mall, Jo Mettam from the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid in Melbourne, announced the launch of the group’s new SodaStream BDS campaign, which will commence later this month.
Mettam noted that SodaStream, which is sold widely by many Australian retailers, is the largest manufacturer, distributor and marketer of Home Carbonation Systems and has its main production plant in Mishor Adumim, an industrial zone located in the illegal Israeli colony of Ma’ale Adumim in the Occupied West Bank. She went onto explain that as a settlement factory, SodaStream receives regular tax benefits/breaks from the Israeli government and employ Palestinians under exploitative labour conditions.
The peaceful action then made its way to one of the two Max Brenner Chocolate shops located in Melbourne city. Early this year, in July, sixteen Palestine solidarity activists who had been arrested at a pro-boycott demonstration outside of Max Brenner in 2011 had charges of“trespassing” and “besetting” dismissed against them. The solidarity activists had been arrested on July 1, 2011 at a peaceful protest organised by the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, which sought to highlight the complicity of the company Max Brenner Chocolate and its parent company, the Strauss Group, in Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies.
The Strauss Group, which owns Max Brenner, is one of Israel’s largest food and beverage companies. On its website, the Strauss Group has highlighted its support for the Israeli military, providing care packages, books, games and sports and recreational equipment for soldiers. In particular, Strauss has boasted of its support for the Golani and Givati brigades, who have a long record of human rights abuses against Palestinians and in Lebanon. Both brigades were heavily involved in Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s 2008-09 assault on the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the killing of approximately 1,400 Palestinians, including approximately 350 children.
Similar “Don’t Buy Israeli Apartheid for Christmas” activities and solidarity actions will be taking place in Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane as part of the national week of solidarity between 8-15 December.