H/T Shirl in Oz
Gerard Henderson, Jana Wendt, Paul Howes, Warren Mundine, Sandy Gutman and Michael Danby take a stand against the anti-Israel campaign last month. Picture: Jane Dempster Source: The Australian
IN Brisbane next Saturday, a group of anti-Israeli protesters will march on a Jewish-owned chocolate shop as part of a radical national campaign that risks morphing into an ugly platform for anti-Semites.
The targeting of the Israeli-owned Max Brenner chocolate shop chain in Australia by a coalition of anti-Israeli groups is testing the limits of the law, ethics and tolerance. Nineteen protesters were arrested and three policemen injured early last month when a rally outside a Max Brenner shop in Melbourne, similar to the one planned for Brisbane, turned violent.
The spectacle of protesters breaking the law in an attempt to harm a legal Jewish business was all the more abhorrent because it invited obvious historical parallels to the anti-Semitic targeting of Jewish businesses in 1930s Nazi Germany. The violence was so damaging to the pro-Palestinian cause that even some Palestinian groups were critical of it.
“People who were there told me it was really out of hand and pretty stupid the way they did it,” says Jim Barr, president of the country’s peak pro-Palestinian group, the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network. “We certainly don’t want to create public sympathy for Max Brenner, which is what we did. I support the Brenner campaign but it needs to be done well.”
What concerns many people about the Max Brenner campaign, apart from the shadow of history, is that it is directed against something that, although foreign owned, is a legitimate legal business in this country. That it is a chocolate shop only underlines the tenuous nature of claims that it bears some responsibility for Israel’s military and human rights policies in the occupied territories.
“In a democratic society anybody should be allowed to protest, but I find it really distasteful that a Jewish business is being targeted in this way,” Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes says. “If people are upset about the handling of the Middle East process then fine, but why don’t they protest outside the Israeli embassy and direct their protest to the Israeli state rather than a Jewish business? If people do not like the policies of the Australian government, I wouldn’t expect there to be a protest outside the RM Williams store.”
But Samah Sabawi, spokeswoman for the advocacy group Australians for Palestine, defends the targeting of Max Brenner because it makes a greater impact than traditional protests.
“Standing outside an embassy is not always the most effective form of protest,” she says. “We live in a democratic society and we have a choice of different types of campaigns.”
The Max Brenner campaign in Australia is part of the global campaign known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, which seeks in part to boycott Israeli businesses as a means of pressuring Israel to improve its human rights record. The campaign in Australia involves a loose alliance of the radical Left, including greens, unions, socialists and Marxists, in addition to at least 14 separate pro-Palestinian groups.