An unholy alliance of Labor and Liberal politicians together with the media are running a nasty smear campaign against pro-Palestinian protesters targeting Max Brenner stores.
Newspapers like The Australian accuse the protesters of being anti-Semitic and comparable to Nazi storm troopers. The smear is an attack on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign that began with the media hammering of the Green-controlled Marrickville Council earlier in the year.
Nineteen protesters were arrested in a pre-meditated police operation in Melbourne in August. The Victorian government even asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate the protests (it found no grounds for prosecution).
It has again stirred up the debate in The Greens over BDS. Some Greens MPs supported a motion in the NSW parliament condemning protesters as anti-Semitic while others voted against.
Labelling opponents of Israel as anti-Semitic is not new, even though there is clear difference between being anti-Israel and anti-Jew. It’s a bullying tactic used to hide the uncomfortable fact that Israel itself is a racist state, established through a process of ethnic cleansing.
After the First World War, when Britain first established the colony of Palestine, about 56,000 Jewish people lived there alongside one million Palestinians.
But the Zionist movement (a Jewish separatist movement) none-the-less saw Palestine as a place to build a “national home for the Jewish people”. They could only do this by aligning themselves with an imperialist power and displacing Palestinians. Before the First World War the Zionists courted Germany, after the war, Britain.
Britain and the Zionist movement had mutual interests. A Jewish state would, “bring back civilisation and form a very effective guard for the Suez Canal” argued leading Zionist Chaim Weizmann, while Winston Churchill argued it was in, “the truest interests of the British Empire”.
That relationship has continued, with today’s dominant power, the US, arming Israel as its “watchdog” in the region. These mutual interests are why Western politicians are such ardent defenders of Israel.
The Zionist movement built “Jewish only” enclaves during Britain’s rule. Their slogan was “Jewish land, Jewish labour, Jewish produce” and they implemented it fanatically. Tony Cliff, a Jewish anti-Zionist, recalls a cafe being totally trashed “because of a rumour that there was an Arab working in the kitchen”.
Jews were still a minority in 1947 when the UN divided Palestine, giving 55 per cent of the colony to the 30 per cent of the population that owned only 6 per cent of the land.
But this wasn’t enough for the Zionists. In April 1948 soldiers entered the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin and murdered between 200 and 300 people. The butchery created panic and many Palestinians fled. Israel grabbed 80 per cent of the colony, ethnically cleansing over 700,000 Palestinians.
Israel introduced laws to secure a Jewish majority. Palestinians have no right of return or to claim confiscated property, while Jews born anywhere have automatic Israeli citizenship rights. The Palestinian minority trapped within Israel’s 1948 borders are treated as second class citizens and only allowed to participate in elections if they accept Jewish superiority.
In 1967 Israel occupied the rest of Palestine. It continues its policy of ethnic cleansing (since 1993 under the banner of the so-called “peace process”) through establishing military zones, building and establishing settlements and settlement roads and the so-called “defensive” wall that snakes through the West Bank.
In the occupied territories Palestinians and settlers live separately; the Palestinians under martial law, the settlers under Israeli civil law. Settlers can vote in Israeli elections, Palestinians can’t. In Gaza Palestinians live in an open prison blockaded by Israel on three sides and Egypt on the other.
Some argue Israel is the “only democracy in the Middle East” and its brutal use of force is a understandable response to people who “irrationally” hate Jews.
But the opposition to Israel in the region is not irrational. Israel is a deeply racist state enshrining Jewish supremacy at every level. Many prominent opponents of South African apartheid, including Bishop Desmond Tutu, recognise this and support BDS.
Max Brenner is targeted because of links to the Israeli military. Max Brenner’s owner, the Strauss Group, has “adopted” notorious platoons within the Israeli Defence Force and wants to “spoil them with our best products”.
One platoon, the Golan Brigade, assisted in what the UN General Assembly said was “an act of genocide” in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982 during an Israeli invasion.
The smear campaign against BDS is an attempt to shut down opposition to Australia’s support for Israel. But it’s not the protesters who should stand condemned, but Israel and their supporters.
By Mark Gillespie