By Michael Danby
On Friday July 1st an anti-Israel protest was organised against the Max Brenner Chocolate Shop in Melbourne’s CBD. Max Brenner’s is an Israeli owned company. The protest subsequently turned violent, resulting in 2 injured police and 19 arrests.
It is part of a wider boycott of Israeli commerce that is viewed very dimly by the Australian Jewish Community and many allies in pluralistic Australia.
In response to these violent Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) protests, a number of Hot Chocolate Sit-In’s were organised by me, with members of the ALP leadership and public figures such as Media Commentator Dr Gerard Henderson, and TV compere Jana Wendt. Henderson explained the context of the BDS Protests in his Sydney Morning Herald article "Jews know acceptance still has its exceptions" when he pointed to the precedents of anti-Jewish commercial boycotts in Germany in the mid-1930’s.
On July 15th, at the first of these Hot Chocolate Sit-Ins, I was joined by Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd at Max Brenner’s Melbourne CBD shop , the site of the demonstration, in solidarity with the shop. Following the CBD event, another similar event was held on July 19th at Max Brenner’s South Melbourne shop with Communication Minister Stephen Conroy and Parliamentary Secretary for Defence David Feeney.
Minister Conroy was firm in the Labor Government’s condemnation of the BDS boycott: “I am here as a Senator of Victoria to represent the official position of the ALP - that is for the State of Israel and against the boycotts.” As he pointed out: “The Gillard Government remains concerned by any groups advocating a boycott of Israeli products or services or Jewish businesses and business people like Frank Lowy and Revlon’s chairman, Ronald Perlman, who is a trustee of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.”
Let’s call a spade a spade. These people are violent extremists and bigots. These anti-Israel protestors advocate for a BDS boycott of Jewish commerce. Anyone who wants to see what these people really stand for need to only look at the slogan chanted by the protestors when they protest Max Brenner or other Israeli and Jewish shops. Their slogan: “From the River to the Sea” is a well-known Hamas slogan. It’s because the glossy publication of the BDS includes not just Israeli products but includes Revlon and Westfield which have only remote connection to Israel.
During the NSW State elections, Marrickville Council run by the Green’s Mayor Fiona Byrne passed a motion supporting a BDS anti-Israel boycott. Ms Byrne ran as the Greens political party candidate for the seat of Marrickville and was defeated by the hard work of Carmel Tebutt ( Member for Marrickville) and Federal Minister for Infrastructure Anthony Albanese.
Symbolically, on July 27th a Hot Chocolate Sit-In solidarity event was held at Max Brenner’s in Marrickville with AWU Secretary Paul Howes, former Labor president Warren Mundine, Sydney Institute Director Gerard Henderson, former NSW Treasurer Eric Roozendahl author and journalist Jana Wendy, and comedian Sandy Gutman.
The Victorian Liberal Government’s announcement that the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) will investigate the anti-Israel boycotts may be well intentioned; however the Conservatives are playing catch up with the Hot Chocolate manifestations that have been organised with Labor Government Ministers and other public figures. I doubt whether attempts to involve the ACCC will be valid on free speech grounds. This is a perfunctory move by the conservatives, compared with the highly successful anti-BDS events in Sydney and Melbourne. Plans are being prepared for further Hot Chocolate Sit-Ins and similar anti-BDS boycott events across all Australian States.