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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12179


Ms O'DWYER (Higgins) (12:33): I rise to speak on this motion and join with my colleagues on both sides of the chamber to advocate very strongly that we condemn this boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaign that has been so insidiously waged here in this country. The BDS is designed to economically destroy any business that has a connection with the democratic state of Israel and forbids any trade with businesses or organisations that trade with Israel. At its very heart the campaign is aimed at the delegitimisation of the state of Israel.

Having failed to destroy the state of Israel through war and terror, those who are committed to her destruction now use weapons of a different kind. At the second conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism last year in Ottawa, the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, said:

… when Israel … is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand. Demonisation, double standards, delegitimisation, the three Ds, it is the responsibility of us all to stand up to them.

The BDS campaign has seen businesses in my home town of Melbourne subject to hateful protest, where patrons are prevented from entry or exit from a business, where they are subject to verbal abuse and intimidation and where violence has occurred. In the case of one such business, the chocolate shop Max Brenner, this has occurred on more than one occasion. What is the offence? Why are they subject to this BDS campaign? It is because, according to these protestors, it is 100 per cent owned by an Israeli company which, according to protestors, is too pro-Israel. These protestors claim that they are part of a peace movement, that they are pro-Palestinian, but they are anything but. They are anti-Israel and, dare I say it, many of them are anti-Semitic.

The BDS, when applied, would mean quite the reverse for these Palestinian groups. It would mean that support for charity groups like Shevet Achim, which sends Palestinian babies with congenital heart defects to surgery at acute centres in Israel, would be completely caught up in this BDS campaign, as would the AFL Peace Team, which matches Israelis and Palestinians together in the AFL International Cup. These would be banned. These are groups that are intended to bridge the gap, but instead this BDS widens it.

Singling out private businesses in response to foreign policy is not only incredibly offensive but also extremely counterproductive and wrong. Secondary boycotts are contrary to freedom of association. I think it is incumbent upon us to look at this movement, not only from a global perspective, but also from how it sprung up here in Australia. At its heart it has been, as my colleague on the other side of the chamber has said, most notoriously advocated for through the Marrickville Council. It has also been advocated for through prominent members of the Greens and through a number of people within the union movement as well.

This motion today is a real test for the Greens. It is a test of Adam Bandt, the member for Melbourne. He needs to declare where he stands on this issue and where the Greens stand on this issue. The BDS is a truly insidious campaign. It is also time that the Leader of the Greens, Senator Bob Brown, rejects this violent and ignorant campaign to delegitimise Israel and instead declare Israel's right to exist in peace. Senator Brown needs to condemn this campaign, which is supported by his new Greens senator Lee Rhiannon, just as leaders of the union movement should also condemn this campaign, and not only condemn it but have nothing to do with it.

Israel, as we know, is a lone beacon of democracy in the Middle East. We hope that she will not be a lone beacon for much longer but we must be mindful that in the tumult of the Middle East anything is possible. The unity between Hamas and Fatah is something that we should be deeply concerned about. Hamas is a group that represents the antithesis of democracy and peace and is very much behind this worldwide campaign to delegitimise the State of Israel. It celebrates the terrorist Osama Bin Laden as a holy martyr and it actively opposes Israel's right to exist and is committed to her destruction. In its very charter it has at its centre the fact that it wants to destroy the State of Israel and is committed to killing Jews wherever it finds them.

Last year I visited Israel with the Australia Israel Leadership Forum with a number of people from both sides of this chamber, a number of people from business and also the media. We went to Ramallah to meet with a number of Palestinians. What was incredibly interesting in the conversation we had with them was that they openly declared that they were swapping some of their former heroes, like Che Guevara, and were instead wrapping up their campaign and associating it with human rights leaders such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King. We know, though, that this association is completely false. There is no human rights element in this delegitimisation of Israel or in this BDS campaign, and such an association is repugnant to any right-thinking person.

Australia and Israel have so much in common. We share a great democratic tradition, and it is vital that we support these democratic traditions and support freedom in the Middle East, whether for Arabs, Jews or Christians. I think it is very important as well that we stand together to condemn this BDS campaign, which would do so much to cause harm to unity in the Middle East and to the advent of peace and a peaceful two-state solution.

On Sunday, 4 September this year, I stood shoulder to shoulder with other Liberal MPs—including federal MPs Senator Mitch Fifield, Senator Scott Ryan and Josh Frydenberg, along with state MPs David Southwick and Elizabeth Miller—as well as the Australian Liberal Students Federation and the Young Liberals in condemning this campaign. I know that there are others across the chamber, such as the member for Melbourne Ports, who have also been very vocal in condemning this insidious campaign. We stood together on the steps of the State Library of Victoria to speak out about the violence and hate that have been preached in the name of peace. We joined together for a cup of hot chocolate at the Max Brenner chocolate shop, which has been the target of so many of these protests.

I would like to conclude today by echoing the words of the Prime Minister of Israel, who said earlier this year to the United States congress:

We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism.

We should also, in this chamber today, stand together to condemn this boycott, because this boycott is not for peace. This boycott is for hate, and this boycott is insidious and wrong in the way that it will harm the interests not only of Israelis but also of Palestinians and all those who support a peaceful two-state solution.