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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12183

Mr FLETCHER (Bradfield) (12:53): I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this motion to condemn the boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel. I do so firstly as the member for an electorate which has a large and vibrant Jewish community, particularly but not exclusively in the suburb of St Ives. Indeed, the seat of Bradfield has the second largest Jewish community in New South Wales, second only to the seat of Wentworth. We are also fortunate to have, within the boundaries of the electorate, a Max Brenner store. One of the absurdities which this motion correctly identifies is the truly ludicrous idea of targeting a chocolate cafe as part of some purportedly high-minded campaign.

The most important reason for which I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this motion is that I do so as a citizen and as a parliamentarian in a democracy which upholds key values of tolerance, of human rights and of the rule of law. On all of these grounds, I unreservedly condemn the so-called campaign of boycotts, divestments and sanctions directed against Israel and against businesses with Israeli ownership or an Israeli connection. To see how absurd, how offensive and how Orwellian this campaign is let me quote from the media release issued by Marrickville Council, about which we have heard a little already, in January this year:

Marrickville Council has adopted a resolution that will preclude the purchase of goods or services provided by those organisations or companies that do business in, or with, Israel.

The Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (GBDS) campaign is a world-wide movement that seeks to end human rights violations.

Marrickville Council Mayor Fiona Byrne said …

'The support for the GBDS recognises the role of Council in promoting universal respect for human rights and the protection of democratic principles with a view to ending human rights injustices and violations' …

As previous speakers have noted, this resolution appears to overlook the core roles of council of collecting rubbish and efficiently processing development applications. Anybody who knows anything about Marrickville Council could have a lengthy discussion on that topic but that is not the topic for discussion today. Let us examine some of the absurd, illogical contradictions in the statement by Marrickville council.

I remind the House that Israel is a functioning and highly successful multiparty democracy. If the BDS proponents are serious about their stated principles, why are they not targeting Iran or Syria or any one of a range of unsavoury regimes which intimidate, repress and murder their own people? How do we make the leap in logic from Marrickville council apparently supporting universal respect for human rights to the council supporting a campaign which targets one set of alleged human rights violations in one particular country—quite without proof, it must be added. What about such basic human rights as the freedom of association and the freedom to carry on one's work and business without thugs using violence to prevent you from doing so, which of course has been the unfortunate experience of those Max Brenner stores which have been targeted. I need hardly remind the House that 19 protesters were arrested and three policemen were injured earlier this year when a rally outside a Max Brenner store in Melbourne turned violent.

As other speakers have correctly noted, it is extremely troubling that we are seeing in Australia the same kind of anti-Semitic targeting of Jewish businesses that was a technique of the Nazi regime. The risk of anti-Semitism is something against which we must always be on guard. It is troubling that, as the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies has noted, the Occupy Wall Street movement has also included some troubling suggestions of anti-Semitism, and it is deeply troubling that a municipal council would associate itself with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. I am sorry to say that I am not surprised that there was involvement by the Greens in this unsavoury episode. This appalling action was championed by Fiona Byrne, Mayor of Marrickville and of course a Greens candidate for the New South Wales state election in March 2011.

The issue here is not the need for a two-state solution. The coalition strongly supports the two-state solution and the right of the Israeli and Palestinian people to live peacefully within internationally recognised borders. The issue here is appropriate and civilised conduct, and this conduct fails to meet the standards. (Time expired)