Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bishop Takes Axe to Human Rights Activism

On 11 July 2011 the Israeli Knesset approved a Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott.

According to Wikipedia "[t]he law states that individuals or organizations who publicize a call for an economic, cultural or academic boycott against a person or entity merely because of its affiliation to the State of Israel and/or to an Israeli institute and/or to a specific region under Israeli control, may be sued civilly, in tort, by a party claiming that it might be damaged by such a boycott. The law also allows Israeli authorities to deny benefits from individuals or organizations - such as tax exemptions or participation in government contracts - if they have publicized a call to boycott and/or if they have obligated to participate in a boycott."

Unfortunately, this particular attack on human rights activism has finally found its way to these shores, and a variant of same is now being promoted by opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop, who has just declared that "[t]he Coalition will institute a policy across government that ensures no grants of taxpayers' funds are provided to individuals or organisations which actively support the BDS campaign." (Libs to cut funding for anti-Israel activists, Ean Higgins, The Australian, 25/5/13)

And who should she be in her sights but Associate Professor Jake Lynch of Sydney University's Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies (CPACS):

"It is inappropriate for Associate Professor Lynch to use his role as director of the taxpayer-funded CPACS... in support of the anti-Semitic BDS campaign." (ibid)

Not that Bishop is operating entirely under her own steam in this matter, of course. The usual suspects are never far away:

"Australia-Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein supported the Coalition's initiative. 'It is obviously inappropriate for publicly funded bodies to engage in BDS against Israel... it is the role of government to make this clear,' he said." (ibid)

The Coalition's initiative - don't you just love that?

I suspect that the passage of anti-BDS legislation in federal parliament would be for Israel lobbyists such as Rubenstein what the issuing of the Balfour Declaration was for Chaim Weizmann back in 1917. Orgasmic.

Still, certain prior ejaculations and emissions on the subject of BDS by Israel lobbyists are sure to create a measure of cognitive dissonance here.

Take Rubenstein, for example. Back in 2011 he signed a document called Statement of Jewish Organizations on BDS, one of whose central tenets was that BDS is "antithetical to freedom of speech." (  He now has the unenviable task of justifying Bishop's move to muzzle BDS supporters. 

Then there's Peter Wertheim, Executive Director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), who only days before (May 20 to be precise), at a UNSW panel discussion, suggested that, when all is said and done, BDS is really a bit of a paper tiger:

"My take on BDS, particularly in Australia, and I've said this a number of times, is that it has been a free gift for the cause of Zionism. That doesn't mean I support it. I think it's an insidious campaign. I do think it's inherently racist, but in terms of its success and whether it's something to be really afraid of or anything like that... no. We need to be alert to it, keep monitoring it, watching it, but we don't need to fear it." (Q&A: On-campus anti-Semitism & BDS)

Draconian legislation to combat something so harmless? But that's not all. According to Wertheim, not only is BDS a paper tiger, but it's actually done wonders for Max Brenner's bank balance:

"Since the boycott campaign against Max Brenner Australia began in 2011, their business has really boomed." (Quoted in BDS targets uni over campus shop, Christian Kerr, The Australian, 18/4/13)

Well, what do you know? Maybe for Zion's sake and Max's profit margin, our friends in the lobby should be promoting BDS? Maybe Wertheim should have a word in Bishop's ear before the print dries on the paper and the damage is done?

There's another angle here worth considering. I'm wondering to what extent Bishop and Gillard are now caught up in an outbidding process on this issue that they can't quite contol? A short time line will show you what I mean:

September 2012: Opposition moves anti-Greens motion in Senate condemning BDS. Government & Greens vote against it. Motion is defeated. Bishop crows, "This reveals the extent to which Federal Labor is captive to the radical agenda of the Greens."

April 2013: Gillard beats Opposition to punch by signing London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism. (See my 28/4/13 post The Latest Prime Ministerial Kowtow.) 

May 16 2013: Opposition ups ante by staging mass Opposition signing of declaration. (See my 17/5/13 post The Tel Aviv Declaration on Combating Criticism of Israel.)

May 25 2013: Bishop declares above-mentioned anti-BDS legislation if Coalition wins coming election. Ball now in Gillard's court.

So what's next? Gillard responds with an even more draconian Israeli-style 'Law for the Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott'? 

Seriously, it's time to take Israel out of Australian politics. 


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