Saturday, May 25, 2013

Why Boycott Max Brenner?

Honest reporting invariably plays second fiddle to crusading at Murdoch's Australian. Nowhere is this more so (notwithstanding some useful reports by its Middle East correspondent, John Lyons) than in its fanatical support for Israeli apartheid.

As I demonstrated in yesterday's post, the Australian devotes an extraordinary amount of column space to the burnishing of Israel's increasingly tarnished international image and attacking those Australians who dare to speak up for the Palestinians, in particular those who've declared support for the pro-Palestine BDS movement. The paper's opinion pages are the key here. For as long as I can remember they have been the almost exclusive preserve of Zionist apologists and lobbyists.

A quick scan of the opinion pieces listed in yesterday's post, for example, reveals that of the 8 which have appeared since 16/4, only one in support of the Palestinian case, that by Professor Stuart Rees, a prime target of the current phase of the Australian's anti-Palestinian crusade, has been accepted for publication. This is tokenism at its most blatant.

The following article, Why boycott Max Brenner?, by another of the paper's recent targets, Palestine solidarity activist Patrick Harrison*, was refused publication by the Australian:

"When I visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in 2011 to take part in environmental volunteer projects, apartheid was plain to see. West Bank Palestinians were restricted in what roads they could travel on to tend their fields. Activists were arrested when they tried to highlight this injustice by boarding buses in Israeli settlements, echoing the Freedom Rides fighting segregation in the US. Every Palestinian house had rainwater tanks because the mains would run dry in the summer; the Israeli settlements had irrigated lawns that could rival Sydney's north shore.

"So when I came home for Christmas and showed my family the photos I took in the West Bank, they could easily see the comparison. For my family, it's close to home - my parents met and married in South Africa under apartheid. However, calling Israel an 'apartheid state' means something much more than just a comparison with South Africa before 1994. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which came into force in 2002, defines apartheid as 'an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups.' This is the crime of which Israel is guilty with laws of citizenship that discriminate against non-Jews, dozens of other examples of institutional racism, and legal distinctions between 'Israeli Arabs', West Bank residents and East Jerusalemites - of which 80% live in poverty according to a recent report.

"This is why I campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The parent company of Max Brenner - a chocolate shop company that has become the focus for the BDS campaign in Australia - is the Strauss Group. It is not merely a financial partner in this apartheid the way many multinationals are. Its support of the Israeli military extends as far as to donate care packages to commandos of the Golani and Givati brigades to 'sweeten their special moments.'** These brigades are Israel's shock troops; the Givati brigade penetrated furthest of all units involved in the 2008-09 invasion of Gaza. The Golani brigade was stationed at checkpoints in the Palestinian city of Hebron shortly after I visited the West Bank. Christian Peacemaker Teams' activists documented a rise in the number of serious human rights violations against the people of Hebron at the time.

"Max Brenner Australia's relationship to the Strauss Group is plain to see, although the company tries to hide it. In an interview in the Australian, the general manager of Max Brenner in Australia, Yael Kaminsky, said Max Brenner Australia 'never got involved with the Strauss Group... we only have the franchise rights in Australia and we report to the office of Max Brenner that is based in New York.' Yet the Strauss Group's annual report last year said Max Brenner International in the US is wholly owned by Strauss USA, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of Strauss Group Ltd. The report said 'the [Strauss] Group operates chocolate bars' in Australia.

"Boycotting Max Brenner has nothing to do with the identity of the company's owners, just as the campaign to boycott Veolia for its operations in the occupied territories has nothing to do with the religion or race of its boss. It is about raising awareness of the Israeli government's crimes in Palestine. If the owners of Max Brenner are as truly independent of of ties with Israeli apartheid as they claim, they can easily put an end to protests outside their stores by rebranding their store, handing back the franchise rights, and sending a signal that people of all backgrounds condemn Israel's crimes." (Green Left Weekly, May 22)

[*Patrick has a blog: Al-Thawra Eyewitness; **See my 12/7/09 post How Sweet It Is.]

PS: The Australian's opinion page editor, Rebecca Weisser, has an article in today's paper arguing against the privatisation of the ABC, but reckons it needs more - wait for it - balance. (Subsidy fine, but balance required)


Patrick Harrison said...

Cheers for the share! I wrote the reply knowing it would be very unlikely to be published... at least Samah Sabawi or Stuart Rees can get the odd story.

MERC said...

Odd's the word!

Vacy said...

re Weisser's piece..balance?? more balance?? the ABC , like the BBC, is so balanced towards israel that the scales are vertical.

It is not surprising that the Murdochberg press didn't publish Patrick Harrison's eyewitness account that strenthens the argument for BDS