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John Passant

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Israel, the Greens and Marrickville

Fiona Byrne was the Greens’ candidate for Marrickville in the New South Wales state election on Saturday. She didn’t won, despite expectations she would.

Now the blame game within the Greens has begun. Their Federal leader, Bob Brown, obliquely criticised the anti-Israeli stance, ably abetted by that friend of the environment, The Australian.

Byrne is a Greens’ councillor and mayor of Marrickville Council. The Council late last year voted to join the BDS campaign against Israel. BDS stand for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign Here’s how the BNC (coordinating group) BDS website describes the groups calling for BDS.

The broad consensus among Palestinian civil society about the need for a broad and sustained Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resulted in the Palestinian Call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel that was launched in July 2005 with the initial endorsement of over 170 Palestinian organizations. The signatories to this call represent the three major components of the Palestinian people: the refugees in exile, Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the subjugated Palestinian citizens of the Israeli state.

Here is the rationale they offer for the BDS call:

It is no longer denied that Israel has oppressed the Palestinian people for decades in multiple forms: occupying, colonizing, ethnically cleansing, racially discriminating, in short, denying Palestinians the fundamental rights for freedom, equality and self-determination. Despite abundant condemnation of Israel’s policies by the UN and all relevant international conventions, the international community of nations has failed to bring about Israel’s compliance with international law or its respect for basic human rights. Israel’s crimes have continued with utter impunity. The time has come for action, not just words. BDS are the most effective non-violent, morally consistent means for achieving justice and genuine peace in the region through concerted international pressure similar to that applied on South African apartheid.

Byrne was one of those Green councillors who voted for the motion to join BDS. She was also the Greens’ candidate for the state seat of Marrickville. The argument now doing the rounds is that she failed to win the seat because of her support of the boycott.

Now the blame game within the Greens has begun. Their Federal leader, Bob Brown, obliquely criticised the anti-Israeli stance, ably abetted by that friend of the environment, The Australian.

Here, according to Miles Godfrey in the Brisbane Times, is what Bob Brown said.

Media reports that Ms Byrne supported a Marrickville Council boycott of Israel had not helped, Senator Brown said.

“I’m picking up from the electorate that it was a matter of concern,” he said.

“It’s not national Greens policy, but that is something that will no doubt be looked at in the debrief.”

Ah, Bob Brown, doesn’t support BDS. Why not? Because it might lose him votes. The only evidence for that is the dirty tricks and lies campaign Byrne’s opponents carried out.

One of the problems is that Byrne seemed to backtrack on BDS during the campaign because she too thought it might lose her votes.

Call me old fashioned but if politicians arrive at a position based on their principles and their view of the truth they should stick to it.

In any event it is not clear that the BDS issue per se (rather than Byrne’s vacillations) did lose her votes. The carbon tax is a different issue.

The Gillard/Greens carbon tax angered people across the State. Workers could see it was aimed squarely at cutting their living standards. So they weren’t going to vote for the neoliberal Labor party. And they couldn’t vote for the Greens because of their anti-worker carbon ax.

Those who deserted Labor (or rather whom Labor has deserted) shifted overwhelmingly to the Coalition in the belief that these Conservatives would improve public health, education and transport.

The swing against Labor was 17 percent across the state. A bit over one percent went to the Greens, the rest almost exclusively to the Conservatives.

Such was the anger with Labor that people voted for the alternative Government, fearing a protest vote might keep Labor in power, perhaps in coalition with the Greens.

So the Greens are looking for answers.

For Bob Brown BDS and Marrickville present a three fold opportunity. Brown can continue his campaign against BDS more openly; he can criticise and undermine the more left wing Greens in New South Wales and he can mask voter disquiet about the carbon tax with a more self-serving veil.

BDS has endorsement not just from Marrickville Council but unions and other community organisations. The fact that it isn’t national Greens’ policy is a disgrace.

Byrne should have been upfront about her support for BDS and her intention to fight for it in the NSW Parliament. But the problem all reformists face is that in seeing Parliament as the only game in town they compromise and compromise to do what they perceive will win votes.

These compromises undermine their support.

Standing up for principle might mean a little longer in the wilderness but it offers the only chance of success.



Comment from Walter
Time March 29, 2011 at 8:34 am

Too true. The Greens should have stuck to their position and even extended it – China should be inluded in a BDS for their human rights abuse. Byrnes problem was picking one country when they should have made the Council a human rights supporting zone and banned all goods and visitis from all countries listed on the Amnesty International list of countries who transgress human rights.

Consistency and principle is everything as you say, and the Greens should be supporting all people making goods under repressive regimes.

Comment from Sergio
Time March 29, 2011 at 8:36 am

The BDS is now dead in the water in Australia, the unions need to be educated about the truth about the Middle East and that it is not just an Israeli problem.
Fiona Byrne should remove herself from Council as soon as possible, and let the people of Marrickville get on with there “local lives”.
Thankyou Fiona Byrne for helping all of us stop the GBDS, and take out the Greens at the same time.

Comment from Camkwaut
Time March 29, 2011 at 11:05 am

Boohoo about the ‘anti-worker’ carbon tax. Its laughable that the worlds poorest are those worst affected by climate change, but you’d rather side with the ‘too hard to do anything’ if it costs a cent. nothing will ever change if you can just so lamely expect that ‘the elite’ or ‘the bosses’ or ‘the capitalists’ be the ones shouldered to do everything – it comes back on the worker anyway, despite that approach wouldnt get up in a million years.


Comment from Wendy
Time March 29, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Slightly off topic, but out of curiosity, what’s your take on the Kibbutz movement in Israel? I reckon they’re the ultimate socialist collective – workers use their own labour to produce their own foods and even clothing and the surplus is sold or traded to provide other necessities such as building material, transport and a bunch of other staples. The workers don’t get much more than pocket money but there’s no consumerism or capitalism in their set up and they all work for the common good.
Now I know folks say they took the land, but it wasn’t being used except by absentee owners to raise a few sheep and what they’ve done I reckon is a socialist utopia.
The reason I say this is that I reckon it’s better to have this type of socialist set up than what was there before and I read something by someone here that in all revolutions and stuff, things happen whereby innocent people are affected.

I guess what I’m pointing to is that if you want to see a socialist alternative then that’s gonna mean hurt for some right? Like there’s no way you can change the way society works without pain, loss or struggle? So in some ways, what they’ve done over there with the Kibbutz is something I would think all socialists would support as they way forward.

Comment from paul walter
Time March 29, 2011 at 4:59 pm

I’d have thought a noble cause and a real vote winner, particularly given that Israel would surely have been exposed after Lebanon and Gaza, for what it is.
Labor have encouraged Brown to silence of late, no real energy in his response to Gunn’s last month, either. Was this the cost for action on the carbon tax, or is something else in play, just now?
In short, has Brown’s loss of vitality been down to aging or is some thing else we don’t know about?
I must admit the Greens SA parliament mp, Parnell, has been conspicuous by his absence lately, locally.
Generally the tabloids will cook up some thing nasty and specific for the Greens at any election, but I would have thought the public would have become a wake up by now, if not much, much earlier.

Comment from Ross
Time March 29, 2011 at 5:29 pm

John,is Camkwaut one of those Zionist trolls? Camkwaut,the way to free the workers is to let them create their own credit via Govt Banks.Then the likes of J P Morgan,Rockefeller,Goldman Sachs and Rothschilds etc will have to earn an honest living, instead of reducing the world to serfdom.

Comment from PAUL WALTER
Time March 30, 2011 at 1:36 am

Good to see the Greens finding their voice, on extent of tax cuts for polluters. So the tories will vote through the offending bits, instead.

Comment from Ian
Time March 30, 2011 at 4:32 am

Maybe the people of Marrickville thought that the Palestinian children deserve better friends than Fiona Byrne.

Anyone here willing endorse Hamas?

Comment from bec
Time April 1, 2011 at 8:31 am

to zionist scum bags et al. kibbutzs are not socialist. they are not democratically organised, they exist on the stolen lands of the indigenous people et al, and when i was there during the lebanon war, we were made to ‘help the war effort’ (which we were told was important to get ‘at the cockroaches and terrorists’. i had no opportunity to voice opposition, and was bullied when i did. not to say the least for the rest of israel and its apartheid nature with checkpoints, and JEWISH ONLY ROADS. china is exploitative, but Israel is an apartheid state which should be responded to as with south africa: bds at the least.

Comment from Shane H
Time April 1, 2011 at 9:29 am

I don’t know John. BDS is NSW Greens policy, they ran on it in the election. Lee has reinterated her support for it (despite pressure from the right – mainly from the ALP and LIBS). There are questions in the Greens about the wisdom of this policy which are part of the democratic debate. So you agree with NSW Greens and should support them to make it federal policy but no… instead you take the line of the Australian – that the Greens result was “disappointing” and the rout of the ALP had something to do with the Carbon tax (let along the BDS). It was all about class John – starting with the electricity privatisation which the Greens and the Union movement fought against.

Comment from Tristan Ewins
Time April 1, 2011 at 10:15 am

John; If the compensation package is structured properly it doesn’t have to hurt ordinary workers or low income groups. In fact it can work as a redistributive mechanism. I’m working on an article about this at my Left Focus blog. That’s what Miranda Devine was getting upset about at QandA the other night: a carbon tax being used for redistribution. She called it ‘social engineering’; but that’s not what they say when we have tax cuts for the rich.

Comment from Mark Smith
Time April 1, 2011 at 11:22 am

John, I’m not really sure whether you think Fiona Byrne lost votes because she vacillated on the BDS or whether she would be in the wilderness a bit longer if she stood firm on the BDS. Are you having a bet both ways too? I, for one, would have loved her to have proudly made the points about wider support among unions and community groups.

Pingback from Inside the Imperial Tent Last November « KADAITCHA
Time April 1, 2011 at 7:46 pm

[…] BDS has endorsement not just from Marrickville Council but unions and other community organisations. The fact that it isn’t national Greens’ policy is a disgrace. Speaking of Murdoch thuggery over Israel/Palestine Time in Australia to pile onto anybody who speaks out against Israel Irish Council offically twin with The Municipality Of Gaza Interview with Israeli BDS activist Tali Shapiro: The fear of international isolation is shifting the discourse in Israel AMP endorses Global BDS Movement in Commemoration of Land Day Bi-partisan condemnation by zionist-infiltrated major parties in Australia against BDS is despicable The current ‘one state’ reality in Israel/Palestine Palestinian Man Murdered By Israeli Car In Jerusalem Benjamin Netanyahu’s heart of darkness : outrageous lies American Radical : The Film Time for Regime Change in the Palestinian Authority – neocons call for another intervention Racial Discrimination In Haredi Town Allegedly Payback For Sexual Abuse Victims Going To Police Holes found in Pro-Zionist land theft panty protest – Palestinian sweatshop exploitation uncovered Quintuple Hasbarah FAIL DiManno: Libyan hospital reveals casualties of war Protests drive Ahava out of Covent Garden Are The Greens Ready For Hard Ball? – the thread continues Cultural theft of Palestinian Land Day and Global BDS Day by the JNF The corruption of innocence by Zionism and the pernicious hasbara of normalisation with apartheid : “Ten years in prison had not damaged me as deeply as Seeds of Peace had”. Britain about to politicise the application of universal jurisdiction Rattling the Cage: Israel is deporting kids – now Asked how many children and parents were awaiting deportation in the new holding cells set up at Ben-Gurion Airport, the official said, “I don’t know, and I don’t know that we’re going to give out that information.” During the interview, though, the official said “dozens” had been in the cells. […]

Comment from John
Time April 1, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Shane, if it was about class and workers rejecting Labor over say privatisation, which I agree is part of the story, why did the Greens vote not go up more than 1 percent since they opposed privatisation? I think the anti-working class nature of the carbon tax is part of that explanation, and the fact people wanted to get rid of Labor so badly they swung behind the open party of the bosses.

Mark, if she did vacillate as the Australian suggests, then my point was to stand firm on your policies and not wordsmith them. I doubt the BDS issue made much difference but it is a convenient whipping post for the right around the Libs and Labor and Bob Brown. Good to see Lee standing firm.

Comment from John
Time April 2, 2011 at 5:40 am

Tristan, the point of a carbon tax is to send a price signal to consumers. That means it is specifically designed to increase prices and cut living standards. That to me means the compensation will always be inadequate. My guess is that worker son the average wage won’t be compensated adequately. Trade exposed industries will be.