ABC – The Drum Unleashed
17 January 2011
Driving through some of the potholed Marrickville streets this week and seeing unrepaired vandalism of public property was a stark reminder of the tasks that confront Local Councils.
In addition to dealing with the needs of locals, the majority of Marrickville Councillors have determined that they will dive headlong into complex Middle East issues, in the process contravening Australian foreign policy and undermining all those who are working to promote a better future for Israelis, Palestinians and others.
The resolution they passed on December 14 calls for a blanket boycott on produce and services from Israel and virtually all contacts with any and all Israelis. None of the 559 other Local Councils in Australia have passed such a ridiculous resolution.
Greens Councillor Cathy Peters moved the unprecedented resolution that was supported by Mayor and Greens candidate for the State seat of Marrickville, Fiona Byrne as well as three other Greens, four ALP members and one Independent.
It defies logic that Marrickville Councillors would add foreign affairs to their list of responsibilities. It is worrying for local residents, however, that the Mayor believes this resolution “is well within Council’s jurisdiction”. It is also clearly outside their area of expertise.
Will the Mayor and the nine other Councillors now refrain from using their computers and phones? After all, the current Google-search algorithm was written by an Israeli, the Intel chip was designed in Israel and voicemail and instant messaging are Israeli inventions. The Councillors are being hypocrites every time they use this technology.
Boycotting Israel would hurt Palestinian livelihoods and devastate the Palestinian economy, which is intricately linked to the Israeli economy. This resolution reflects the extreme ideology of its supporters in that it seeks to punish and demonise the sole democracy in the Middle East rather than help any of the victims of the decades old conflict.
This resolution is detrimental to the quest for peace. There are many co-operative projects between the Israelis and Palestinians in areas such as water recycling, sport and culture. There are many exchanges whereby Israelis and Palestinian engage in dialogue and exchange views about peace and their respective aspirations. For Palestinian statehood to have a chance, this co-operation must be increased. Yet according to Marrickville, such exchanges should stop, since they violate the boycott they have endorsed.
This resolution also goes against the spirit of community harmony amongst Marrickville residents. For example, by calling for what amounts to a blanket ban on all contact with Israelis, the Council is essentially announcing to Australians of Israeli origin that “you are not welcome in Marrickville”. This is ironic considering that the Council’s website proclaims that Marrickville “represents the best of multicultural inner-city living”.
It would have been more understandable if the Marrickville Councillors who work to promote gay and women’s rights condemned the militant Islamist Hamas, which violently persecutes gays and women. The brutal Hamas regime is still committed to the genocidal destruction of Israel, cites the infamous antisemitic forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, in its Charter and labels Jews as the eternal enemies of God.
It is telling that nowhere in the Mayor’s 940-word article published on The Drum last week, in defence of the boycott, was there any mention of Palestinian terrorism. Or a call for either Hamas or the Palestinian Authority to improve human rights and implement democracy – both of which are sorely lacking in the territories they control.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East with racial, gender, sexual and religious equality enshrined in law. It is the only democracy in the region with a full range of civil rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
At their State conference in early December 2010, the NSW Greens also passed a proposal by consensus to support a blanket boycott and take extreme measures against Israel. That proposal was loaded with discriminatory language such as “Condemning Israel’s apartheid and occupation policies”.
It is highly offensive and wrong to compare Israel to apartheid South Africa. Apartheid denied the black majority their rights. In Israel, members of the Arab minority have more rights than people in any other Middle Eastern country.
Rather than the NSW Greens wasting their time and effort attacking Israel and complicating the search for Middle East peace, they could have focused on finding measures to resolve NSW’s numerous problems. If they wanted to be constructive, they could engage with the Israelis, world leaders in clean energy and water technology, to help solve NSW’s water and electricity problems. They could also learn about reforestation from the Israelis.
Anthony Albanese, the Labor Federal Member for Grayndler, which incorporates Marrickville, publicly opposes Marrickville’s “clumsy and counterproductive” ban, saying that, “Foreign policy is a fair way outside the parameters of the role of Marrickville Council”.
In a 14 January article in The Australian, Albanese mentions some of the key policy challenges and local issues facing Marrickville. “The council is in the process of laying off staff, the mayor votes to close down Marrickville West Public School’s childcare centre which provides vital support to disadvantaged families and the Greens have opposed a series of modest affordable housing proposals.”
But the Mayor seems unperturbed at criticism for her self-indulgent foray into international politics. Because she prefers going on such power-trips, taking credit for a blatantly discriminatory initiative which does absolutely nothing to actually improve the situation of Palestinians but does damage prospects of the genuine two-state peace, residents will just have to wait a bit longer for the potholes of Marrickville to be fixed.
Anthony Orkin is the Public Affairs/Media Officer for AIJAC, the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council