Contradicting local boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) supporters who claimed their actions in preventing customers entering a Max Brenner chocolate store in Melbourne last month were peaceful, a prominent supporter of the campaign has condemned their behaviour as “indefensible” and “pretty stupid”.
In an interview with the Australian, the president of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, Reverend Jim Barr, warned that heavy-handed tactics which resulted in 19 activists being arrested, had backfired.
“That stuff just discredits the whole movement,” Mr Barr said. “Frankly, you had some groups involved there who are at the real Left end of the spectrum, who had their own political reasons for stepping over the mark and provoking those responses.”
“If people are stopping people from coming into a store, that is indefensible,” he said. “I’m not in any way defending people physically preventing people from coming into shops or intimidating or otherwise harassing shoppers. That’s not what this is about.
“People who were there told me it was really out of hand and pretty stupid. We certainly don’t want to create public sympathy for Max Brenner, which is what it did. I support the Brenner campaign, but it needs to be done well.”
Max Brenner chocolate shops in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane have attracted the ire of the BDS campaign because the parent company is Israeli-owned.
The 19 BDS supporters who were arrested have vehemently denied they were aggressive or violent, despite YouTube clips suggesting otherwise.
As a previous blog posting noted, four of the arrested breached the conditions of their bail by coming within 50 metres of a Max Brenner shop.
There is a dedicated website to support the arrested 19 called “Defend the Boycott Israel 19”.
This appears to be a misguided nod to the Guildford Four, Maguire Seven and Birmingham Six who were arrested, convicted and later exonerated for lethal suspected IRA bombings in Britain during the 1970s.
There is, of course, a world of difference between being falsely charged for the deaths of pub goers and being nabbed for interfering with the lawful passage of customers accessing a Max Brenner shop, in front of police and on video.
But when one reads the outlandish comments made by some local pro-Palestinian activists, such as this one from APHEDA/Union Aid Abroad’s Middle East project officer Lisa Arnold that “Gaza is a man-made disaster of more than five times the scale of the Indian Ocean tsunami; it’s just that the deaths and destruction occur over the course of decades, not minutes,” it is hardly surprising comically inappropriate memes from other contexts might be similarly misused.