Michael Danby MP – claimed that BDS and unilateral Palestinian statehood bid undermined negotiations

photo of Michael Danby MP
October 31, 2011

This boycott campaign does nothing to promote such a two-state solution. In fact it hinders the process by promoting hate. Both the Liberal and Labor parties support a just two-state solution to the Middle East peace process and we have done so from the beginning.

Full speech

Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (12:18): I want to congratulate the member for Curtin and opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs for moving this resolution. Over the last few months I have been travelling around Australia from South Melbourne in my electorate to Newtown in Sydney and to Southbank in Brisbane, where prominent leaders of politics and the media in Australia have been having a hot chocolate at Max Brenner’s to show the opposition of mainstream Australia to this boycott campaign that the member for Curtin has raised in this resolution. Every Max Brenner shop I have gone to—including in Brisbane with the estimable member for Blair, who is sitting here with me—has been packed full with couples and friends. None were there for political reasons; they were enjoying each other’s company and some hot chocolate.

Max Brenner is actually an Australian company that employs hundreds of employees and is going about its lawful business. The boycott protests are very movingly described by a young Australian woman in South Melbourne as ‘more than simply a boycott’. They are loud, aggressive and angry, and they amount to intimidation. Seldom have I seen such a reaction from the overwhelming mainstream of Australian political and public life. I think that is because, as the member for Blair knows, deeply etched in Australia’s memory are those black-and-white films of the Nazi boycott of Jewish commerce in 1930s Germany. That is why an average Australian, such as sports broadcaster Ben Fordham—and I would urge every Australian to listen to his interview with Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon about her support for the boycott campaign—gets stuck into militants who chant outside Max Brenner’s chocolate shops, ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.’

That is why the Deputy Prime Minister joined the member for Blair and me; the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy; the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence; Sydney Morning Herald columnist Gerard Henderson; and union leader Paul Howes—unions were decried by the member for Curtin; it is the only part of her speech that I disagree with. Indigenous leader Warren Mundine was also there. All of them were there to show that decent, middle-of-the-road Australians are opposed to these discriminatory boycott activities of this particularly militant group. There is no mention of Darfur in any of their activities, where many more people have been killed, or the 300,000 people in the gulag, North Korea, or the tens of thousands of people caught up in the tragic situation in Tibet where nine young religious people have immolated themselves in the last month.

As Austen Tayshus said on Q&Ato Senator Rhiannon, ‘Thousands of people have been shot in Syria over the last few months. Why aren’t you leading a boycott there?’

The boycott was founded by the Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti in 2003, specifically to oppose the moderate two-state solution that all mainstream political parties in Australia support. He said:

Good riddance! The two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is finally dead. But someone has to issue an official death certificate before the rotting corpse is given a proper burial …

This discriminatory boycott came to prominence during last year’s New South Wales election, when Marrickville mayor Fiona Byrne introduced a one-sided motion calling on Marrickville council to boycott all Israeli made goods. Senator Lee Rhiannon is of course a member of the New South Wales wing of the Greens political party and was a key supporter of this campaign. She wanted to extend the boycott even further, beyond the New South Wales election.

Senator Rhiannon recently told a ‘Politics in the Pub’ meeting in Sydney that she wanted to extend the boycott to the federal parliament. It was irrational for a local council to pass motions on foreign policy and to support a boycott. It is absurd and illogical to pass one only against Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. It is ironic, as the member for Curtin pointed out, with Dr Lynch, at the Sydney University Peace Institute, and with the Greens political party and some of the more militant activists who support this activity, that they are protesting against the only country in the Middle East that protects the rights of gays. There is the rule of law there where women have complete equality and where there are minorities. There are nearly 20 Arab members of the Israeli Knesset at the Israeli parliament. You do not see minorities represented like that in other countries in the Middle East. It is plainly ludicrous.

Recently experts from around the world agreed that Israel is a laboratory for eco-innovation and can serve as a platform for other countries looking to harness sustainable technology. In five weeks time, Professor Daniel Shechtman, from the Israel Institute of Technology, will receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Of the nine Nobel Prize winners this year, five are Jewish. With respect to winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics, 42 per cent were Jewish; Nobel Prize in Medicine, 27 per cent were Jewish; and Nobel Prize in Physics, 25 per cent were Jewish.

As Israeli ambassador Yuval Rotem pointed out in a wonderful speech last week:

So where are all those on the fringe left; where are the academics, where are those members from the New South Wales Greens Party who think that boycotting the country of ground-breaking innovations, life-saving medications and grand contributions to man-kind will change the world for the better?

Perhaps these hate-mongers are too busy picking out bits of their computer hardware, invented and manufactured in Israel. Perhaps it is more time consuming than they first thought, removing all the drugs from their medicine cabinets that were created and developed in Israel.

As we saw in Brisbane and in Melbourne a few weeks ago, some of the protestors outside Max Brenner are anything but peaceful. Their chant “from the river to the sea,” as I pointed out, is the Hamas extremist cry for a one state, an Islamist state, between the Jordon River and the Mediterranean. They are not peaceful protesters calling for a Palestinian state next to Israel; they have a discriminatory attitude which should not be tolerated. They seek to boycott businesses such as Revlon and Westfield—I have their booklet here—simply because the chair of Revlon is Jewish and because Frank Lowy is Jewish. They advocate a boycott of the Beersheba dance company and the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. What would you rather see—the Beersheba dance company and the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra or a protest by some of these crazy groups outside Max Brenner shops?

They seek to boycott the Max Brenner shops because they claim those shops are owned by the Strauss Group. In fact, any company search here will show that Max Brenner is an independent Australian company. The Strauss Group happens to own another chocolate company in Israel called Elite, which puts chocolate products into reserve packs for soldiers. That is the extent of the connection between the protests here and what really happens over there. At the time the Marrickville motion was passed, Prime Minister Julia Gillard described it as ‘stupid and repugnant’ and said that:

Israel is a democracy with whom we have a long-standing relationship … anyone who stands in the way of that is doing the wrong thing.

Other government ministers have lambasted the Greens and Fiona Byrne for their boycott campaign.

I call on Senator Brown not to back his rogue senator, Lee Rhiannon, in her plan to extend the boycott beyond the activities taking place outside the Max Brenner shops. Senator Brown has reprimanded Senator Rhiannon in the past for her support of the boycott campaign and has stated that the Greens support a two-state solution. This boycott campaign does nothing to promote such a two-state solution. In fact it hinders the process by promoting hate. Both the Liberal and Labor parties support a just two-state solution to the Middle East peace process and we have done so from the beginning. The original resolution which Australia voted for in 1948 was for an Arab Palestinian state next to an Israeli Jewish state.

As the member for Curtin pointed out, the Palestinian representative in Australia, Abdulhadi—the head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia—to his great credit rejected the violent element in the boycott campaign. I think it is very interesting that an actual representative of the Palestinians understands the hurt and fear that emanates from such a boycott of commerce and the historical resonance that it has—he appears to understand this much better than some of the extreme Left people who are involved in that campaign. Mr Abdulhadi is a person whom I have debated before and he is an example of the fact that there are many Palestinians who want a peaceful and just solution to the Middle East situation. He is, as Margaret Thatcher said of Mikhail Gorbachev, the kind of person ‘we can do business with’.

This campaign is seen by some as coupled with the unilateral Palestinian bid for statehood. Both of them undermine negotiations which would actually advance the two-state solution in the Middle East. It is very interesting that the unilateral bid for Palestinian statehood has not gone very far internationally. It seems that the international community is tiring of one-sided solutions or one-sided advocacy in this area. It is most interesting that, given the make-up of the United Nations, it seems there are not nine votes at the Security Council for this unilateral announcement of a Palestinian state. I think what that is showing is that the international community—certainly mainstream countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany and most other European countries—more and more favours a negotiated arrangement between the two parties. My feeling is that the bid by the Palestinians to go to the Security Council will not progress and that they will then take their bid to the General Assembly. Of course, with the automatic majority of the organised Islamic countries and the Arab League, this will probably pass. But I think many countries like Australia will have a chance to stand up and say that this is not the way to approach peace in the Middle East. Unless there is a determination by the international community to involve direct negotiations between the parties, this is not a resolution that Australia should support. That view has been very clearly put by the Prime Minister. In many countries around the world—for example, the US congress—there has been great concern that, while there are things on the table for direct discussions between the Israelis and the Palestinians, this bid would be tried to be pushed through the United Nations.

In a book that Condoleezza Rice has just published she recounts the fact that she was present with former President Bush, former Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Mr Abbas when Mr Olmert offered an extensive compromise which would have seen 95 per cent of the West Bank become a Palestinian state and territorial exchanges to compensate for suburbs around Jerusalem that would remain part of an Israeli state—the existing state of Israel being given to the Palestinians to compensate them for those four or five per cent of territories around Jerusalem. That is a practical way of this issue being advanced. It is a great shame that Mr Abbas did not take up that opportunity when it was offered to him. I commend both Mr Olmert and Condoleezza Rice for pointing out that that was offered. I have previously tabled in the parliament the map that he offered, and it is available to anyone who wants to follow this debate. It is extensive; it is fair; it is comprehensive; and it in fact gives the Palestinians the equivalent of 100 per cent of the territory of the current West Bank.

My program for a peaceful resolution between the two parties is for Mr Abbas to get in his car in Ramallah and drive to Mr Netanyahu’s office, put the Olmert plan on the desk and say, ‘Let’s do it.’ That would have a lot more support amongst the Israeli people and would have much more support from the international community than this attempt to force through a one-sided resolution at the Security Council or the general assembly with their automatic majority. Go to an election, Mr Abbas, and get a mandate again. You have not been elected since 2006, even by any standard of international political legitimacy. Put the plan back on the table, negotiate directly and let us finally achieve peace for the two parties in the Middle East.

Link to parliamentary Hansard