The Marrickville mayor, Fiona Byrne, will try to end a boycott of Israel after an intense political and community backlash, death threats and a collapse in support on the council, conceding it is ”impractical and untenable”.
But the mayor, who would not rule out another tilt at state politics, is unwavering in her support for the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel and will tomorrow call on the council to offer its in-principle support only.
Cr Byrne, speaking publicly for the first time since failing to win the seat of Marrickville at the state election, said she did not think the controversial original motion, which called for a boycott of ”all goods made in Israel and any sporting, academic institutions, government or institutional cultural exchanges”, was wrong.
Following a recent council report showing it would cost $3.7 million to fully implement, Cr Byrne said it was ”impractical”.
”I must be financially responsible to my community, and I certainly would not put my community under a financial burden to implement it,” she said, adding she was proud of the council for supporting the rights of the Palestinian people.
”It has got people talking about an issue that previously was invisible,” she said. ”Is it the right thing to support the BDS campaign? Yes. I think it is.”…Cr Byrne’s new motion, which calls for in-principle support to be maintained but no practical boycotts implemented, will be put alongside another motion from the independent councillor Victor Macri, who has opposed the boycott from the beginning.
The Greens on Marrickville Council were last night locked in talks on a face-saving measure in its Israel boycott saga.
The measure would enable the inner-western Sydney council to maintain a boycott of Israel without the cost to ratepayers.
The Australian understands that one option under consideration would see an alternate motion put forward that made no specific mention of the global boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) movement, but instead aligned the council with an 1980 UN resolution critical of Israel.
Greens councillor Marika Kontellis conceded yesterday the proposed boycott — which has drawn condemnation from all sides of politics — had been “unpopular” among the community.
UN Resolution 465 calls upon states to withhold any assistance to Israel that could be used in connection to Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. This option could see the original motion, which called for a “boycott of all goods made in Israel and any sporting, academic, government or cultural exchanges” technically remain on the council books.
A report released by council officers last week showed the cost to ratepayers of the boycott would run to at least $3.7 million.
While acknowledging its unpopularity, Ms Kontellis defended the right of the 12-member council to voice its opinions on matters of principle. “But does being unpopular mean it’s wrong it take a stance?” she said. “That’s the question I’ll ask myself.”
Thankfully, Marrickville mayor Fiona Byrne today writes in the Sydney Morning Herald about an issue the corporate media has deliberately avoided; why BDS is so necessary due to Israeli apartheid in Palestine:
It seems that everyone has an opinion at the moment about whether the Marrickville Local Government Area should play a role in trying to create change for the people of Palestine.
In the process, the plight on the ground in Palestine has barely rated a mention. Among others, the Murdoch press, the Labor Party, the Jewish Board of Deputies, and now the Premier, Barry O’Farrell, appear to have enjoyed attacking me and Marrickville Council, in a furore of half-truths and misinformation.
To call this circus ”news” is absurd.
Every day the Palestinian people have their freedom of movement within their own territories restricted. They are denied access to water as the Jordan River and groundwater are diverted to Israeli settlements. Gaza is blockaded, denying people basic supplies such as medicines.
Would we in Sydney live this way? Would we stand for the Queensland government doing these things to us? Wouldn’t we protest for our rights, and if needed call for help from the broader Australian or international communities?
In a community that is so diverse, where multiculturalism blossoms, Marrickville Council is regularly involved in international affairs. We raise the Tibetan and West Papuan flags on their national days to show support for their own struggle for self-determination. We are not the only council in NSW that is a nuclear-free zone, nor the only council working hard to tackle climate change, which will affect every community across the planet. Being involved in international affairs is part of being connected to your community and through it the broader community of the globe.
One of the ways that the council can show our support for these causes is through ethical purchasing. Just as individuals choose not to buy certain goods because of the practices of their producers – like the successful boycott of Nestle products until it changed its practices in Africa – the council, as an organisation that purchases goods and services every day on behalf of 76,000 people, has the right to put criteria in place around who we do business with.
Contrary to the heavy-handed statements of the novice Premier last week, councils are about much more than roads, rates and rubbish. On December 14 last year, 10 out of 12 Marrickville councillors expressed support for the global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign, to exert peaceful pressure on the government of Israel to honour its human rights obligations to the Palestinians under Israel’s jurisdiction.
The campaign has widespread support from organisations and individuals including the peace activist Desmond Tutu and the human rights lawyer Julian Burnside.
Any chance of a real debate about Israel? No, didn’t think so.