What I said last night in Marrickville backing BDS and Palestine

Here’s an audio recording of my speech. The quality ain’t great (and I know it was recorded by many people so hopefully other audio and video coming soon):

Here’s the ABC Radio AM story this morning on last night’s proceedings. The journalist interviewed me (but this wasn’t included in the final story…oh the shame!) but one of my comments made it into the piece:

TONY EASTLEY: It’s unusual that a local council should get involved with world affairs, especially something as fraught as the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

But the inner-city Marrickville Council in Sydney created a storm of controversy when, last December, it adopted a proposal to boycott Israeli goods and services.

But now the council has had a change of heart and last night voted against supporting the boycott.

Michael Edwards has this report.

COUNCIL LEADER: Order please, order please!

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Planning approvals and petitions for park benches are usually debated at Marrickville Council meetings, but last night world peace was on the agenda.

COUNCIL MEMBER: This is the example of decent people taking a stand for justice, human rights and international law.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: After months of controversy, the council’s decision to place a ban on Israeli products was up for debate.

The meeting dragged on for four hours and 30 people spoke on the issue.

Some powerful emotions surfaced.

COUNCIL MEMBER 3: I support the Palestinians, I support their right in everything, and I went…

COUNCIL LEADER: Order please, order!

COUNCIL MEMBER 4: There is no one in here, I’m sure, that does not want peace in the Middle East or everywhere else in the world, but if we continue to separate and carry that baggage to separate, they will never be appeased.

COUNCIL MEMBER 5 [This is me!]: There are not two equal sides in this conflict, there is an occupier and an occupied.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Eventually after much vitriol and name calling from the public gallery, the majority of councillors voted to end the council’s support for the ban.

There are claims the Labor Party pressured its members on the Marrickville Council to withdraw their support for the boycott.

Marrickville’s Mayor, Fiona Byrne staked a lot of political capital on supporting it. It may have cost her the seat of Marrickville in last month’s state election. It also made her the focus of a lot of media attention, not all of it favourable.

FIONA BYRNE: We have created a little egg which is support for the plight of the Palestinian people and a sledgehammer is being used to break that.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Even though she lost the vote, Fiona Byrne says she doesn’t regret supporting the boycott.

FIONA BYRNE: Certainly we have put BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) on the national agenda, whatever that means.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Many opposed to the boycott say it’s just not the place of a local council to weigh into international politics.

But there were many Palestinians among those watching the debate. They say the boycott would be an effective method of protest.

Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian human rights activist.

SAMAH SABAWI: There is a lot of support and there is a lot of interest in the boycott, divestments and sanctions campaign and it is a growing campaign and this is just the beginning in Australia. I don’t think that this is a loss, in fact I think it really has put BDS on the agenda and it’s put it in newspapers and people are talking about it and we’re getting lots of questions about what it is, so it’s an educational opportunity.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: But many among Marrickville’s Jewish community say they’re relieved the boycott isn’t proceeding.

Uri Windt is a spokesman for the Inner-west Jewish community.

URI WINDT: The nature of the global boycott is universal and has no end point or political demand that can possibly met. That leads you to the conclusion that it is so broad and so universal as to be distinctly hostile to Israel or the Jewish people per se.

That is not a way in which to advance the cause of the Palestinian people.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies was unavailable for comment due to the festival of Passover.

In a statement, it says it’s against the boycott and a reversal of it would be a welcome victory for commonsense.

TONY EASTLEY: Michael Edwards with that report.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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