The Australian’s faux outrage over the BDS campaign and student protests against Max Brenner

 The Australian’s faux outrage over the Palestinian BDS campaign and student protests against Max Brenner

Monday, May 6, 2013

Dear friends,
if you follow the Murdoch Press in Australia, you would have noticed over the last week or so a flurry of breathless reporting and faux outrage in The Australian about the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign and student protests against the chocolate bar, Max Brenner.  Every day over the previous week, The Australian ran at least one article (sometimes two) and/or editorial denouncing not only BDS but supporters of the campaign.

Rather than covering every single article published by The Australian, which often extensively quoted the Australian Zionist lobby, I have given a brief round up of the two most disingenuous articles/editorials offered up by The Australian.  I have linked to the articles and editorial, but it should be noted that The Australian has a semi-pay wall and while its editorials are not behind the paywall, many of its articles are.  The articles can be accessed, however, if you type the article title into google search and access the link via google rather than via The Australian’s website.

The Australian ran a similar campaign against Melbourne BDS supporters in 2011 and 2012 when protests took place against Max Brenner in Melbourne.  At the time, 19 protesters at the peaceful demonstrations were violently attacked by the police and arrested.  After a year in and out of court, the substantive charges against the protesters of trespass and besetting were dismissed and police were instructed to pay court costs.

Electronic Intifada published two articles written by myself on the Melbourne protests, which can be read here and here, as well as the solidarity statement issued by Israeli activists from Boycott from Within who campaign in support of the Palestinian BDS campaign (click here)

In solidarity,
Kim

***

Students protest University of NSW granting rights to Max Brenner to open 
a new store on campus. 1st May 2013
 

The Australian’s faux outrage against Australian students and the BDS campaign

With the student union at the University of Sydney passing a motion in support of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign on 10 April 2013 and the announcement of pro-Palestine student groups at the University of New South Wales protest against the opening of a Max Brenner store on that campus, the Australian Zionist lobby and the Murdoch press, in particular The Australian, has once again gone into over drive to denounce BDS.

Every day for the last week, The Australian has run at least one article (sometimes two) or an editorial misrepresenting and denouncing both the students and/or the BDS campaign.

On May 1st, The Australian ran an editorial which not only denounced BDS but sang the praises of Israel.  As Australian Jewish blogger and writer, Antony Loewenstein noted on his own blog, the editorial was:

a classic case of receiving a press release from the Israeli government and it somehow, mysteriously, appearing in the paper. Occupation is invisible. Hell, Israel is praised for cuddling Palestinians babies at West Bank checkpoints. Well, nearly. If the editors need some assistance to better understand the brutal, racist reality of Israel’s occupation of Palestine see herehere and here.

The icing on the cake, however, was The Australian’s “reporting” was Christian Kerr’s anti-BDS article on May 2.  Kerr, who is a former political staffer to cabinet members in the ardently pro-Israel government of former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, attempted to misrepresent and beat up a non-story about a pro-BDS activists allegedly saying that Max Brenner lacked any real link to Israel and therefore the protests against the store were not genuine.

Max Brenner has been a target of the BDS campaign because it is part of the Strauss Group – one of Israel’s largets food and beverage companies.  Prior to the campaign against Strauss and Brenner starting the Strauss Group website proudly emphasised its support for the Israeli military, in particular providing car packages, sports and recreational equipment, books and games for Israeli soldiers.

Strauss boasted support for the Golani and Givati Brigades, which were heavily involved in Israel’s military assault on the Gaza Strip in December/January 2008-2009, which resulted in the killing of approximately 1400 Palestinians, the majority civilians, including approximately 350 children.

While Strauss has removed the information about their support for the Golani and Givati brigades from their website, their 2012 Annual Report noted that Strauss was an “approved supplier to the [Israeli] Ministry of Defense”.

In response to Kerr’s article, the Palestine Action Group in Sydney issued the following statement:

Palestine solidarity activists are bemused that the Australian has given front page coverage to this “scoop”. The Youtube of the rally in question, which took place on September 21, 2012, has also just been released.

The “exclusive” report quoting Patrick Harrison, a spokesperson from the Palestine Action Group, is taken from in a sarcastic Youtube made by Jeremy Moses from Varietygarage.com.

The article tries to make out that Mr Harrison is undermining his own cause by “acknowledging” that boycotting the Max Brenner outlet in Parramatta will have no financial impact on its parent company in Israel.

It also alleges that Max Brenner International “has absolutely no holding” in Max Brenner Australia.

But just because the parent company doesn’t hold shares in the Australian Max Brenner doesn’t mean that the franchisee is not connected to the parent company. Often the franchise company takes a cut and charges the franchise holder fees for the name and sometimes the equipment and supplies.

In fact, the Australian just a few days ago admitted the connection.

On April 29, the newspaper stated in a report on a protest against the establishment of a Max Brenner outlet on the University of NSW campus which took place on April 30 that:

‘Max Brenner is a brand of food and beverage Strauss group, which has been a supporter of the Israeli armed forces, including ‘adopting’ a platoon in the army’s Golani brigade.’

“This is the reason that those concerned about Israel’s apartheid policies towards Palestinians have made Max Brenner a target for protest over recent years”, said Mr Raul Bassi, another member of the Palestine Action Group.

“As Patrick Harrison and other activists explain in the Youtube in question, the protests outside Max Brenner are largely a consciousness-raising exercise. They are aimed at letting people know how close the Strauss Group – the owners of Max Brenner – is to the current Zionist government of Israel.”

Mr Patrick Langosch, another member of the Palestine Action Group, said: “The protests outside the Max Brenner outlets are also about letting Australians know about the non-violent Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign which was launched 6 years ago by Palestine civil society organisations.

“In these aims the rallies outside the Max Brenner cafes have been very successful. So much so, Australian supporters of the Israeli government – including Michael Danby MP and Paul Howes of the Australian Workers Union – have had themselves photographed patronising Max Brenner cafes”, said Mr Langosch.

The Palestine Solidarity Group also rejects the Australian’s efforts to argue that any protest against a Max Brenner store is “anti-Semitic”.

“Anti-Semitism is the belief or behavior hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish. The solidarity actions in support of Palestine are not anti-Semitic; they are opposed to the apartheid-like policies of the Netanyahu government, as are many Jews and Israelis”, said Mr Langosh.

Antony Loewenstein, independent journalist and author of My Israel Question, says that BDS is a legitimate and non-violent tactic, thriving globally, that targets the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine.

“Anti-Semitism has nothing to do with this movement; this is a convenient distraction by the Murdoch press and complicit Zionist lobby and I totally reject this as a Jew myself. Freedom for Palestinians will only come when Jews, Palestinians and others join together to demand justice for an occupied people. Universities and corporations who profit from this occupation deserve to be named, shamed and boycotted.”

The Palestine Action Group is calling on all supporters of Palestine to attend the Al Nakba rally on May 15. The rally marks the date that Israel was created by illegitimate means. Between 1947-1948, around half of the 1.4 million Palestinian Arabs were driven from their homes or fled to neighbouring Arab states.

The protest will call on the Australian government to speak up against the ongoing displacement of Palestinians from their land, and the laws that discriminate against Palestinians within Israel.

As noted by the Palestine Action Group,  just because a parent company (in this case Strauss) doesn’t hold shares in a franchise, it does not mean that the franchisee is not connected to the parent company. Often the franchise company takes a cut and charges the franchise holder fees for the name and sometimes equipment and supplies.

This is basically confirmed by the Strauss Group’s 2012 Annual Report.  The Annual Report clearly outlines that the Australian Max Brenner is part of the Strauss Group operations.  The report notes that Strauss “manufactures and sells chocolates under the Max Brenner brand and operates a chain of Chocolate Bars in Israel and abroad.  These are wholly-owned by the Company or operated through franchisers and partners, delivering a novel consumption experience in the chocolate and chocolate beverage category” (p8). The report note that Strauss has operations in the USA, Australia and Singapore where they operate chocolate bars.  According to page 117 of the report, thirty Chocolate Bars in Australia – four of which opened in 2012 – are part of the Strauss Groups operations.

In an interview in The Australian last year on 26 December 2012, the General Manager of Max Brenner in Australia, Yael Kaminsky stated:

“We only have the franchise rights in Australia and we report to the office of Max Brenner that is based in New York”.

What Kaminsky did not state and The Australian did not report was that Max Brenner International in the USA is wholly 100% owened by the Strauss Group, a fact confirmed in the 2012 Strauss Group Annual Report.  Instead, Kaminsky and The Australian disingenuously  imply that because Strauss has no shares in the Australian Max Brenner that the Australian operations are not part of the Strauss Group operations.

As Tom and Lilly Hakin the owners of the Australian Max Brenner chain noted in 2007 interview, their company was “bringing chocolate from Israel to Australia” having secured a “sole owner and distributor deal” for Max Brenner products in Australia and that “most of the chocolate is shipped out from Israel”.

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