Australian town council rescinds support for BDS

The country's sole municipality to endorse the boycott movement withdraws their support citing cost issues.

By JOSHUA HAMERMAN
April 21, 2011 02:38
2 minute read.
Sydney Harbor

Australian Cannon 311. (photo credit: (Ilan Zvuluni))

 
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The sole local Australian municipal council to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign withdrew their support on Tuesday.

After a lengthy and heated meeting, the 12-member Marrickville Council in New South Wales, voted to rescind its original resolution calling for a boycott of Israel.

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In December, the Marrickville Council voted 10-2 to ban Israeli products as well as government, sporting, cultural and academic exchanges with Israel.

Marrickville Mayor Fiona Byrne, a council member representing the Greens Party, said in a statement that the findings of a council staff report on the costs of implementing the boycott played a role in the council’s decision.

“The report identifies some options – the cost of which would be impractical to the council and our local residents,” she said in a press release.

“The plight of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories has been and remains a source of concern for Marrickville councilors,” Byrne added.

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According to Australian media, the report in question estimated a boycott would cost local taxpayers between $3.7 million and $4.3m. Six councilors – four Labor members and two Greens members – who voted in favor of severing ties with Israel in December, reversed their positions.

New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell wrote to Byrne a few days before the meeting and threatened to fire the entire council unless the boycott was dropped within 28 days.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. quoted Byrne as saying, “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… Certainly we have put BDS on the national agenda, whatever that means.”

A phone survey conducted in March by the Inner West Jewish Community and Friends Peace Alliance found that two-thirds of residents did not support the planned boycott.

The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Union’s national secretary publicly stated that a boycott of Israel would not be in his members’ best interest.

The boycott was also opposed by the national leader of the Greens Party, Senator Bob Brown, as well as Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese, whose parliamentary seat falls in the Marrickville area.

Albanese was quoted in the Australian media on Monday as saying, “It’s time, when the council meets tomorrow night, to put aside this division and to say that the council should prioritize getting back to basics… not trying to be an alternative foreign government for Australia that has brought the local community I’m proud to represent into a state of ridicule across the country.”

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