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JTA

Original Article

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Greens abandon official support for Israel boycott


By Josephine Tovey, The Sydney Morning Herald,
December 5, 2011

The NSW Greens have abandoned their official support for an international boycott of the state of Israel, a policy that drew unprecedented ire towards Marrickville Council this year and exposed broader rifts within the party.

At a State Council meeting yesterday, which was not open to the media, every local Greens group voted to support a revised motion which recognises the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign as a legitimate political tactic, but to abandon it as an official party position.

The policy provoked a huge backlash from Jewish groups and some sections of the media when it was adopted in-principle by Marrickville Council last December, with support from Greens, Labor and an independent.

Some Green party members, including Bob Brown and MLC Cate Faehrmann, blamed the policy for contributing to former mayor Fiona Byrne's unsuccessful tilt at the seat of Marrickville in the March state election (Byrne is pictured at left.). Immediately after the election, the council abandoned the policy when two of the Greens on the council split and voted with others to overturn it at a dramatic meeting.

Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham more recently criticised the targeting of Israeli-owned Max Brenner chocolate shops by BDS protestors.

In May, the party convened a working group of about 25 people to reconsider the divisive policy. Their report provided the basis for the revised position.

Ms Rhiannon, a strong proponent of the policy over the last year, denied the policy had exposed a rift within the party, and said a consensus view had now been reached.

“The resolution recognises the legitimacy of the BDS as a political tactic and also recognises that there is a diversity of views in the community and the Greens,” she said.

“While there have been a variety of views among Greens members on BDS there was strong and united commitment to continue our work for Palestinian human rights.

“The Review rejected and condemned false accusations of anti-Semitism.”

The BDS policy had drawn high profile support to the party and Marrickville Council too, with Bishop Desmond Tutu and human rights advocate Julian Burnside QC sending messages of support.

The motion adopted at yesterday's conference reaffirmed their position that the Australian government should halt military cooperation and military trade with Israel and resolved that the party would also work to develop a broader ethical procurement policy.

It also recognised the right of individual Greens members to participate in BDS campaigns.

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