Australian City Faces Attacks for Supporting BDS

PNN – Palestine News Network | 16.04.11 – 20:00

By Tania Kepler – The city of Marrickville is the first municipality in Australia to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. The city is now under attack, following the publication of a report saying that support for BDS could end up costing taxpayers $4 million.

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BDS protest – Archive

In December 2010 the local council in the Australian city of Marrickville became the first municipality in Australia to support the Palestinian initiated Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and “boycott all goods made in Israel and any sporting, institutional academic, government or institutional cultural exchanges.”

The city is now under attack, following the publication of a report saying that support for BDS could end up costing taxpayers $4 million. Marrickville Mayor Fiona Byrne has denied that would be the case.

The paper was written by the council’s manager of services, Gary Moore, who says that signing onto BDS will require the replacement of the municipality’s Hewlett Packard computers, Holden and Volvo cars, telephones and other equipment from Motorola and concrete from Fulton Hogan.

Mr. Moore’s report found the boycott measure would lead to “substantial” impacts on council’s operations. “Significant change would have to be planned for and managed to enable council operations to be maintained whilst new sets of providers of computer hardware, concrete, waste services, some vehicles and some other construction materials and consumables are obtained and existing contracts are completed/suspended,” the report said.

According to Moore’s report for the council, it would cost about $3 million to replace Hewlett Packard computer systems, $300,000 for new record-keeping software and $150,000 for new Motorola products.

The report also said the city council might need to spend $5000 to $10,000 in legal fees just to determine whether the original motion on the boycott was lawful under anti-discrimination laws, according to the news daily The Australian.

The BDS movement does target products and companies (Israeli and international) that profit from the violation of Palestinian rights, as well as Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions, and the companies on Moore’s list do fall into this category.

However, the AIC spoke with Hind Awwad, the national coordinator for the Boycott National Committee, and she said that while the BDS movement does provide a framework for applying and adhering to BDS, it does not have a list of products that must be boycotted and it does not do any sort of enforcing.

She also noted that a council would not need to replace already owned products in order to be in compliance with BDS, and that a council can decide how they are going to apply BDS in their specific context.

As such, the attacks against the Marrickville city council, on the grounds that joining the call for BDS will cost the tax-payers millions as a result of replacing already owned items, are unfounded and incorrect.

Marrickville is a Sister City to Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, which played a role in the city’s decision.

“In particular recognition of its sister city relationship with Bethlehem and the strong support for this relationship from local progressive faith communities and other community members, Marrickville Council support the principles of the BDS global campaign and report back on any links the Council has with organisations or companies that support or profit from the Israeli military occupation of Palestine with a view to the Council divesting from such links and imposing a boycott on any future such links or goods purchases,” the city council said following their decision to support BDS.

Mayor Fiona Byrne has released a statement saying she would not vote for anything that would disadvantage residents financially.

The council has a similar long-standing boycott on Burma, which does not impact on residents, Ms Byrne said.

“The Burma boycott shows that councils can take a stand on human rights issues, like the occupation of the Palestinian territories, without having a negative financial impact on residents,” Ms Byrne said in the statement.

This article was first published by the Alternative Information Center – AIC – which gave PNN permission to run this article.

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