Last week in NSW Parliament, right wing conservative MP David Clarke put a cynical motion into the NSW Upper House against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

Below is an edited extract of David’s contribution.

The full debate can be read here.

I am a proud member of The Greens New South Wales. I have a deep respect for our history, our structures and the decisions the party makes.

One core principle underpinning The Greens New South Wales is peace and non-violence. We oppose violence and promote peace wherever we can. The Greens oppose the use of violence by police and protesters alike. We oppose violence by Israelis and Palestinians.

We also respect the right of people to protest as fundamental to a healthy, functioning democracy. This is true even when we disagree with those protesters. For example, when 300 hopelessly misguided individuals went to Canberra to protest against the carbon tax I did not agree with them, but my Greens colleagues and I respected their right to protest.

When Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile wants to protest against Greens policies—such as abortion law reform, euthanasia or marriage equality—and organises supporters to protest outside Parliament House or in the Domain I will not agree with what he is protesting about, but I will respect the fact that he and his supporters have a right to protest as a sign of a functioning democracy.

I cannot support this motion as it seeks to condemn people for exercising their right to protest.

I have not been involved in the Max Brenner protests. The Greens New South Wales have not endorsed any of them, but I respect the right of those protesters to make their views known and to use peaceful protests to raise their concerns about the plight of Palestinians under occupation, those in refugee camps and those suffering from an unjust trade blockade in the Gaza.

I will not condemn people of goodwill who are protesting on our streets for the rights of oppressed people, such as the Palestinians.

The protests outside Max Brenner clearly have been controversial. I may not choose to protest outside one of these premises in New South Wales, but I will not condemn those people of goodwill who choose to peacefully protest and raise in the way they see best the plight of the Palestinian people and the culpability of the Israeli state in that plight.

The motion attacks the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] campaign.

Many people from across the globe have drawn inspiration from this global movement to promote the human rights of Palestinian people.

The movement was initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005 and is coordinated by the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanction national committee established in 2007.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign is one strategy to allow people of conscience to play an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for justice.

As the committee says on its website:

For decades Israel has denied the Palestinians their fundamental rights of freedom, equality and self-determination through ethnic cleansing, colonisation, racial discrimination and military occupation. Despite abundant condemnation of Israel’s policies by the UN, other international bodies and pre-eminent human rights organisations, the world community has failed to hold Israel accountable and enforce compliance with basic principles of law. Israel’s crimes have continued with impunity.

In view of this continued failure Palestinian civil society called for global citizens’ response on 9 July 2005 a year after the International Court of Justice’s historic advisory opinion on the illegality of Israel’s Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, a clear majority of Palestinian civil society called upon their counterparts and people of conscience all over the world to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives and to demand sanctions against Israel until Palestinian rights are recognised in full compliance with international law.

This is a peaceful movement. It is an option raised by many Palestinians in place of a further armed struggle or intifada. We must not forget this.

For many people struggling with occupation, armed struggle is an option. By contrast, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign is rooted in peace and non-violence. It is a campaign that The Greens New South Wales support.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign seeks to place pressure on the Israeli Government until it meets its obligations under international law by:

  1. ending its occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the wall;
  2. recognising the fundamental rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  3. respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

Many members of this House would support these goals if they took the time to read and understand them. However, opponents go to great lengths to discredit supporters of this movement by talking about anti-Semitism, by talking about violence and by alleging incorrectly that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign denies Israel’s right to exist. It simply does not.

As I have set out above, none of these allegations is true of the principles of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

Of course, no movement is perfect. No global grassroots campaign is without difficulties.

I am opposed to people being violent, racist or discriminatory whatever banner they do it under — including if it happens under the banner of the Liberal Party, the banner of the boycott, divestment and sanction campaign, or any other banner.

This is not an issue that I have sought to make the focus of my time in the New South Wales Parliament. However, given the motion has been moved, I note that I am opposed to the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories by the Israeli Government. I also oppose the continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank, both in density and size.

There are now more than 230 illegal settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. All are illegal under international law and have been repeatedly condemned in the United Nations, yet nothing changes on the ground.

Since 1967 more than 24,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed in the occupation. This is simply wrong.

I am opposed to the ritual humiliation of Palestinians at checkpoints by members of the Israeli Army. Again, it is wrong.

Of course, I fully support the right of Israel to exist in safe, secure and United Nations mandated borders. This is a fact enshrined in The Greens policy at both a State and Federal level. I emphasise this fact.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign acknowledges the right of Israel to exist, but it also confirms that Israel, like all nations, has an obligation to those people who live within its borders.

It is within its power to respect the rights of those people and it is a necessity that Israel respects the rights of Palestinians, including the right to self-determination.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign in Australia has been answered and supported by groups as diverse as the Australian Council of Churches, the Victorian Trades Hall and various unions, including the Electrical Trades Union, the Australian Manufacturing and Workers Union, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the Queensland Branch of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union and the Finance Sector Union.

It is supported in one form or another by groups and individuals across the globe, including many local governments. Indeed, it is supported by the socialist left of the New South Wales Labor Party.

One notable supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign is Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who recently wrote to Marrickville Greens Mayor, Fiona Byrne, and three fellow councillors in relation to the campaign.

I quote from Desmond Tutu’s letter:

We in South Africa, who both suffered Apartheid and defeated it, have the moral right and responsibility to name and shame institutionalised separation, exclusion and domination by one ethnic group over others. In my own eyes I have seen how the Palestinians are oppressed, dispossessed and exiled.

We call on all our Jewish and Israeli sisters and brothers to oppose the occupation, and work for equality, justice and peace, between the River and the Sea, in the same way that so many South African Whites took risks to oppose the crime of Apartheid.

It continues:

International Boycotts Divestment and Sanctions against the Apartheid regime, combined with the mass struggle inside South Africa, led to our victory. I recall that after the very strong actions to prevent Apartheid sportsmen competing with Australians, that Councils, starting with Wollongong, declared their cities “Apartheid-free” areas, and this was a great contribution.

Sometimes taking a public stand for what is ethical and right brings costs, but social justice on a local or global scale requires faith and courage.

Read the full debate and contributions from other MPs here.