Australia’s deputy PM supports boycotted Israeli business


SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – Australian Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan visited an Israeli business that has been targeted by advocates of boycotting Israel.

Swan, who is also the nation’s treasurer, joined Jewish legislator Michael Danby and more than 100 Israel supporters Sunday at a branch of Max Brenner, the Israeli-owned chocolate shop, in Brisbane.

The visit came 24 hours after about 50 supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement protested outside the Brisbane store in the latest of a series of demonstrations across Australia against Max Brenner outlets. They were met by a counter-demonstration of more than 100 Israel supporters organized by a student from the University of Queensland. Pro-Palestinian organizers claim the Strauss Group, Max Brenner’s parent company, supports the IDF and is complicit in “Israel’s apartheid and occupation policies.”

Danby, who has spearheaded a nonviolent counter-campaign to show solidarity with Max Brenner, slammed the “hate campaign” of the boycotters. “The event held today with the deputy prime minister illustrates that these campaigners do not represent mainstream Australia,” he said. “It is disgusting that this group of leftists were also demanding that Australians boycott Revlon and Westfield simply because their owners were Jewish. Fair-minded Australians want nothing to do with such bigotry."

Swan’s visit to Max Brenner follows similar solidarity visits by Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and other legislators.

On July 1, 19 protesters were arrested in a fracas with police outside a Max Brenner store in Melbourne. Several are scheduled to appear in court next month for breaching bail conditions.

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