The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission has been asked to investigate anti-Israeli campaigners who have joined the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions group to determine if they should be prosecuted for threatening stores with Israeli ownership or connections.
The ACCC has been asked to consider injunctive relief and damages after 19 people were arrested following an ugly clash between police and protesters outside the Max Brenner store in Melbourne's CBD on July 1.
The protesters allegedly blocked potential customers from entering the store as part of an "orchestrated campaign" to impose what the government believes is a secondary boycott on the chocolate and coffee store.
A similar action is being planned against a Max Brenner store in Brisbane on August 27.
Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O'Brien said the protesters had deliberately pinpointed businesses with Israeli ownership and who they believed traded with the Israeli government.
Mr O'Brien singled out the Maritime Union Of Australia, Geelong Trades Hall Council, the Green Left Weekly magazine, Australians for Palestine and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Victoria Police used anti-riot tactics to make the arrests and to open up the area outside the Melbourne store amid shouts of "shame", "free, free Palestine" and "this is a police state". Several amateur videos of the altercation have been posted online.
In a statement issued Monday, Executive Council of Australian Jewry President Dr. Danny Lamm welcomed the decision by the Liberal state government to ask the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate supporters of the “immoral and illegal” Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.
The landmark move comes in the wake of a July 1 protest in which 19 pro-BDS protesters were arrested during a clash with police outside a Max Brenner chocolate store in downtown Melbourne. Three policemen were injured in the fracas.
Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien said Monday he believes BDS supporters may be in contravention of section 45D of the Commonwealth Competition and Consumer Act.
“To think you are going to influence the policies of the government of Israel by attacking a business running in this state is just appalling,” O’Brien told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “There are certainly very ugly undertones to these protests and it's not a path we want to go down in Victoria.”
The Victorian government believes the protests may constitute a “secondary boycott” which is in breach of Australian law.
Lamm blasted the protesters for being “highly selective” about the Israeli products they target “The BDS organizers will call for a boycott of certain Israeli cosmetics and chocolate products.But they wouldn’t dream of telling you not to use Windows operating systems developed by Microsoft Israel," he said. “The real agenda is to defame Israel, as their slogans reveal.”
But a spokeswoman for the BDS in Australia was “outraged” by the government’s decision to “criminalize” any protests against corporations that support Israel.