Biggest moments of 2011 #23 Marrickville invades Israel
Welcome to The Punch’s Biggest Moments of 2011. Each day until the Friday before Christmas, we’ll be counting the events which marked 2011. Our list contains moments from politics, popular culture, tragedy, sport and more. Some are frivolous. Others are deadly serious. These are the moments which had us talking in 2011. More to the point, they’re the moments that had YOU talking.
Fiona Byrne, the mayor of Marrickville in inner Sydney, backed a motion to support the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. This basically meant that no Israeli products would be sold within the boundaries of Marrickville Council. Tough luck, bagel-lovers. Good news for Vietnamese pork roll sellers.
What happened next
All hell broke loose. Some argued that councils should stick to local services like rubbish collection. Others pointed out that in a region which has nearly 200 ethnicities living cheek to jowl, there were plenty of evil repressive regimes much more worthy of attention than a democratic state fighting for its right to exist – even considering the ongoing claims for Palestinian statehood.
Predictably, there was a backlash. And that backlash cost Byrne her chance at longstanding Labor member Carmel Tebbutt’s state seat. Byrne would have won for sure if not for the BDS campaign. Before the BDS BS, the bookies had her at shorter odds than Phar Lap. But her stance riled everyday Australians, not to mention many overseas, as the news story travelled around the world.
Interestingly, Byrne’s Greens colleague Jamie Parker barely fell over the line in the seat of Balmain after a recount. The Byrne factor whacked him pretty hard too, as he had been expected to romp in.
What we learned
This was the moment when Australia realised that the majority of politicians campaigning under the banner of The Greens are in fact a loose assortment of lefties who wouldn’t know a wombat from a wobbegong. Recycling household waste was of far less interest to these people than recycling dog-eared leftist propaganda sheets.
Byrne might have thought all she she blew was her chance at a state seat and a hefty pension, but she blew the entire credibility of The Greens out of the water. This whole issue changed Australia’s perception of The Greens. People no longer saw them as environmental warriors, but ideological warriors.
How the Punch covered it
Punch editor-in-chief David Penberthy kicked things off in the state election lead-up, with a piece entitled The weird unscrutinised world of the NSW Greens, in which he likened Byrne’s policy to a “polite modern rending of Kristallnacht”.
Penbo had a second dig after the election, in a piece which was controversial for a whole bunch of other reasons. He quoted Jewish Labor MP Michael Danby, who said that Marrickville Council might as well just start painting the Star of David on offending businesses.
Three weeks later, Marrickville council finally backed down from its decision to boycott all things Israeli. Byrne herself ranted away on the opinion pages of the Sydney Morning Herald, while I weighed in on The Punch, with a brief story illustrated with a jar of the delicious, sour Eskal Kosher pickles which I’ve been buying at Marrickville Woollies for over a decade.
They’re still on the shelves today, no thanks to Fiona Byrne.
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