Eskalating pressure gets council out of a pickle
Kosher pickle lovers, rest easy. Sydney’s Marrickville Council has backed down overnight from its plan to boycott all things Israeli.
This is a win both for common sense, and for anyone who enjoys the delicious, sour, garlicky, Israeli Eskal pickles pictured above, which will continue to be available for purchase on the shelves of Marrickville Woolworths, as they have been for a decade or more.
Despite butchering her run at state parliament, not to mention the credibility of both the Greens and her own council over the Israel boycott, Marrickville Mayor Fiona Byrne went down swinging in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, with a bizarre, longwinded justification of her council’s right, nay civic duty, to embroil itself in matters beyond garbage collection.
“Being involved in international affairs is part of being connected to your community and through it the broader community of the globe,” she wrote.
This statement is so laughably meaningless and waffly, it barely deserves shooting down. The simplest, straight-from-the-hip rebuttal is to suggest the council might have first targeted a boycott of all things Chinese, given the fact that Marrickville Council raises the Tibetan flag on Tibet’s national day.
Mind you, with the local councillors’ propensity to yum cha at the excellent Hung Cheung restaurant on Marrickville Rd, that might have made life a little uncomfortable.
In her Herald piece, Byrne also cited section 233 of the Local Government Act. It states that one of the roles of council is “to provide leadership and guidance to the community”.
Well, interpreting this to mean that council should involve itself in the affairs of Israel, or any foreign power, is a logic leap of staggeringly audacious proportions.
Council should provide leadership and guidance? Ok, fine. How about a little leadership in fixing the numerous potholes on Illawarra Road. Some of that guidance would come in really handy in handling the delicate issue of the proposed expansion of Marrickville Metro shopping centre too.
There are, of course, those who have mounted infinitely more coherent arguments for the “think global, act local” ethos adapted by Byrne.
A prominent Marrickville area clergyman gave a stirring, emotional and convincing sermon a few Sundays back on the perils of attending only to matters in one’s own backyard. While the sermon supported Byrne’s stance, it did so from an informed, passionate position.
That’s the real issue here. Byrne, for all her posturing, comes across as a grandstander. You sense that in this whole fight, she has pandered to the “automatic left” – to those who hate Israel because they hate Israel, full stop.
Yes, Israel is an aggressor. But Israel is surrounded on all sides by despotic regimes, many of whom are now being overthrown by their own populace.
Yes Israel’s government is hardline. But Israel itself an open, pluralistic society, whose own citizens are bitterly divided on their government’s position on Gaza and the West Bank.
Yes, Israel has defied numerous UN resolutions. But in this, it is hardly alone in the world, nor are many member states of the UN Security Council (past and present) exactly neutral where Israel is concerned.
The simple fact is that the automatic left hates Israel, the automatic left votes Green, and Byrne made the fatal mistake of thinking she could drag along the more moderate lefties too. She might have done so too, if the fine print hadn’t been so damned wacky.
It’s one thing to punish Israeli manufacturers, like the good folk at Eskal pickles. But council planned to spend $3.7 million implementing the ban, including a massive overhaul of computer equipment, on the laughably flimsy premise that the same company had equipment at military checkpoints on the West Bank and Gaza.
That’s the kind of loopy logic which prompted NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell to threaten to sack the council, which in turn ultimately caused Byrne’s backdown from implementing the ban to “in-principle support”.
Byrne blamed biased attacks from the Murdoch press and the pro-Israel lobby, but that’s not what forced the flip. It was plain old common sense.
You could almost see Byrne’s arms flailing this morning as she said “It [our stance] has got people talking about an issue that was invisible.” She’s right, you know. But not in the way she thinks she is.
What this issue has got people talking about is how misguided some Greens really are. Even Bob Brown effectively said as much, when he said the Israel boycott – which he didn’t agree with – cost Byrne a state seat.
Oh, and by the way, how are the forests and endangered Tassie Devils going anyway? That’s the sort of thing most green voters I know are really concerned about.
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