THE AUSTRALIAN: Council acts against anti-Israel group 31Aug13 August 31, 2013

by Christian Kerr    -    The Australian     -    31 August 2013

A SYDNEY council has opened a new front on the boycott, divestment and sanctions battle, taking action against a protest group for conducting a rally on what it is says is community land.

Parramatta Council has warned the Palestinian Action Group that it risks penalties of up to $2200 for an “unauthorised” protest in the city’s Church Street Mall this month that targeted the adjacent Max Brenner outlet.

The Parramatta Max Brenner has become a frequent target for anti-Israel BDS rallies over recent years, despite an admission caught on camera at a protest at the same location last November from protest organiser Damian Ridgewell that “there isn’t really any connection” between the chain of chocolate shops in this country and Israel.

A Parramatta Council spokeswoman confirmed it would be taking action.

“The Palestinian Action Group were informed in writing in September 2012 in a letter from the CEO that they required permission from council to hold such activity,” she said.

“After council became aware of another planned protest on Saturday, 16 August, 2013, a letter was issued by the council to the Palestinian Action Group that once again explained the requirement for council approval prior to this activity taking place.

“Council has provided clear written and verbal advice to the Palestinian Action Group that it is not excluded from such activity but that it does require council, as the consent authority, to provide permission prior to the event.”

The BDS movement explicitly equates Israel with apartheid-era South Africa.

Mr Ridgwell, a PAG spokesman, described the council’s actions as “victimisation of Palestine solidarity activism”.

“This is not the first time that fundamental democratic rights have (been) suspended for those who oppose Israel’s crime of apartheid,” he said.

Another PAG member, Lutfi Zayed, who received the initial warning from Parramatta Council, claimed the action threatened to “scrap any notion of the right to free speech or freedom of assembly”.

The council spokeswoman said the Local Government Act required its permission to deliver a public address, hold a religious service or a public meeting on the mall. She did not, however, specify what the council’s response would be.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff said: “The decision to impose punitive measures against the Palestine Action Group is a matter for Parramatta Council.”

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