By Vacy Vlazna
In Australia there are 30 Max Brenner shops providing funds for the Strauss Group that filter towards the maintenance of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. Another Brenner outlet is ‘coming soon’ to the campus of The University of New South Wales (UNSW), the site of the present Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) protest organised by Students for Justice in Palestine.
Spin-doctors against the BDS action, present the issue as an unjustified anti-Semitic attack against an innocuous chocolate shop, however the Max Brenner company and its supporters have direct and indirect vested interests in the Zionist enterprise that brutally, to this day, has destroyed the political and human rights of the indigenous people of Palestine.
Max Brenner is owned by the Strauss Group which, closely connected with the Israeli military and armament industry, provides care rations to the vicious Golani and Givati Brigades to sweeten their special moments’. These units perpetrate, in their special moments, war crimes and crimes against humanity against Palestinians.
In the 1982 Lebanon War, Golani soldiers lit flares to assist the Phalangist death squads to massacre Palestinian men women and children in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps deemed an act of genocide by the UN. The Golani Brigade led a vicious offensive against the Jenin refugee camp in 2002 demolishing hundreds of homes while burying some Palestinians alive and killing terrified residents.
In 2004 a Givati commander callously murdered 13 year old Iman Darweesh Al Hams by firing two bullets at her head from close range while she was lying wounded on the ground. To verify the kill, the commander emptied his entire magazine into her little body. He was charged, exonerated and promoted.
The Givati Brigade led the ground offensive against unarmed Gazan families in the 2008-9 Operation Cast Lead for which the UN Goldstone Report accused Israel of war crimes.
Chairperson, Ofra Strauss also sits on the board of HESEG, which provides scholarships for ‘lone soldiers’, along with General (Res.) Yitzhak Eitan: Chief Commander of the Israeli military in Gaza and the West Bank, and Head (GOC) of the IDF Central Command during the years 2000-2003; Shabtai Shavit: Head of Mossad (the Israeli foreign intelligence) 1989-96 and the controversial Major General (Res.) Doron Almog who was Commander of the IDF’s Southern Command from 2000-2003. In 2005, he evaded a warrant issued in the UK for his arrest on suspicion of war crimes for ordering the demolition of 59 houses in Rafah, occupied Gaza; an act of illegal collective punishment under international law and on 22 July 2002, for ordering a one-ton bomb to be dropped on a home in Gaza to assassinate Salah Shehadeh killing 15 people, including 9 children.
Doron Almog is also Executive Chairman and Member of Investment Committee of Athlone Global Security Ltd. which he co-founded in 2007 providing specialised military and surveillance training equipment and services for the illegal Annexation wall and checkpoints. The Athlone team includes Moshe Horev, who headed the Israel Ministry of Defense R&D Division, the Avionics and Armament Division and the Guided Weapon system program office of the Israeli Air force. He is a former CEO of Hewlett Packard and is currently the CEO of Oracle Systems Israel Ltd which has a longstanding strategic partnership with the IDF as one of the IDF’s main suppliers of computer solutions.
Ofra Stauss also sits on the executive of The Jewish Agency which was established by the World Zionist Organisation (WZO) in 1929 founded to take over the whole of Palestine. On behalf of the government, it assigns stolen lands to its 400,000 illegal Jewish colonists in Palestine. Chairperson of the JNF Board of Governors is American billionaire James S Tisch who is also president of the Jewish Communal Fund which channels donations to violent settler militias that oppose the return of land captured in 1967 and promote the “transfer” of all Palestinians to neighbouring countries.
Thus, associating Brenner chocolate with war crimes is a no-brainer, nevertheless Australian apologists for Israeli war crimes roll over and go brain dead at the whiff of BDS. Politicians, journalists, commentators try to out-tourette each other’s idiotic assertions that BDS activists are anti-Semitic: Ex-PM-ex-FM-ex-rational Kevin Rudd pompously spluttered, ”As an individual citizen – that is me, K. Rudd – I am here because I object to the boycotting of Jewish businesses”; Gerard Henderson blurted, “Then there are the historical parallels. In the mid-1930s, Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists used to go on rampages outside Jewish-owned shops in London’s East End – some were boycotted, others smashed up.”; Senator Stephen Conroy blabbered, “The Gillard Government remains concerned by any groups advocating a boycott of Israeli products or services or Jewish businesses and business people like Frank Lowy and Revlon’s chairman, Ronald Perlman, who is a trustee of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre,”
Ironically and gratefully, the sound bites of the anti-BDS spinners on mainstream media have boosted awareness of the BDS matter and given activists voice to justify their actions.
UNSW’s unconscionable support of the opening of the Max Brenner campus shop makes sense considering chancellor David Gonski and vice-chancellor Fred Hilmer have a tweedledum and tweedeldee relationship: both are Jewish, both have sat on the boards of Coca-Cola Amatil, Westfield Group, ( and John Fairfax Holdings). Consequently both have career long affiliations with Israel’s interests.
Coca-Cola Amatil is the Australian subsidiary of the Coca-Cola Company. In 2002, the parent company announced the proposed building of a plant on stolen Palestinian land at Kiryat Gat, in return for millions in incentives from the Israeli government. The land, Kiryat (Qiryat) Gat, has an industrial park built on the lands of the villages of al-Faluja and Iraq Al Manshiya. which were ethnically cleansed and demolished in 1949 in hasty contravention of an agreement between Egypt and Israel and of International Law. Coca-Cola Israel also directly owns dairy farms in the illegal Israeli settlements of Shadmot Mechola in the Jordan Valley and a plant in the industrial zone of Katzerin in the occupied Golan Heights.Coca-Cola Israel also supports the Jewish National Fund.
In 2004, Coca-Cola merged with Neviot Water which takes its waters from the Ein Zahav springs in Kirat Shmona built on the village of al-Khalisa after its 1500 villagers were ethnically cleansed and from wells dug by Mekorot. Mekorot, the Israeli national water company has been accused of crimes against humanity for its theft of Palestinian water and discriminatory water shortages for Palestinians while illegal Israeli settlements enjoy a constant supply of water.
In 2009 a Coca-Cola sponsored award went to Israel’s Lobby AIPAC for its successful lobbying of the Senate to reject of the UN call for “immediate ceasefire” and endorse the continuation of the Israel military assault on Gaza.
Gonski and Hilmer are ex directors of Westfield Holdings. Westfield owner, billionaire Frank Lowy, is a Czech Jew who served as a commando in the Haganah and later in the Golani brigades during the Nakba; the ethnic-cleansing of Palestine. He spends 3 months of the year in Israel. Through tax evasion, Lowy cheated the Australian people of $68m. SMH reports that Lowy said ‘he had given the money to Israeli charities and insisted he had met all his tax obligations’. In 2003 he set up the Lowy Institute for International Affairs ‘which promotes Israel and US foreign policy’. In 2005, Lowy was implicated in the corruption charges against his longtime friend, Ehud Olmert in the Bank Leumi affair. Lowy also set up the Institute for National Security Studies, attached to the University of Tel Aviv. ‘ As its chairman, Lowy has gathered some of the most influential policymakers in Israel and wealthiest international benefactors to sit on its boards.’ (Koutsoukis SMH 2008)
Gonski is chairman of Investec Australia part of the Investec banking group, founded in South Africa, Gonski’s birthplace. Investec SA has strong Zionist affiliations. In February 2013, it hosted an event featuring avowed Zionist Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, a zealous public defender of Israel’s policies.
In 2004, due to the economic downturn, Investec divested its Israel operations of which Maj. Gen. (Res) Danny Rothchild was a director. In the 80’s, he was Commander of IDF Units in Southern Lebanon and later became Israeli Defense Force Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and Deputy Director of Military Intelligence & Chief of Intelligence Research and Analysis enforcing Israel’s illegal occupation. He now owns and runs an Israeli-based security company, Netacs (Security) Ltd.
Avron Kregel, legal advisor to Investec is Chairman of the South African Zionist Federation. He negotiated to bar Judge Goldstone from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah. It was the UN Goldstone Report that accused Israel of war crimes in its 2008/9 war against unarmed Gazan families. Zionist pressure on Goldstone led to his unethical retraction, in 2011, of the claim that Israel intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians. His 3 co-authors rejected outright any nullification, “We consider that calls to reconsider or even retract the report, as well as attempts at misrepresenting its nature and purpose, disregard the right of victims, Palestinian and Israeli, to truth and justice.”
Investec CEO, Stephen Koseff, a recipient of Israel’s highest tribute- the Jubilee Award, is a trustee of the King David Schools Foundation. The schools’ Zionist vision states ‘We recognize that Aliya is the ultimate expression of Zionist and Jewish identity. Our students are encouraged to develop a commitment to the centrality of Israel, an understanding of its history and present reality and identification with its future.’ Aliya is the right of Jews anywhere in the world to make their home in Israel while simultaneously Israel forbids all Palestinians their right of return under international law.
Gonski is a board member of Ingeus Ltd owned by Therese Rein, wife of the grand poobah of BDS opposition, Kevin Rudd. Ingeus also operates in Israel.
Gonski is also a recipient of the Richard Pratt Business Leadership Award. In the 90s, Fred Hilmer had a lucrative consultancy with Visy Industries, owned by the late Richard Pratt who paid a $38m fine for fixing prices. His Pratt Foundation (PF) still supports charitable programs in Israel some of which channel funds to the Jewish Agency. The PF funds The Park of the Australian Soldier in the Negev affiliated with the Jewish National Fund (JNF) notorious for its theft of ancestral lands of the impoverished Bedouins.
Hilmer, a rigid business automaton, apart from his directorships of Coca-Cola Amatil and Westfield Holdings was made, in 1998, CEO of Fairfax media which is curious given his dismal record that “cost NSW taxpayers at least $48 million’ when he was chair of Pacific Power ‘when it entered into the series of flawed electricity supply contracts with a Victorian distributor Powercor.’ The 1997-98 financial report of Pacific Power, showed their profits dropped from $552 million in 1996/97 to $43.8 million in 1997/98. (Electricity Week,1999)
Hilmer’s tenure at Fairfax was similarly lacklustre particularly when he “decided not to invest in fledgling internet site Seek.com.au. James Packer didn’t make the same mistake, turning a $33 million investment into a $400 profit (which much of that profit coming at the expense of Fairfax)… “With Fairfax sacking 2000 workers and radically reducing its commitment to journalism, the blame lies clearly at the feet of Fred Hilmer, David Kirk, Brian McCarthy, Ron Walker, Dean Wills, Roger Corbett and the slew of highly paid executives and directors who have mismanaged one of Australia’s great companies through not one, but a series of inexcusable blunders.’ (Schwab, Crikey 25-6-13)
Now, as vice-chancellor, Hilmer is hell bent on further corporatising UNSW by pushing for universities to set their own fees. According to Prof. Stuart Rees, ‘The characters setting the fees would presumably be the same invisible, unaccountable managerialists who have already contributed to the financial woes of Sydney University and UNSW, among others.’
Key stakeholders of UNSW, its staff and students, should well take heed of Kerry Packer who “once said of Fred Hilmer, the McKinsey consultant who went on to head Fairfax Media Ltd: “I wouldn’t hire him as a fxxx sweeper. For Fairfax to be run by a management consultant I think is just an act of stupidity. I think it’s ridiculous … He came from McKinsey and he has never run a business in his life.” (Knox, The Monthly, June 2010)
The drama of the UNSW Max Brenner protest, like Star Wars, is the archetypal clash between the Dark Side and the Light: the DeathVaders of government, business and mainstream media aligned to ruthless power versus The Force championed by the Students for Justice in Palestine defending the political and human rights of the Palestinian people as set out in the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions; legal obligations that the Empire has shamefully abrogated along with its humanity.
– Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.