The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) is asking its members to consider boycotting goods produced by Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Australia has a strong and proud history in relation to boycotts, most notably with the boycott of South African goods (remember the Birds Eye Fish Fingers campaign!) and sporting boycotts. These two factors alone made significant contributions to the downfall of apartheid in South Africa.
The NCCA is asking us to reflect on the situation in Palestine and the Occupied Territories. Many Palestinians are Christians - and some from the most ancient of Christian communities - yet we tend to lump all Palestinians together as troublesome, Israeli-killing, suicide bombing Moslems. And is it any wonder! Israelis and so many among the Jewish diaspora would want us to believe this.
I think it is time for many in the Jewish community to remember the adage that if you want friends you have to act like a friend. I know there are Jewish people in Israel who think like me and I actually know a couple. And they do act in friendship with the Palestinians in so many ways.
So many people seem to forget the Christian connection to Palestine. For instance, back in 2003, when Dr Hanan Ashrawi was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize, Frank Lowy - on behalf of the Jewish community - rang Bob Carr, then Premier of NSW and one of the decision makers of the Sydney Peace Prize, to seek the withdrawal of the award to Dr Ashrawi. Needless to say, Lowy did not succeed. But the hide - the very hide - both of the Jewish community and Lowy himself! BTW, it is said that the softest thing about Lowy is the enamel on his teeth.
And the Christians in Australian were of precious little help. Because, Networkers, not only is Dr Ashrawi a Christian, she is a staunch Anglican and, it seemed, that this did not dawn on the Anglican Church in Sydney until some time later. That is how good the majority of Australian Christians have been in their relationships with Palestine and Palestinian Christians.
It may be difficult to identify products that could be targets for boycotts, but the Dead Sea cosmetics are familiar to Australians living in Melbourne. The sales and promotional people for these products frequently accost us in shopping malls.
And since the Dead Sea entered into the conversation, I want to point out what is actually happening to the Dead Sea. For the last fifty years, at least, we have been told how the Jewish people have made the desert bloom in Israel. Australian farmers have been among those who have copied some of the Israeli irrigation techniques. However, Israel, it seems, is no more environmentally conscious than the rest of us - in spite of propaganda. The evidence of this is in what has happened and is happening to the Dead Sea. It is a mess.
There are, you may be pleased to hear, Israelis working to make everyone aware of this situation and working to fix this dreadful and significant degradation. So, in the spirit of "to have friends, be a friend", please go to the Save our Sea website and join the Save our Sea Facebook campaign and follow the campaign on Twitter.