James Morrow The Daily Telegraph January 13, 2011 12:00AM
WHAT does the desert theocracy of Saudi Arabia have in common with Marrickville Council in Sydney's Inner West?
Ever since a Marrickville Council meeting late last year, both are sworn enemies of Israel. In a 10-2 vote, the council decided it would "boycott all goods made in Israel and any sporting, academic institutions, government or institutional cultural exchanges".
Trendy councils supporting trendy causes is nothing new. Greens-dominated Marrickville is a nuclear-free zone that abhors Australia's treatment of refugees while taking a "BANANA" approach to development: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone.
But by boycotting Israel, Marrickville Council is taking its UN routine a step too far. The first problem is what the boycott would mean in practice.
Israel is one of the most innovative and entrepreneurial countries in the world. Its products and inventions find their way into computers, mobile phones, and medicines. A ban means a lot more than just making sure the hummus at council meetings is non-kosher. The second problem is that the move cuts against the proper business of a council and demonstrates that the supposed progressivism of the district only goes so far.
Keep in mind that this is a council that already enjoys a "sister city" relationship with Bethlehem, the West Bank town run by Fatah, successor to the PLO.
Fatah, and indeed most of that part of the world with the exception of Israel, is not exactly committed to those values Greens share with normal people, including the right of women to dress how they choose and of homosexuals not to be executed.
And, unlike Marrickville, which just wants to boycott Israel, Fatah is committed to its elimination.
This isn't the first time Marrickville has taken such a stance. Last year when a local shopkeeper painted an anti-burqa mural on his own wall, Marrickville Council finally found a piece of "street art" it didn't like.
Councillor Sam Iskandar, thought to be the driving force behind the Israel boycott, said the mural "goes against the values" of the Marrickville community and tried to get it removed.
Presumably those with strong opinions on any issue of the day are encouraged to cross Parramatta Rd to Leichhardt and hash it out in a cafe where they won't offend anyone.
Better yet, Marrickville councillors and frustrated local foreign ministers everywhere should realise what the values of serving in local government are all about. Improving amenities. Picking up the trash. Scrubbing graffiti.
And leaving the diplomacy to Canberra.