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Pro-Palestine vandals who targeted Starbucks and Macca’s in Melbourne dubbed ‘extremists’

Protesters who vandalised Starbucks and McDonald’s stores in Melbourne during a large pro-Palestine demonstration have been described as “homegrown extremists”.

A Starbucks cafe on Swanston Street in the CBD was covered in stickers and sprayed with red paint yesterday, targeted for the third time in as many weeks.

The stickers carried a range of slogans, from “Boycott Israel” to “This company supports genocide” and “Stop Israel war crimes”. One showed the Star of David with a red line running through it.

A nearby McDonald’s on the corner of Swanston and Lonsdale Streets was also covered with the same stickers and red paint.

A video shared on TikTok shows red paint covering the floor and self-serve ordering machines inside the store. Staff could be seen trying to clean up the mess and scrape the stickers from the window.

Dvir Abramovich, chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission, described the vandalism as a “terrorist-like tactic of intimidation”.

“Melbourne is fast becoming the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic capital of Australia, as these homegrown extremists run wild, spreading their hateful and dangerous agenda and changing what was once a tolerant haven into a cesspool of ugly propaganda,” Dr Abramovich said.

“Where was Victoria Police as these protesters ran amok, vandalising and defacing shops like a wrecking ball, and acting as if Melbourne is a lawless city?”

Victoria Police said it’s aware of the vandalism and is investigating, urging anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Palestine supporters around the world have called for a Boycott of Starbucks after it sued its workers’ union for a social media post that read: “Solidarity with Palestine!”

The message was shared by Starbucks Workers United on X, formerly Twitter, less than 48 hours after Hamas launched a series of terrorist attacks in Israel that killed at least 1200 people and saw hundred taken hostage.

Starbucks outlets across Melbourne’s CBD were closed yesterday as a safety precaution, after demonstrators in previous weeks banged on windows and screamed at customers.

McDonald’s is also the subject of calls for a boycott because some stores in Israel provide free meals for Defence Forces soldiers.

In Australia, the vast majority of restaurants are owned and operated by franchisees.

“We are dismayed by the disinformation and inaccurate reports regarding our position in response to the conflict in the Middle East,” the company said in a statement.

“McDonald’s Corporation is not funding or supporting any governments involved in this conflict, and any actions from our local Developmental Licensee business partners were made independently without McDonald’s consent or approval.

“Our hearts are with all of the communities and families impacted by this crisis. We abhor violence of any kind and firmly stand against hate speech, and we will always proudly open our doors to everyone.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of our people in the region while supporting the communities where we operate.”

Thousands of protesters have been gathering in the city each Sunday, and have vowed to do so “until further notice”, as the Israel-Hamas conflict rages on.

“The freedom to protest does not give anyone license to incite to violence, and to demonise an entire community with stickers that drip with venom, anti-Jewish blood-libels, and lies,” Dr Abramovich said.

“The CBD was once a safe place for people to visit, eat and shop, but no longer, as this tornado of prejudice is destroying our sense of security. No one should be in fear in their own city, but this is sadly where we are heading to.”

Dr Abramovich, whose police inspector cousin Chen Amir was murdered in a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv in August, and whose loved one in Kibbutz Reim hid in a safe room during the 7 October attacks, demanded Victoria Police investigate the vandalism and “prosecute those responsible”.

Yesterday’s vandalism comes a week after a war memorial in Melbourne was defaced in the early hours of Remembrance Day, with pro-Palestine graffiti scrawled in paint.

Slogans like “Free Gaza”, “Free Palestine”, “Stop the genocide” and “Shame Israel” were left on the World War I monument in Montrose in the city’s outer-east, carrying names of fallen soldiers.

RSL Victoria condemned the vandalism and said war memorials are important parts of the local communities and should be respected.

“Remembrance Day is an important day to commemorate all those who have served and sacrificed,” the group said in a statement. “It is disappointing to learn of the vandalism at the Montrose memorial.”

A number of Jewish-owned businesses and companies in Australia are the subjects of boycott calls from Palestine supporters.

The Spotlight Group, which owns a range of brands including Spotlight, Harris Scarfe and Anaconda, is one. It was founded by brothers Reuben Fried and Morry Fraid, whose parents immigrated to Australia from Israel.

Chemist Warehouse, co-founded by brothers Jack and Sam Gance, whose parents survived the Holocaust and fled to Australia, has also been targeted.

Schwartz Media, which publishes The Monthly and The Saturday Paper, has been described by activists as a “systemically Zionist company … with a top-down racist agenda”.

Social media posts by pro-Palestine figures have sought out recipients of grants from a charity run by retail Rich Lister Marc Besen. Mr Besen, a well-known philanthropist and a Holocaust survivor who immigrated to Australia in the late 1940s, died recently at the age of 99.

Prominent Melbourne lawyer Mark Leibler, a partner at major firm Arnold Bloch Leibler, described the co-ordinated targeting of Jewish businesses as “ugly” and “pure, unadulterated anti-Semitism”.

“It is reminiscent of the tactics employed in Germany in the 1930s, where Jewish businesses were vandalised as part of a very effective campaign to dehumanise Jewish citizens,” Mr Leibler told The Australian Financial Review.

“I would never have imagined it possible in Australia.”

Free Palestine Melbourne, which organises the weekly rallies was approached for comment, as was Starbucks.

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