Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dont Fund Israeli War Crimes - Boycott Israeli Goods

This weekend (July 9-11) is International Boycott Sanctions & Divestment (BDS) Weekend against Israel. Here in Ireland, to mark the occasion, the IPSC (Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign) are launching a nationwide petition calling on Dunnes Stores to cease stocking Israeli goods in their stores.

This petition and actions surrounding it are in support and solidarity with up to 200 organisations from within Palestinian civil society who have pleaded with the international community to endorse the call for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, similar to that which helped to end the apartheid regime in South Africa. These organisations include Palestinian trade unions, professional bodies such as all the academic unions and associations, medical unions, and most of the major NGOs.
The Palestinian people continue to endure terrible suffering and brutal repression at the hands of the Israeli regime on a daily basis. The illegal occupation of the West Bank, theft of Palestinian land and resources, the continued expansion of illegal settlements and the construction of their apartheid wall continues unabated. Despite Israel's claims that they have somehow 'eased' their illegal siege of Gaza, their unhumane blockade and clear violation of international law continues.

This deliberate policy, coupled with the devestation caused to the infrastructure of Gaza during Operation Cast Lead last year when they slaughtered more than 1400 people, more than three hundred of whom were children, has resulted in the complete collapse of the Gazan economy and extensive and unnecessary illness and deaths, particularly among the young and elderly.

Let no-one be under any illusion – the suffering endured by the civilian population in Gaza is no accident. Neither is it a case of them being 'caught in the middle' as Israel targets Hamas as some might suggest.

No, the siege itself, like Israel's policy towards the Palestinians generally, is targetted specifically at the civilian population. By Israel's own admission, the blockade has a primarily political, as opposed to military objective, which is to put pressure on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip in order to influence Hamas.

Former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister M.K. Matan Vilnai equated the closure of Gaza with the achievement of changes in Hamas 'behaviour': He said that Israel would need “to reduce the scope of goods and thus create pressure on the Hamas organization, which is deliberately failing to take steps to advance the negotiation."

According to a senior Israeli government adviser Dov Weisglass the idea was “to put Palestinians on a diet but not to make them die of hunger”.

It is a clear cut case of collective punishment being imposed on a civilian population completely at odds with international law.

Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Genvention is crystal clear on such matters. It says: “No protected person (civilian) may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”

Yet despite this, the US and the EU have welcomed Israel's 'easing' of the siege, which is nothing more than a PR stunt to divert attention away from massacre of humanitarian activists on board the Gaza aid flotilla. Once again they seem to ignore Israel's blatant contempt for International law and basic human rights for Palestinians. They need to be reminded that only a complete and total end to the blockade is acceptable under international law and to the Palestinian people.

The Palestine Center for Human Rights (PCHR) have already expressed their concerns over some international reaction to Israel's move. Raji Sourani, Director of PCHR, said that “the siege has transformed the Gaza Strip into an animal farm. The risk is that Gaza is just passing to another form of illegal blockade, one that may become internationally accepted and institutionalized."

The EU and US have also conveniently and shamefully ignored the litany of war crimes carried out by Israel, most notably those carried out during their month long murderous assault on Gaza last year and the more recent massacre of humanitarian activists on the Gaza aid flotilla. 

Specifically where the Dublin government are concerned, they have turned a blind eye and failed to take any action against Israel.   This is despite the fact that Israel engaged in the hi-jacking and kidnapping of Irish citizens on board Challenger 1 and the MV Rachel Corrie who they subsequently assaulted and ill treated while in captivity. Yet at the time at their kidnapping, Brian Cowen warned  that Israel would face “serious consequences” if any Irish citizens were injured. True to form, but shameful nonetheless, this Fianna Fáil led administration have so far refused to take any action whatsoever against the zionist regime.

In a briefing document distributed to members of the Leinster House Joint Committee on European Affairs on June 21, the IPSC proposed the following steps that the Dublin government need to take in relation to Palestine and Israeli War Crimes

(1)End its arms trade with Israel, e.g. the purchase of helmets and bullets from Israeli firms

(2) Support the suspension of the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement until Israel complies with international law

(3) Ensure that the ‘silent upgrade’ of EU-Israeli relations is halted until Israel complies with international law

(4) Work to reverse Israel's premature accession to the OECD

(5) Withdraw its ambassador from Tel Aviv as other countries have done, and expel the Israeli ambassador to Ireland. "Symbolic" actions such as the expulsion of a minor security official from the Israeli Embassy are insufficient.

(6) Oppose Israel's plan to hold an "internal" inquiry into its own actions against the Gaza Flotilla and support the holding of a genuinely impartial international inquiry.

(7) Exercise pressure on Irish multinational CRH to divest from its Israeli subsidiary that is engaged in building the Separation Wall deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2005.

However, it is not just campaign groups or politicians that can make a difference or influence the situation. This Boycott campaign is an opportunity for every individual to express their abhorrence at the crimes committed by the Israeli state and to show support for the rights of Palestinian people to secure peace, justice and freedom. But more importantly, it is an opportunity for people to take practical measures that can have a real and positive effect, similar to what happened with the boycott of apartheid-era South African goods.

Support International Boycott Weekend by signing the IPSC petition, distributing the petition if possible to friends, family, neighbours, work colleagues etc and contacting your local store to ask them to cease stocking Israeli goods.

The IPSC in Sligo will be leafletting and gathering signatures for the Boycott Israel petition this Saturday (July 10) in O'Connell Street, Sligo between 2pm an 4pm.  Everyone welcome. 

For more information on International Boycott Day, to get copies of the petition for distribution and to learn of further IPSC activities in your area click here or email

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