A campaign is growing in Ireland to support the international movement of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel over its war crimes in Gaza.
The Irish trade union Mandate has called on more that 20 companies in Ireland asking management to “desist from trading, investment, or other commercial links with companies operating in providing services to, or sourcing goods from settlements in the region of Israel”.
Freda Hughes from Ireland Palestine Solidarity Protest says implementing such sanctions and boycotting goods is “an obviously peaceful tactic”.
“It’s a way that individuals and businesses can use their power as people to actually make a stand and we hope it won’t just be individuals who refuse to buy but also workers who refuse to handle.”
This month marks the 30th anniversary of the anti-apartheid strike at Dunnes Stores, an action that she said had “resounded all the way to Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island in Apartheid South Africa.”
“We believe that thirty years on, it remains immoral to stock products that help to fund apartheid. Therefore, we ask you to ask retailers to please stand on the right side of history, to stand against apartheid, and to cease stocking Israeli goods until Israel ends it occupation of Palestinian lands, grants equal rights to all its citizens and complies fully with its obligations under international law.”
A petition has now been released calling on Irish food retailers to cease selling Israeli produce.
The petition, entitled ‘Stop Selling Israeli Produce’, has already attracted over 8,000 signatures since it was launched last week. It asks customers to sign a statement calling on Aldi, Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Supervalu, Tesco, and others to stop sourcing products from Israel, which it says continues “to flagrantly breach international law and commit war crimes against the Palestinian people”.
Meanwhile, a number of businesses around Ireland have publicly announced a boycott of Israeli goods.
The entire community in Kinvara, County Galway, has united to boycott all Israeli goods including fruit, vegetables, herbs, cosmetics, toys and Stanley tool boxes.
Dozens of smaller businesses such as the Exchequer gastropub in Dublin also initiated an individual boycott and asked customers to join in, adding that “civilians DO have a voice, we just have to use it”.
But some businesses appear torn. The SuperValu supermarket chain ordered the removal of Israeli carrots from its shelves, but blamed harvest conditions, and denied it was imposing a formal boycott on goods from the country.
Last weekend, staff at Smyths toy store on Jervis Street in Dublin were told to remove a sign on the door informing members of the public they had removed products made in Israel from their shelves. The printed sign was posted on the front door of the shop on Sunday where it was quickly photographed and circulated on social media.
Smyths later announced the company does “not engage in national or international political affairs”. It reported one of the company stores had removed “products from one country” from its shelves last week but that the decision had now been reversed.
“Our customers should be free to make their own decisions,” they said.
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has faced pressure to show its support for the BDS campaign by ending its support for the Caterpillar multinational, whose machinery products are used extensively by the Israeli military.
Bulldozers made by the engineering company, which has plants in Belfast and Larne, have been used to raze Palestinian areas and to construct the ‘apartheid wall’ a barrier which imprisons Palestinians in their enclaves. However, both the DUP leader Peter Robinson and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness have previously visited Caterpillar’s headquarters and are strong supporters of the company.
Sinn Fein has not commented on the BDS campaign although the party’s Mayor in Newry has called on retailers in the town to boycott Israel. Daire Hughes wrote to retailers last month warning that continued sales are giving “financial support, succour and legitimacy” to Israel’s “unchecked and escalating violations of Palestinian human rights.”
The party has also called for Ireland to stop buying Israeli military goods. Spokesperson Padraig Mac Lochlainn has written to Defence Minister Simon Coveney calling for a ban on sourcing such equipment from Israel in light of the conflict in Gaza.
He said the importation of military equipment from Israel sends a clear message of approval for Israel’s military aggression, including its war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.
“Ireland should not be buying any military equipment, or trading with, a country that is massacring civilians and enforcing an illegal and brutal occupation on millions of Palestinians.”
Meanwhile, President Michael D Higgins spoke yesterday of his own heartbreak over the situation in Gaza. “One’s heart is broken again and again,” said the President, who has visited Gaza four times. He said resolution could only come through the creation of a viable Palestinian state connected to the West Bank.
The petition to stop selling Israeli produce can be signed here.