Palestine: Victories and setbacks in the BDS campaign

Below is an article I wrote for Socialist Voice (June 2010).

Palestine: Victories and setbacks in the BDS campaign

The past few months have seen a number of major developments – both positive and negative – in the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the Israeli state. Below we outline some of the most important ones.

BDSIn early May, the BDS movement in Ireland scored a major victory when Dublin City Council voted unanimously in favour of a motion calling on the City Manager not to sign or renew any contract with Veolia until it ceases its apartheid-enabling operations in Palestine. Veolia, who operate the LUAS and private waste and water management services, are involved in the running of the Jerusalem Light Rail which links illegal Israeli colonial settlements in and around Palestinian East Jerusalem. While this is a somewhat symbolic victory – the City Manager says he will ignore the democratic wishes of DCC – it is nonetheless a very powerful statement of solidarity, representing a European capital city saying ‘no’ to companies that collude with Israeli apartheid. It adds to the string of defeats Veolia has suffered internationally, and Dublin is now the third Irish council – along with Sligo and Galway – to pass such a motion. The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) will continue working with councils to ensure many more of these resolutions are passed, and stepping up the pressure on the Rail Procurement Agency, the body responsible for the granting of the Metro North contract which Veolia (as part of Transdev) are tendering for.

Also in May, the Irish multinational CRH – which, through its Israeli subsidiary Mashav/Nesher is supplying the cement being used in Israel’s apartheid wall and colonial settlements – held its AGM in Dun Laoghaire. The IPSC organised a loud and colourful protest featuring a scale-model of the wall outside the meeting. It was heartening to see that so many local people were not only supportive, but fully aware of CRH’s complicity with Israel’s human rights abuses against the Palestinians. Meanwhile, inside the AGM members of the IPSC who are shareholders dominated the proceedings, asking a series of awkward questions and distributed an ‘Alternative Annual Report”. Many ordinary shareholders were supportive, including one who spoke of his “shame” upon seeing the wall for himself while visiting Jerusalem last year. The following day reports and pictures of the IPSC’s intervention appeared in the business pages. While this not a victory per se – CRH did not suddenly divest from Israel – it was a strong opening salvo in what will be a sustained and high profile campaign against CRH until it divests.

In April ICTU held a major conference on the Middle East and how to move forward with their own BDS campaign. Over 150 delegates attended and were resolute in their commitment to trade union solidarity with Palestine. The presence of a leading member of the Zionist trade union federation Histadrut had no effect – indeed she may have done even more damage to their cause. The pièce de résistance of her presentation was a video of a former British army commander defending the Israeli massacre in Gaza. Clearly someone forgot to remind her of what country she was in! The Scottish TUC also reaffirmed its commitment to BDS the following week.

There have also been a number of victories on the Cultural Boycott front, with musicians Elvis Costello, Carlos Santana, Gil Scott Heron and Irish theatre group the Gare St Lazare Players all cancelling dates in Israel under pressure from fans and BDS campaigners.

Finally, last week saw the publication of a joint IPSC/Phoenix magazine supplement on Palestine, focusing on “war crimes in apartheid Israel”, in which prominent Irish politicians from all the Dail parties called for sanctions against Israel.

Unfortunately there have been some setbacks too – the most important of which was the accession of Israel into the OECD. Despite expressing “reservations”, Ireland failed to use its veto to stop Israel’s membership. However, the very fact that reservations were expressed shows that they knew public opinion was against them on the issue. The EU Commission reportedly signed an agreement about selling Israeli pharmaceuticals (though insiders report it is doubtful the EU Parliament will ratify it), while of course no action has been taken to suspend Israel from the Euro-Med Agreement which grants it favourable trading status, even though it is clearly in violation of its human rights clause (Article 2).

Explore posts in the same categories: bds, boycott, gaza, Goldstone Report, IPSC, Ireland, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, israel, marxism, palestine, sanctions, socialism, west bank, zionism

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