UEFA’s recent attempt to ban Celtic fans from flying Palestine flags at their home leg of the club’s Champions League tie with Hapoel Tel-Aviv and the recent meeting of Sinn Féin with representatives of the Likud party have once again brought the question of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel to the fore.
At a recent panel debate at the West Belfast Feile- a political and cultural festival in the community- Sinn Fein TD Eoin O’ Broin, when asked whether his party should meet representatives of the Israeli state, argued that “dialogue was key” and that he would meet with “any one of his enemies”.
The call for BDS came directly out of Palestine, when 170 organisations in Palestine launched the campaign back in 2005. Since then there has been widespread support from trade unions in Ireland and Britain and prominent figures such as Desmond Tutu, Naomi Klein, Roger Waters, Lauryn Hill and others.
The truth is that the BDS campaign has the Israeli state terrified with Prime Minister Netanyahu outlining it as a strategic threat to Israel on a par with the threat from Iran’s nuclear weapon programme.
Israel is a colonial settler state and relies on financial and political support chiefly from the US but also Britain, France and the EU amongst others. The BDS campaign exposes the lie that Israel is a normal and democratic state, as it continues to deny basic rights to the Palestinians who were expelled from the land.
It also gives concrete political expression and a focus to the sentiment that exists across the world to stand by the Palestinian people. Companies, governments and artists are put under pressure by activists not to work with, travel to or do business with the state because of its actions.
Shaking hands with Israeli ambassadors, diplomats or organising meetings with political representatives of the Israeli parties who support the continued occupation of Palestine is completely indefensible and should not take place. It undermines the BDS campaign. But furthermore, it is a slap in the face for activists who campaign and call for boycott and it sets back the movements aims. Israel is seeking legitimacy in a world of growing hostility to its actions. Sitting down and hob-knobbing with representatives of Israel gives the state the legitimacy it craves.
The birth of the BDS movement was inspired by the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Imagine a Sinn Fein politician arguing in the 1980’s for “dialogue” or “diplomacy” for a state that refused rights for its citizens, whilst millions across the world called for boycott and sanctions. Why do it now?
Palestinians are denied voting rights, the right to return, and face daily harassment and murder from the IDF. Whilst the situation isn’t exactly the same, there are strong parallels between Apartheid in Israel and South Africa. It was both international pressure with a boycott campaign and the rising of the workers in South Africa that broke apartheid up.
The vast majority of Sinn Féin voters and members support the people of Palestine in their struggle against apartheid and imperialist occupation. They attend demonstrations and events that express this position.
However this can’t be used to hide behind the fact that party leaders and representatives have continually broken the call for boycott. Israel needs international isolation not handshakes and backslaps.
No amount of platitudes about diplomacy or exporting the “lessons of the “peace-process” can be used to justify meeting with representatives of the Likud party- a party whose member Uzi Cohen openly called for “ethnic cleansing of non-Jews in Israel” and a “final solution” for Palestinians, and whose leader Netanyahu continues with a policy of collective punishment and the blocking of humanitarian supplies to Gaza.
Dundalk FC are due to play Maccabi Tel Aviv at Tallaght on 29 Sept. Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign are holding a protest: Love Football Hate Apartheid. Thursday 29 7pm Outside Tallaght Stadium, Whitestown Way, Tallaght, Dublin 24.
Socialist Worker urges its readers to support this protest.