Please note that the CWU’s support for the Palestinian-led international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement is not an “Anti-Israel” or “Anti-Semitic” position; it is an answer to Palestinian civil society’s call for solidarity. Furthermore, our condemnation of Israel’s military actions within Gaza does not constitute, in any way, support for any Palestinian political or military faction.
The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated areas on the planet; the 360km sq. enclave is home to approximately 1.8 million Palestinians. Its borders are closed on all sides, controlled mostly by Israel, excluding a small border in the south which is controlled by Egypt. Israel also controls Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters, leaving no way out for this besieged people, whether in times of incredible violence or in times of relative calm.
The Siege of Gaza (Israeli Blockade)
Since 2007, Israel has laid siege to the Gaza Strip, blockading the enclave by land, sea and air. The Gaza Strip is now essentially an ‘open air prison’, with the movement of people and goods severely restricted by the Israeli military. These restrictions are so tight that musical instruments, crayons, canned fruit and fresh meat are among the items banned from entering. This blockade has led to severe hardship and poverty; a situation amounting to collective punishment and which is now considered to be a humanitarian disaster. Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories said: “Such a massive form of collective punishment is a crime against humanity, as well as a gross violation of the prohibition on collective punishment in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
Since 1967, Israel has demolished more than 38,000 Palestinian homes, aimed at collectively punishing Palestinians or making way for illegal Israeli settlements. This practice has continuously been condemned by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
Since 1967, Israel has continued to build illegal settlements in Palestinian territories it occupies, despite constant condemnation by the United Nations, including the United States, Israel’s main supporter. Israelis are encouraged, through generous state compensation schemes, to settle in these colonies. The aim of the Israeli state is to increasingly colonise the West Bank thus making a viable Palestinian state impossible. These settlements are linked up by segregated roads, which Palestinians are forbidden from using.
In April 2002, Israel began constructing an enormous wall around the occupied West Bank, ostensibly to prevent potential suicide bombers entering Israel. As a result, more than 10% of the West Bank has been annexed, with families and neighbourhoods divided by the concrete barrier. Widely known as the ‘Apartheid Wall’, the structure stands 8 metres (25ft) high and will span more than 700km once completed. In 2004, the International Court of Justice (Advisory Opinion 131) found the wall to be illegal because it vastly encroached upon Palestinian land and recommended Israel dismantle it. Despite the finding, Israel has refused to comply. The Red Cross, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also spoken out against the wall.
Israel’s war crimes have been widely documented by human rights monitors, civil society organisations within Palestine, Israel and the wider international community, and the United Nations. For example, in 2009 an UN-backed mission of inquiry found that Israel committed “serious war crimes and breaches of humanitarian law, which may amount to crimes against humanity” (Source: Goldstone Report, 2009). Yet Israel is granted impunity as the United States, its closest ally and largest military aid provider, shields it from any decisive action for such crimes and the EU continues trade, research and civil cooperation projects.
The 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them”. The acts which fall within the domain of apartheid include the following: (1)murder; (2) torture; (3) inhuman treatment and arbitrary arrest of members of a racial group; (4) deliberate imposition on a racial group of living conditions calculated to cause it physical destruction; (5) legislative measures that discriminate in the political, social, economic and cultural fields; (6) measures that divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate residential areas for racial groups; (7) the prohibition of interracial marriages; and (8) the persecution of persons opposed to apartheid (Source: Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, Prof. John Dugard).
The acts prescribed to the crime of apartheid read like a catalogue of Israeli practices and policies in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, to wit:
8,900+ Palestinians killed by Israeli military since 2000 (vast majority were civilians);
At least 72 Palestinians tortured to death in Israeli prisons since 1967;
(3) Arbitrary Arrest
Israel allows for the arbitrary detention of any Palestinian civilian for up to 6 months without trial and detention orders can be extended indefinitely for additional 6-month periods. In practice, however, many have been detained for much longer periods, some up to or over 7 years. There are now roughly 6,000 Palestinians – including at least 200 children, 17 women and 11 elected Palestinian officials – being held in Israeli prisons or detention centres;
(4) Physical Destruction
The Israeli military made precise calculations of the daily calorie needs of Palestinians in 2008 and restricted the type and amount of food allowed to enter Gaza as a form of collective punishment. This action was taken after Hamas won elections and went on to take control of Gaza in 2007, with Israel subsequently deeming the region a ‘hostile territory’;
The call to recognise Israel as a ‘Jewish State’ entrenches the policy of preserving institutionalised Jewish privilege in the majority of the Palestine-Israel region, through ethnic separation and exclusion; Israel operates separate legal systems for Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories and within Israel, Palestinian citizens face a raft of legal discrimination;
(6) Separate Residential Areas
Illegal Jewish settlements – connected by segregated roads – in the occupied West Bank have more than doubled since 2000, exceeding 500,000 settlers living on land beyond the pre-1967 borders. This is in contravention of numerous UN Security Council resolutions deeming these settlements illegal and demanding a halt to construction;
(7) Interracial Marriage
There is no civil marriage in Israel, marriages are only allowed on a confessional basis meaning that without conversion people of different religions cannot marry;
The persecution of the Palestinian people has been ongoing since 1947. What was recently witnessed in Gaza was only the latest in a long line of Israeli crimes perpetrated against the Palestinian people.
(1) Israel does not occupy the Gaza Strip
14% of Gaza’s total land and at least 48% of total arable land are taken up by Israel-imposed buffer zones. While 85% of the maritime area promised to Palestinians in the Oslo Accords is taken up by such buffer zones, reducing fishing areas from twenty nautical miles to three (Source: Boston Globe). Furthermore, Israel controls the population registry for residents of the Gaza Strip, despite withdrawing its ground forces and settlements from the enclave in 2005 (Source: Human Rights Watch).
(2) Hamas doesn’t want a ceasefire but Israel does
A Hamas spokesperson said the group wants the “aggression to stop tomorrow, today, or even this minute. But [Israel must] lift the blockade with guarantees and not as a promise for future negotiations”. The spokesperson went on to say: “we will not shut the door in the face of any humanitarian ceasefire backed by a real aid programme” (Source: Al Jazeera). Hamas proposed a 10-year end to hostilities in return for its conditions being met by Israel, the day after an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, which had been accepted by Israel but rejected by Hamas (Source: Jerusalem Post, emphasis added). It was also reported that Israel’s security cabinet rejected a week-long Gaza ceasefire proposal put forward by US Secretary of State John Kerry “as it stands” (Source: BBC).
(3) Israel doesn’t deliberately target civilians
The Guardian newspaper reported that a second [Israeli] shell hit the beach, with those firing apparently adjusting their aim to target fleeing survivors. Journalists standing by the terrace wall shouted: “They are only children” – regarding the murder of four Palestinian boys playing on the beach in July 2014 (Source: The Guardian). The tactics used by the Israeli military in the Gaza offensive are consistent with previous practices, most recently during the Lebanon war in 2006. A concept known as the Dahiya doctrine emerged then, involving the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations. A UN Fact Finding Mission concluded from a review of the facts on the ground that it appears to have been precisely what was put into practice (Source: UN Fact Finding Mission on Gaza Conflict, 2009).
(4) Israel is not guilty of war crimes
The Israeli military may have knowingly or recklessly attacked people who were clearly civilians – such as young boys and civilian structures, including a hospital – laws-of-war violations that are indicative of war crimes (Source: Human Rights Watch). Deliberately attacking a civilian home is a war crime, and the overwhelming scale of destruction of civilian homes, in some cases with entire families inside them, points to a distressing pattern of repeated violations of the laws-of-war (Source: Amnesty International).
(5) Hamas uses civilians as ‘human shields’
“I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields” (Source: Jeremy Bowen, BBC). It was reported by The Guardian newspaper that it has seen large numbers of people fleeing different neighbourhoods and no evidence that Hamas had compelled them to stay (Source: The Guardian). In 2013 a United Nations human rights body accused the Israeli military of mistreating Palestinian children, including by torturing those in custody and using others as human shields (Source: Reuters).
(6) Hamas constantly fires rockets into Israel
The Times of Israel reported that Hamas launched a series of rockets into Israel, the first time in years the group had directly challenged the Israeli state. The Israeli security forces assessed that Hamas had probably launched the barrage in revenge for an Israeli airstrike several hours earlier, killing one person and injuring three. Hamas had not fired any rockets into Israel since ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’ ended in November 2012 (Source: Times of Israel, emphasis added).
(7) Hamas kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers to provoke Israel
It was reported that the Israeli government knew from the beginning that the three Israeli teenagers were dead. It maintained the fiction that it hoped to find them alive as a pretext to dismantle Hamas’ West Bank operations. It was clear from the beginning that the kidnappers, from a Hamas-linked Hebron family, acted without the knowledge of Hamas leadership (Source: Jewish Daily Forward).
(8) Israel’s blockade is not to blame for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza
Israel confirmed to US Embassy officials on multiple occasions that it intends to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis. Israeli officials have confirmed on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge (Source: US State Department).
(9) The Israeli government wants a two-state solution
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, made explicitly clear that he could never countenance a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank. Amid the current conflict, he elaborated: “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan” (Source: Times of Israel).
On the 9th July 2005, 170 Palestinian civil society organisations, including trade unions, refugee rights associations, charitable organisations, academics and cultural groups, called for an international movement to impose boycotts, divestment and sanctions on the state of Israel. This nonviolent tactic was inspired by a similar boycott campaign that was used against Apartheid South Africa to isolate the then white supremacist government. Similarly, this boycott campaign is aimed at forcing Israel to guarantee Palestinians their inalienable human rights.
The key demands of the BDS Movement are for Israel to:
- End its occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantle the Wall
- Recognise the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality
- Respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194
The BDS Movement has been growing rapidly in recent years, with a number of high-profile individuals lending their support, including Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, renowned scientist Stephen Hawking and Ireland’s own Damien Dempsey. In 2009, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions reaffirmed its support for the BDS campaign in response to ongoing Israeli human rights violations.
The most basic step you can take to help the BDS Movement is to stop buying products and services of Israeli companies as revenues from these help to fund Israel’s human rights violations. Try to encourage your friends, family and community to join you in doing so.
Supermarket Products from Occupied Palestinian Territories – check country of origin label:
|Grapefruits||Fresh Parsley||Sharon Fruits|
|Potatoes||Fresh Sage||Golan Heights Wine|
|Fresh Basil||Bell Peppers||Meat Free Mince|
Supermarket Brands from Occupied Palestinian Territories (including, but not limited to):
For a full list of products to boycott please visit the IPSC website
Other actions that you can take as part of the BDS campaign include:
- Talk to managers in your supermarket expressing your wish that they stop selling Israeli goods
- Ask your local elected representatives to support the call for an Arms Embargo on Israel
- Write to TDs and Senators requesting sanctions and an end to the Euro-Med Preferential Trade Agreement until Israelends its occupation and respects international law
- Join solidarity demonstrations around the country in support of Palestine
- Spread the word to your friends and family to boycott Israeli goods!
Boycott campaigns can work. Popular international pressure helped topple the Apartheid South African regime and such pressure can help end Israeli Apartheid too, delivering justice for the Palestinian people. Here are a very few examples where the campaign has seen success, there are numerous others, small and large.
Following pressure from BDS activists, the Bill Gates Foundation divested from security firm G4S in June 2014 because of the company’s complicity in maintaining Israel’s brutal prison system. As a result, G4S has informally announced that it will not renew its contracts with the Israeli prison service, which are due to expire in 2017.
In July 2014, a well-organised campaign in Britain highlighting the role of SodaStream in illegal Israeli settlements forced John Lewis to announce that it will no longer stock SodaStream products. In August 2014, Soros Fund Management – the fund management company owned by billionaire George Soros – agreed to divest from SodaStream, following pressure on investors to avoid companies profiting from or operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Soros Fund Management also agreed guidelines, similar to those adopted by the EU, to prevent any investment into companies that sustain the Israeli occupation and settlements in particular.
A two-year campaign carried out by citizens in Boston prevented French multinational Veolia Transdev from obtaining a contract to operate the city’s rail system. Veolia, which currently operates Dublin’s LUAS, is helping to build tram lines in East Jerusalem which link illegal Israeli settlements, in breach of international law. It is also complicit in Apartheid, operating a ‘settler-only’ bus service to link the illegal colonies with Israel and a gender segregated service where women must sit at the back. In May 2010, Dublin City Council unanimously passed a resolution instructing the City Manager not to enter into or renew any contracts with Veolia on the basis of its involvement in Israeli Apartheid. Veolia has since announced that it is attempting to sell its stake in the Light Rail system and has dumped its other Israeli interests in the Occupied Territories.
BDS Movement [ www.bdsmovement.net ]
Gaza Action Ireland [ www.facebook.com/GazaActionIreland ]
Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign [ www.ipsc.ie ]
Irish Congress of Trade Unions [ www.ictu.ie ]
BDS: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights, Omar Barghouti, Haymarket Books
Europe’s Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occupation, David Cronin, Pluto Press
Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel’s War against the Palestinians, Noam Chomsky & Ilan Pappé, Penguin
The Case for Sanctions against Israel, ed. Audrea Lim, Verso
The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Ilan Pappé, Oneworld Publications
5 Broken Cameras, Emad Burnat & Guy Davidi, Kino Lorber
Occupation 101, Abdallah Omeish & Sufyan Omeish, Trip’ol’ii Productions
Palestine is still the Issue, Anthony Stark & John Pilger, Bullfrog Films
Roadmap to Apartheid, Eron Davidson & Ana Nogueira, Journeyman Pictures
The Law in these Parts, Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, Cinema Guild