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Solidarity at the Shops

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Picture: Irish Activists carried out BDS actions in shops like Marks & Spencers in Dublin in July 2014 Photo credits: Ronan Burtenshaw

Looking back at #Focus95, Shane O’Connor discusses why it’s time to build the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Movement.

While the so-called ‘Operation Protective Edge’ was Israel’s 3rd deadly offensive on Gaza since 2008, on this occasion, the deliberate targeting of civilians, and particularly children, all brought to the world’s attention through the immediacy of social media, prompted an unprecedented level of revulsion and outrage amongst citizen populations.

In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu; ‘this was arguably the largest active outcry by citizens around a single cause ever in the history of the world.”

The ongoing Occupation of Palestine involves the construction of extensive settlements colonies on Palestinian land, travel restrictions, arrests, strangulation of the Palestinian economy and regular military attacks on the civilian population.

All of these acts combine to render the creation of an independent Palestinian state practically impossible, are carried out by Israel without any consequence from the international community despite their illegality.

More significantly, they are effectively endorsed by the United States as its enormous financial contribution to the state of Israel makes all of this possible.

Since 2005, Palestinian civil society has called for an international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. The BDS movement has grown from strength to strength in recent years.

In Ireland, over 215 artists including Sinéad Cusack, Christy Moore, Damien Dempsey, Liam Ó Maonlaí, Sharon Shannon and Robert Ballagh have pledged to a campaign of BDS. Internationally, Danske Bank, Dutch pensions giant PGGM and the state pension funds of Luxembourg and Norway have all made significant divestments from Israeli companies.

In shops and supermarkets, Israeli fruit and vegetables, pharmaceutical products, cosmetics, plastic products, jewellery, etc are readily available through the EU.

The effective economic power of BDS lies in its ability to activate hundreds of thousands of people in the EU and across the world to choose not to buy these products and to boycott Israel as part of their everyday consumer habits.

Tragically, too often it takes a massacre like the recent one in Gaza rather than the day-to-day reality of the Occupation to bolster the uptake and impact of BDS. In South Africa, global BDS was a key factor in bringing about an end to apartheid.

It will play a similar role in ending the illegal Occupation of Palestine and in so doing help bring an end to one of the most brutal and persistent political injustices of our time.

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