Please note that TUFP’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 and the OPT 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.
Timeline of Events in Israel/ Palestine Conflict
What are the issues?
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.
Why is this Apartheid?
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:
10,000+ 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 10 years. There are now roughly 5,250 Palestinians – including at least 205 children, 44 women and 7 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.
The BDS Movement
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.
What you can do as an individual
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):
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 Israel ends 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!