From BDS to Cultural Awareness: A report from Israeli Apartheid Week
The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign was once again proud to be hosting a series of events in Ireland to mark 12 years of Israeli Apartheid Week.
IAW is an annual international series of events (including rallies, lectures, performances, films, multimedia displays and protest actions) held in cities and campuses across the globe.
Each year, Israeli Apartheid Week – an annual international series of events – takes place across more than 150 universities and cities. It aims to raise awareness about Israel’s ongoing settler-colonial project and apartheid policies towards the Palestinian peoples and to build support for the growing campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
Saturday 5th March – Boycott Israeli Goods Day of Action
To kick off the week, the IPSC Dublin branch organised a Boycott Israeli Goods day of action to bring the BDS message to Saturday shoppers. Assembling at the historic G.P.O. building on O’Connell Street, campaigners with Palestinian flags, banners, placards and holding a mock-up version of Israel’s Apartheid wall and visited several city centre branches of outlets that stock Israeli goods – including Dunnes Stores, Marks and Spencer, Aldi, Tesco, Lidl and some independent retailers. Along the way we were joined by the wonderful Resistance Choir who sang several songs outside Dunnes on Henry Street. The aim of the action was to make Saturday shoppers aware of the presence of Israeli products, the connection between these products and the occupation of Palestine, and to ask people to boycott them. We also handed in letters of protest to each of the outlets.
Israeli exports – from both the illegal settlements and inside Israel – contribute to the economy of Israel’s apartheid occupation regime and the oppression of the Palestinian people. Indeed, the Israeli government is dependent on a strong export-orientated economy and Europe is Israel’s largest trading partner. Almost 200 organisations, representative of a broad spectrum of Palestinian civil society – trade unions, professional bodies such as academic unions and associations, churches, medical unions, political organisations and NGOs – have called on the international community to endorse the call for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, similar to that which helped to end the apartheid regime in South Africa.
We happy to report that there was a really positive and engaging response from shoppers, and IPSC campaigners distributed over a thousand information leaflets to interested people.
Meanwhile in the IPSC branch in Omagh also held a Boycott Israeli Goods protest outside of Marks and Spencer in the town.
Wednesday 9th March – Screening of ‘Omar’
The Limerick branch screened the Oscar-nominated and award-winning Palestinian feature film Omar, directed by Hany Abu-Assad, a gripping thriller about betrayal and love.
Thursday 10th March – ‘End the Arms Trade With Israel’ Protest at the Dail
As the new Dail (Irish parliament) reconvened after the General Election, the IPSC held a lunchtime awareness raising protest out calling for an end to obscene the Irish arms trade with Israel. One of several groups outside the Dail that day, ours was a colourful and lively presence, and a number of TDs came over to us to pledge or recommit their support for the campaign. IPSC chairperson Fatin Al Tamimi also present newly elected TD Gino Kenny with a Palestinian keffiyeh scarf from her hometown of Al Khalil (Hebron) for his waving of the Palestinian flag when his election was announced. Gino went on to wear the keffiyeh in the Dail chamber later that day!
Many people are unaware that Ireland has bought €14.7m worth of arms and military components from Israel over the last decade, while Irish-based companies have exported €6.42m worth of military and ‘dual use’ hardware to Israel since 2011. Meanwhile, Israel has killed over 9,000 Palestinians, including 2,060 children since 2000. Military items exported from Israel will have used Palestinians as ‘human test subjects’ so such weapons can be marketed as ‘battle proven’. Any military components exported to Israel will be used to kill and maim yet more Palestinians and to entrench the decades-long military occupation.
We believe that neither Israel nor arms manufacturers in Ireland should be allowed to profit from the killing of Palestinians; this trade in death must end. We are calling upon the government of Ireland to end the Irish arms trade with Israel, and to advocate for an international arms embargo at EU and UN levels until Israel ends the occupation of Palestinian land and complies fully with its obligations under international law.
Saturday 12th March – Screening of ‘Palestine is Still the Issue’
The Portadown IPSC branch screened journalist John Pilger’s classic 2003 documentary Palestine is Still the Issue which, despite the passage of more than a decade, remains a valuable and vital piece of work.
Sunday 13th March – Palestinian Culture Day – Music, Poetry, Film, Discussion, Food & more
The finale of our Israeli Apartheid Week activies was a day devoted to Palestinian culture, in Dublin’s historic Pearse Centre. Over the course of the day, hundreds of people came to experience a piece of this culture of resistance to occupation.
It was fitting that as Ireland celebrates the Centenary of the 1916 Rising – one of many ‘Irish intifadas’ – we celebrated Palestinian culture in the birthplace and childhood home of Irish revolutionary leader Padraig Pearse. Pearse is well known as one of the central leaders of the Easter Rising who was executed by the British colonial army for his role – but he was also a leading force in the Gaelic Revival of the period, a movement which resurrected and rehabilitated indigenous culture as a method of resistance to British colonialism . For this, too, is how Palestinians views their culture and we believe Padraig Pearse would have been proud to see the Palestinian flags adorning his birthplace.
Palestine’s national poet Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008) wrote that “every beautiful poem is an act of resistance”. Mourid Barghouti said that Israel “took from us the land of the poem and left us with the poem of the land”. Both speak to the importance of poetry as a form of Palestinian cultural resistance to dispossession, occupation, colonisation and apartheid. With this in mind, we hosted a series of poetry readings (in both Arabic and English) of some of the finest Palestinian poetry . The readings were followed by wonderful uplifting live traditional Palestinian music performed by Abdullah Bayyari and Rory McCullagh – as Palestinian singing sensation and Arab Idol winner Mohammed Assaf has said, “for any nation under occupation songs can stimulate people to resist.”
We then hosted a live video link to the kids in the Lajee Cultural Center in Aida refugee camp in occupied Bethlehem who explained the importance of keeping their culture alive through the centre’s work – especially the famed Palestinian Dakbe step-dance which the Lajee dancers brought to sell out shows in Ireland a number of years ago.
Following these performances, there was a presentation via video link with Kholoud Ajarma, a Palestinian refugee originally also from living in Aida Refugee Camp. Kholoud gave an informative talk about about the important role played by Palestinian culture in both mirroring and contributing to resistance.
Attendees then got to taste the wonderful flavours of Palestine with delicious handmade food, and browse two exhibitions, one a showcase of political posters from the IPSC archive, and the other focusing on the amazing artwork of Palestinian cartoonist Naji Al Ali.
Al Ali, via his most famous creation the ten-year-old refugee child Handala, was a tribune of Palestinian people, especially the refugees, of which he himself was one. His work expressed the hopes, fears and frustrations of not just Palestinians, but the Arab masses as well. The Guardian once suggested that Al Ali was “the nearest thing there is to an Arab public opinion”. In particular, Al-Ali created cartoons that depict the complexities of the plight of the Palestinians.
These cartoons are still relevant today – indeed, many of them are so prescient they could be about events today rather than 30 or 40 years ago – and Handala, the refugee child who is present in every cartoon, remains a potent and omnipresent symbol of the struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom, justice, equality and self-determination. Naji Al Ali, who was assassinated in 1987 in a murder than remains unsolved, lives on through his work – and others’ adaptations of this work; today Handala can spotted everywhere from necklaces and t-shirts, to frequent appearances on the Israeli separation wall in Palestine.
The final event was a screening of the 2008 documentary Slingshot Hip Hop, an important film about the role Palestinian hip hop plays in the youth’s culture of resistance.
Director Jackie Salloum weaves together the stories of young Palestinians living in Gaza, the West Bank and inside Israel as they discover hip hop and employ it as a tool to surmount divisions imposed by occupation and poverty. From internal checkpoints and Separation Walls to gender norms and generational differences, this is the story of young people crossing the borders that separate them. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, hip hop has become a complex cultural phenomenon amongst Palestinian youth, and an important and critical voice for freedom, justice and equality. As the Electronic Intifada has said, it is a “most recommended film [that] presents these artists’ struggle to a global audience and helps ensure that Palestinian hip-hop finds claims its rightful place in the proud tradition of artistic resistance to oppression.”
Throughout IAW the Dublin IPSC held a number of information stalls in the city, distributing thousands of leaflets about Israeli Apartheid Week, the Campaign to End the Irish Arms Trade with Israel and boycotting Israeli goods. Unfortunately one of the stalls was marred by an aggressive anti-Palestinian supporter of Israel who spat at the stall, shouted racist abuse, and then threw one of our ceramic bowls at one of our volunteers (fortunately it missed and smashed off the GPO wall) before running off down O’Connell Street. The incident has been reported.
Finally, we would like to thank everyone who helped make these events happen, especially the IPSC volunteers to put in so much time and effort to ensuring everything went off without a hitch, and to everyone who came along to the events.
For freedom, justice and equality in Palestine, boycott Israeli apartheid!
(Photos: Fatin Al Tamimi, IPSC)