Action Item: Israeli Minister’s unprecedented attempt to close Irish bank accounts condemned, Irish govt action urged by human rights campaigners
Statement regarding the attempts by the Israeli government to force the closure the bank accounts of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign and other Irish human rights advocacy groups – we ask you to contact Ministers and your local TDs urging action to protect our work for Palestine:
In a move that shows the extent to which Israel fears the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, it was today revealed that the Israeli government is directly interfering with an Irish bank to attempt to close down the bank accounts of groups, including the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), that advocate for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people as enshrined in international law.
The IPSC was shocked to learn that, according to a progandistic article in the right-wing Zionist Jerusalem Post newspaper, the Israeli government has taken the unprecedented and highly anti-democratic step of directly lobbying both Allied Irish Bank (AIB) and a large shareholder, Franklin Templeton Investments, in order to force the closure of “scores of accounts,” including that of the IPSC. Israel’s Minister for Strategic Affairs, Gilad Erdan, has himself been directly involved in this lobbying. It is worth noting that Erdan is widely viewed as harbouring a “vicious hatred toward Arabs” and as someone who “sling[s] mud at human rights organizations”, in the words of one Israeli journalist in the Haaretz newspaper.
The IPSC condemns this meddling in the affairs of Irish civil society groups by the apartheid state of Israel, which for decades has occupied, oppressed and colonised the Palestinian people and their lands, and continues to refuse Palestinians their rights under international law.
The IPSC calls on the Irish government, which is the majority owner of AIB, to ensure that the bank does not bow to Israeli interference and pressure and the accounts of the IPSC and other civil society groups remain open and protected. AIB is 75% owned by the Irish taxpayer, in a country where support for Palestinian rights enjoys overwhelming public support.
The IPSC further calls on the Irish government to act to end Israel’s anti-democratic dirty tricks campaigns against law abiding Irish civil society groups and citizens. Indeed the government itself has stated its support for the right to campaign for BDS, calling it a “legitimate political viewpoint” and stating that the government does “not agree with attempts to demonize those who advocate this policy.”
That Israel is apparently attempting to use anti-democratic laws in some US states to force an Irish bank to close the accounts of Irish human rights organisations should be unacceptable to everyone who believes in democratic action, free speech, and the ability of civil society groups to operate free from threat. The Irish government needs to do more than just express its support for the right to campaign against Israeli injustices; it needs to act to protect civil society groups who are at risk and to ensure they can operate in a healthy democratic society.
We urge all civil society organisations, elected representatives and other public figures, whether they have an active interest in the Palestinian issue or whether they support BDS or not, to strongly condemn this action – if Israel can force such a closure, there is nothing to stop other powerful interests such as arms companies or other oppressive governments pressuring banks to shut down accounts of advocacy groups that stand up to these interests. An injury to one is an injury to all.
The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign will continue our work in solidarity with the Palestinian people and their heroic and irrepressible struggle for freedom, justice, equality and a true peace in the Palestine-Israel region.
The IPSC was founded in 2001, and has banked with AIB since 2016, when its accounts were closed by the Bank of Ireland without a valid reason, stating only that the IPSC failed to meet the bank’s nebulous “risk appetite”. The case was raised in the Seanad and the Oireachtas Finance Committee at the time, where politicians spoke out against the closure. This latest revelation simply adds to already-existing suspicions that Israel was involved in Bank of Ireland’s closure of these accounts in some manner.
Israel’s attacks on Irish citizens and human rights activism have ramped up in recent months. In January the IPSC was named as one of twenty Palestinian human rights advocacy groups that are banned from entering Israel, and thus banned from visiting friends and colleagues in Palestine. Also in January, the Irish Ambassador in Tel Aviv was summoned by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to receive a dressing down over a Bill that was being debated in the Seanad seeking to outlaw the importation of goods from occupied territories. In September 2016, four Irish citizens were deported by Israeli authorities as they attempted to visit Palestine on an annual fact-finding mission that had been travelling to the region for over a decade.