The UK Government is promoting an anti-boycott legislation in the House of Commons. First introduced in July last year, it is titled “Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill.” The Bill would allow the government to fine public bodies that boycott Israel. The Bill was debated and passed for the third time on January 10, 2024.
However, in Northern Ireland, the Derry City and Strabane Council tries to find a way to continue backing the BDS movement. The Council has had a formal policy backing the BDS movement for nearly ten years. It has recently voted in favor of a new “ethical procurement policy,” which was suggested by BDS campaigner Omar Barghouti.
Barghouti is a Qatari-born Palestinian who studied electrical engineering in the U.S. where he met his Arab-Israeli wife. They moved to Israel and settled in Acre. He then pursued a postgraduate degree at Tel Aviv University’s Philosophy Department. He studied Ethics under the supervision of the peace activist Prof. Marcelo Dascal, in 2000 for nearly a decade. While at Tel Aviv University, he co-founded in 2005 the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).
Earlier this month, on January 9th, Barghouti addressed the Governance and Strategic Planning Committee of Derry City and Strabane District Council by video. His presentation was titled “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS): Effective Solidarity, Ethical Responsibility and Ending Complicity in Israeli Apartheid in the Time of Genocide.” Barghouti stated, “The US, supported by the UK and other Western powers, imposed its will, again, on the UN Security Council in its latest vote, preventing a permanent ceasefire and an end to Israel’s deadly siege of 2.3 million Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip. This has given the apartheid state a green light to continue its rolling massacres of tens of thousands of Palestinians, predominantly children, women and civilian men.”
Barghouti continued, “Appreciating that your city council’s tender bids must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis… And that no bidding company must be excluded from tenders or contracts because of its geographical scope of activity, sourcing location, national identity or origin, I therefore propose on behalf of the BDS movement, to your esteemed council to consider the following – an ethical procurement policy that takes into account the involvement of bidders and members of its economic entity in grave professional misconduct, including violations of human rights and/or international law, and allows the council to exclude problematic bidders.”
Likewise, the Northern Ireland city of Derry is to commemorate the 52nd anniversary of Bloody Sunday. On Sunday, January 30, 1972, British soldiers shot 26 unarmed civilians during a protest march. The Bloody Sunday incident fueled the Catholic Irish hostility towards the British Army and worsened their conflict. Pro-Palestinian activists found an opening to insert their cause in the commemoration. The Bloody Sunday events this month would center on the conflict in Palestine. During the last week of January, several events will take place. Family members and campaigners are hoping to “shine a spotlight” on the “injustices in Palestine.” Tony Doherty, Bloody Sunday Trust chair and the son of Bloody Sunday victim Patrick Doherty, said it would be an “honor and a privilege” to welcome co-founder of the BDS campaigner Omar Barghouti to deliver the annual Bloody Sunday lecture… The people of this city are well known for standing up against injustice, against inequality, and for using their voices for people oppressed in other places.” Doherty continued: “Derry, and the annual Bloody Sunday commemorations, have always stood in opposition to oppression and injustice wherever they occur. As we mark the 52nd anniversary of Bloody Sunday a number of events will focus attention on the ongoing genocide in Gaza and what we in Derry can do to help the Palestinian people… Omar, who this week addressed Derry City and Strabane District Council to secure support for the BDS campaign, has been to the forefront in providing people across the world with a means to support the Palestinian people in a peaceful, non-violent manner that stands in stark contrast to the genocidal actions of the Israeli government and their allies at this time. The BDS movement is under attack in many parts of the world but I am proud that Derry stands with Palestine. He will take part in a number of events during his visit to Derry providing an opportunity for people to hear directly about his advocacy work and the reality of life for Palestinians under the occupation.”
The Derry Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (DIPSC) has also recently organized a support rally for Gaza, calling for an “immediate end to the Israeli war on Gaza.” The march took place on Saturday, January 13, and took the historic civil rights route of 1968. Catherine Hutton, Chairperson of DIPSC said, “We stand with people all over the world in demanding an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Gaza. We call for legal proceedings to begin at once against the Netanyahu government for their genocidal actions. The IPSC fully supports the South African led initiative to hold Israel account at the International Criminal Court.”
According to the program, on Thursday, the 25th of January, Barghouti will attend the Candlelight Procession for the Children of Palestine that will culminate in lighting the Bloody Sunday Monument in the colors of Palestine. On Friday, the 26th of January, he will deliver the 2024 Annual Bloody Sunday Lecture in Derry’s Cultúrlann Ui Chanáin, the Irish Cultural Center. On Saturday, January 27, Barghouti will join a panel outlining effective support measures, including adopting ethical procurement procedures by local councils titled “Palestine: What Can Derry Do?”
Even St Patrick’s Day was not left out of the protest. Celebrated on March 17, many leading Irish politicians travel to Washington for St. Patrick’s Day. This year, however, campaigners are opposed to the United States’ arming of Israel’s Defense Forces and it’s ongoing “genocide in Gaza.” They have called “to Boycott St Patrick’s Day Celebrations at the White House 2024.” Hutton, the DIPSC chair, established an online boycott petition and said, “no Céad Míle Fáilte or drowning the Shamrock with Joe Biden until he stops arming and funding Genocide in Gaza… This would be a powerful sign of solidarity with Palestine that would reflect the feelings of Irish people & have a massive impact around the world. You are either against genocide in Gaza or you are not. I will not vote for any politician who travels to Washington and shakes the blood-soaked hands of Joe Biden.” Hutton continued, “The people of Derry have shown incredible solidarity with Palestine… In our thousands, in our millions – We are all Palestinians.”
Standing with the Palestinians means standing with Hamas, a radical Islamist terror group aligned with Iran, a brutal military theocracy. Not only did Hamas butcher, rape, behead, burn, and kidnap innocent Israeli civilians, but it used its own civilians as human shields. The Jihadist terror group stole untold millions of aid money to build an extensive tunnel system under hospitals, mosques, schools, and other public places. To add insult to injury, some of the money was used to support a luxury lifestyle for the leadership, while ordinary Palestinians went hungry. Those who dared to complain were severely punished.
The people of Derry should bear in mind that Omar Barghouti has exploited Tel Aviv University while promoting his campaign of BDS against Israel.
They should also note that supporting the Islamist Jihadists in Gaza and their patron, Iran, tarnishes the proud Irish tradition of fighting for justice.