A Palestinian speaker recounted ten years of success in the BDS campaign against the Israeli Zionist State and asked people to continue with it and, if possible, to step it up.
Riya Hassan addressed a crowd at the Pearse Centre in Dublin’s Pearse Street, just off Dublin City Centre, on Wednesday night. She spoke about the history of the oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli state and the ten-year history of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, explaining its origins in Palestinian society and charting its growth and successes. The three basic aims of the BDS campaign are to pressure Israel to end the colonisation and occupation of Palestinian land, to give equal rights to Arab-Palestinians citizens in the Israeli state and to agree to the right of Palestinian refugees to return home.
Riyah Hassan is European Coordinator of the BDS campaign, herself a Palestinian and, as she later explained when talking about the Israeli destruction of villages in the Negev, from near that area herself. Talking about the current refugee crisis in Europe, she pointed out that many of the refugees taking to sea in what she termed “death boats” (echoes of our own “coffin ships” during the Great Hunger) are in fact Palestinians. They are from refugee camps in Syria and are being made refugees for the second, third or even fourth time.
Speaking on the Palestinian refugee issue, a huge and outstanding one since 1948, Riya Hassan mentioned that their right to return home had been surrendered by the negotiators of the “peace process” at Oslo in the 1980s but that Palestinian society had not accepted this abandonment, whether in Israel, the occupied territory or in the refugee camps elsewhere.
Among a list of successes of the BDS campaign, Riya Hassan mentioned Veolia, a company which had been setting up the transport networks between settlements helping to carve up Palestine, had lost millions due to BDS – as a result, the company has pulled out of Israel (Veolia, by the way, runs the LUAS trams in Dublin). G4 Security, which runs surveillance on Israeli prisons, where there are currently well over 6,000 Palestinian prisoners, have said that they will pull out in 2017 but Riya said they should pull out now and called for pressure to be increased upon them. Another target should be our own Government, which has spent €14.7 million 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 over the past five years). Riya reminded us of the complicity in murder entailed in buying equipment from the Israeli arms industry – an industry which boasts as a marketing point that its deadly equipment is “field tested”!
Among the measures of the impact of the BDS campaign on Israel and abroad, the audience were told that Netanyahu in addressing the recent AIPAC conference in the USA had given a quarter of his speech to attacking the BDS campaign and campaigners, in contrast to the early days when Zionists tended to dismiss the campaign as insignificant. More extraordinarily, perhaps, Hillary Clinton has given a promise, as part of her campaign for the Presidency of the USA, to do what she could against BDS.
Riya Hassan is eloquent, with excellent command of English and spoke clearly and confidently. If anything, she spoke for too long overall. It is hard for a visitor to judge what a typical Irish audience might know or what our cultural expectations are but the room was warm and after about 45 minutes one could hear some people shifting in their seats, a situation that did not improve as the talk extended well past the hour.
However, when the Chair of the meeting turned to the audience, it did not seem that anyone had missed an opportunity to ask questions or to comment and some even took several bites of the cherry.
As chair of the meeting (and of the IPSC) Martin Quigley drew the meeting to an end, he announced a boycott action of Tesco supermarkets for this Saturday and, for those in Dublin, asked them to meet at the IPSC office at 12 noon.
Riyah Hassan sets off over the next few days for Belfast and Cork before leaving our shores again and we wish go néirí an bóthair léithe!