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Kinvara’s boycott of Israeli goods

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Businesses and consumers in Kinvara have taken a collective stand against Israel’s actions in Gaza by pledging to support the growing boycott of Israeli produce.

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign said they were unaware of any other town or village that had taken this type of united action.

The idea for the campaign emerged from numerous conversations at a local level, about what ordinary people could do to help end the bloodshed in Gaza.

The subsequent appeal to local businesses was led by John Griffin, Frank Naughton and Vicky Donnelly, three members of the Kinvara community.

“Like most people, we were sickened by the carnage we were seeing on our screens and felt helpless to do anything, until we decided to approach all the relevant businesses in our community to support the boycott of Israeli produce. The fact that we’ve had such a positive response sends out a strong message of solidarity,” John Griffin explained.

According to Vicky, the campaign began on Monday morning and by lunchtime on Tuesday, there was full agreement among businesses in the village and a boycott had begun.

“It was a quick turnaround. John and Frank were discussing it with people and then I had separately been talking about it with others. Then we came together on Sunday evening to discuss what we could do. Then we met on Monday to see what sort of products are sold here from Israel and to devise a plan. By Tuesday morning, we had finished and the boycott had begun,” she explained.

Kinvara’s size and sense of community proved a big help in the foundation of this campaign. “It took a couple of trips around the community and we made a direct but gentle approach to each of the businesses. We were really heartened by the response we received from people. One thing that was quite gratifying too is that local businesses here are very supportive of local producers, whereas in some places and with bigger supermarkets and chains there can be a lot of imported goods. In many cases people said they didn’t think they stocked much Israeli products but committed to going and checking it out and taking part in the boycott. Other companies said they were already doing it but had no way of publicising their stance and couldn’t see how to get other companies on board.

“Overall, it was really heartening because the response ranged from those people to others who were newer to the idea but were interested and receptive, so the response overall was very positive,” Vicky outlined.

The group sees it as fitting, that on the 30th anniversary of the Dunnes Stores strikes and the subsequent boycott of South African goods, acknowledged by Mandela as a significant blow to the apartheid regime, Kinvara’s retailers, cafés, restaurants and salons have pledged their support for the campaign.

Frank Naughton also believes it is heartening to see his community getting behind the campaign. “On our own, we can feel helpless. We all feel the need to do something, rather than watching the television, feeling angry. These small actions all contribute to change and I’d like to thank the people of Kinvara for their support for a peaceful resolution for all parties,” he noted.
Vicky explained that political events in recent days have only served to strengthen the group’s resolve in relation to this issue.

“We were ashamed when Ireland abstained from UN Human Rights Committee’s vote to investigate the Israeli army’s actions in Gaza and ashamed that the Irish Government has not applied stronger diplomatic pressure to help end the slaughter of children, women and men, but we’re proud that Kinvara has chosen to support this international campaign,” she said.

Vicky described the action, or rather inaction of the Government, in taking a stand against Israel’s campaign in Gaza as “cowardly” but commended Galway’s public representatives for their stance in relation to the issue.

Galway County Council recently committed to urgently contacting the Minister for Foreign Affairs, asking that the Irish Government take action calling for an “immediate end to Israeli attacks on the people of Gaza, as a vital precondition to a lasting ceasefire agreement, or the Israeli ambassador will be dispatched”, “for an end to the illegal Israeli-imposed siege of Gaza”, for to “use its influence to condemn the current imposition of collective punishment upon the protected people of Palestine by the Israeli state,” and calling for the EU “to suspend Israel from the Euro-Med preferential trade agreement, Article 2 of which state that the ‘provisions of the agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this agreement’. Failing this, Ireland should suspend trading with Israel until hostilities towards Gaza cease.”

The motion was proposed by Sinn Féin councillor Dermot Connolly, who was in Gaza early last year. The motion was passed unopposed.

“With both the city and county councillors voting to support emergency motions calling for actions to end the bombardment, it is clear that local people, community groups and councils are raising their voices while the national Government remains silent,” she added.

According to People Before Profit Alliance Galway, renowned peace activist and former United Nations Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq, Denis Halliday singled out Galway County Council for praise, suggesting its decision should “be copied to all the MEPs and others in the EU as far and wide as possible. It is an example of what one relatively small city can do when EU Governments do nothing”.

While the Kinvara group’s aim was to unite the local community in taking action against Israel and, more importantly, in solidarity with the people of Gaza, Vicky believes everyone can play a part.

“Take a closer look at what you are buying,” is her advice.

“John felt particularly strongly that it is much more powerful for the Kinvara business community as a collective to make this statement than for just one or two individuals to do it but every person can make a difference and we would encourage shoppers to broaden their awareness of what they are buying, wherever they are buying it,” Vicky said.

“While we were trying to create a united movement here in Kinvara, we would really encourage shoppers to be very discerning in their own community and to consider where their food and goods are coming from. In supermarkets people should take a good look at citrus fruits, in particular, like grapefruits, lemons and oranges, as many of these come from Israel. You might also see new potatoes, avocados, dates and carrots, which would be common ones that are imported from Israel, as well as fresh herbs. Sea salt can sometimes be Israeli in origin too and there are also a wide range of cosmetics that come from Israel,” she added.

People in Ireland have a unique opportunity, Vicky believes, to influence Government policy.
“We are lucky we live in a place where we can access politicians easily. Their phone numbers and emails are available. We can call for the Israeli ambassador to be expelled or for sanctions to be taken to send a clear signal that Ireland does not tolerate these actions,” Vicky concluded.

By Nicola Corless

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