Derry and Strabane Council approves motion calling for boycott of Israeli goods

 Derry and Strabane Sinn Fein councillor Christopher Jackson
 Derry and Strabane Sinn Fein councillor Christopher Jackson

DERRY City and Strabane District Council has become the first local authority in the north to pass a motion boycotting Israeli goods.

The motion backs the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign which encourages the international community to turn its back on Israel because of its treatment of Palestinians.

The Sinn Féin motion came just weeks after the Irish News revealed that the party has been holding meetings with Israeli government party Likud, which is led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The motion also comes days after the Derry branch of the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Committee (IPSC) criticised the Likud meetings.

A national organisation, the IPSC has links to Sinn Féin in some areas.

This week’s motion was proposed by Sinn Féin councillor Christopher Jackson and was passed by 29 votes for to 9 against.

“We have seen how boycott campaigns have worked in the past, particularly in South Africa,” he said.

“The workings of it have still to be determined.

Mr Jackson said the “council took a symbolic stance in support of the BDS campaign” but how it is to be implemented has yet to be decided.

While supportive of the BDS campaign and motion, the Derry branch of the IPSC also called for Sinn Féin to end its contacts with Likud.

Branch chair Catherine Hutton said: “Israel strategically engages in 'dialogue' as a means to win legitimacy, gain acceptance and quiet international criticism of its policies and project.”

“While engaging in 'dialogue', Israel has extended its control of occupied Palestine with illegal settlements; has relentlessly bombed and turned Gaza into an open-air prison; and continues to treat Palestinians and Arabs living within Israel as inferior citizens,” she said.

“For the people of Palestine, the Derry Branch of the IPSC calls on Sinn Féin to abandon engagement with representatives of the Israeli apartheid state and to fully uphold the demands of the BDS movement.”

Councillor Jackson defended his party’s approach saying “dialogue has to be central” to requests for “conflicted related meetings”.

“That’s the best way to achieve peaceful outcomes,” he said.

He added that his party is in “no way normalizing relationships with Israel” and that Sinn Féin has the support of senior Palestinian officials.

He said his party's “support for the Palestinian people is historic and unambiguous”.

The Israeli embassy did not respond to a request for a comment.