Addict (drugaddict) wrote,

James Bowen: "A boycott by any other name ..." (HA'ARETZ)

TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck

Transmitted below is an op-ed article by the national chairperson of the
Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign which has been published in HA'ARETZ.

It would be unlikely to find publishers in the mainstream American press.

   *A boycott by any other name ...*
   By James Bowen
   April 13, 2007

   In the late 19th century, changes in Ottoman law created a new class of
   large landholders, including the Sursuq family from Beirut, which acquired
   large tracts in northern Palestine. A similar situation had long existed in
   Ireland, where most land was controlled by absentee landlords, many of whom
   lived in Britain.

   The 1880s, however, initiated dynamics that led the two lands in different
   directions. In 1882, the first Zionist immigrants arrived in Palestine,
   starting a process that subsequently led to the eviction of indigenous
   tenant farmers, when magnates like the Sursuqs pulled the land from under
   their feet, selling it to the Jewish National Fund.

   In contrast, in 1880, Irish tenant farmers started a process that turned
   them into owner-occupiers. A former British army officer played a role in
   this drama, which introduced his name as a new word into many languages.

   Western Ireland was again suffering near-famine conditions. The potato crop
   had failed for the third successive year. Captain Charles Cunningham
   Boycott, agent for Lord Erne, the absentee landlord of an estate in County
   Mayo, refused the request of tenants for a rent reduction and, instead, in
   September 1880, obtained eviction notices against 11 of them for failure to
   pay their rent.

   Thirty years earlier, evictions had expelled huge numbers of Irish to North
   America. But times were changing: A nationwide tenants' rights movement,
   the Land League, had recently been formed, under the leadership of Charles
   Stewart Parnell, a scion of the landlord class, whose pro-tenant sympathies
   were inherited from his American mother, a woman whose grandfather had been
   one of George Washington's bodyguards. Speaking on September 19, 1880,
   Parnell outlined the strategy of the league:

   "When a man takes a farm from which another has been evicted, you must shun
   him on the roadside when you meet him, you must shun him in the streets of
   the town, you must shun him at the shop-counter, you must shun him at the
   fair and at the market-place and even in the house of worship, by leaving
   him severely alone, by putting him into a sort of moral Coventry, by
   isolating him from the rest of his kind, as if he were a leper of old, you
   must show him your detestation."

   Three days later, court officials attempted to serve Boycott's eviction
   notices on the tenants, and the Land League policy went into effect. Within
   two months, Boycott's name had become a synonym for ostracism, he had left
   the estate, and both landlords and government had discovered the power of
   ordinary people. Within a year, legislation at Westminster provided
   government finance for tenants wishing to purchase their farms.

   For too long, Israel has been taking land from which Palestinians have been
   evicted, and detestation is spreading around the world. In Ireland, photos
   of Israeli bulldozers are placed beside those of landlords' battering rams.
   Even a former U.S. president has recognized hafrada ("separation" in
   Hebrew) as apartheid. Disgust has reached such a level that even highly
   conservative institutions that normally try to avoid politics are driven to
   express concern.

   One such body is Aosdana, the Irish state-sponsored academy of artists. Its
   annual general assembly on March 28 passed a resolution whose full text is:
   "Mindful of the August 4, 2006 call from Palestinian filmmakers, artists
   and cultural workers to end all cooperation with state-sponsored Israeli
   cultural events and institutions, Aosdana wishes to encourage Irish artists
   and cultural institutions to reflect deeply before engaging in any such
   cooperation, always bearing in mind the undeniable courage of those Israeli
   artists, writers and intellectuals who oppose their own government's
   illegal policies towards the Palestinians."

   Although on the surface, this is a mild resolution, it is a boycott call in
   all but name. Its significance was not lost on Dr. Zion Evrony, the Israeli
   ambassador in Dublin. The very same day, he issued a press release that was
   replete with cliches that might have worked several decades ago, when Irish
   people were still unaware of the horrors that Israel has inflicted on the

   Possibly, the alacrity of Dr. Evrony's response was due to the fact that
   the strength of feeling among Irish artists had been rehearsed in the Irish
   press. Indeed, the proposer of the motion, playwright Margaretta D'Arcy,
   who is Jewish, had written in The Irish Times on February 16 that, "I was
   reluctant to advocate a cultural boycott of Israel until I visited the
   country for the first time last November ... I became convinced that a
   cultural boycott was necessary, if only as an act of solidarity with those
   in Israel who seek to remove the inequality, discrimination and segregation
   of their society."

   Continuing, she quoted from "Land Grab," by Yehezkel Lein, published by
   B'Tselem - the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied
   Territories: "The settlement enterprise in the occupied territories has
   created a system of legally sanctioned separation based on discrimination
   that has, perhaps, no parallel anywhere in the world since the apartheid
   regime in South Africa."

   Ms. D'arcy finished by saying: "My uncle went to live in the Holy Land
   in the 1920s to help set up the utopian dream of peace, justice and equality
   between Jew and Arab. It was only when I arrived there that I realized how
   mistaken he was. He would have done better to have stayed in the East End
   of London to struggle for peace, justice and equality in England."

   Parnell finished his call to action by saying that "there will be no man so
   full of avarice, so lost to shame, as to dare the public opinion of all
   right-thinking men."

   They were both right.

   /Prof. James Bowen is the national chairperson of the Ireland-Palestine
   Solidarity Campaign./
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