Council backs Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign in support of Palestine

A section of the crowd protesting outside the Guildhall ahead of the Full Council meeting on Thursday afternoon.

A section of the crowd protesting outside the Guildhall ahead of the Full Council meeting on Thursday afternoon.

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Derry & Strabane Council have voted to back a campaign to boycott Israeli goods and support the people of Palestine.

The Council voted by majority to support a motion tabled by Sinn Fein Councillor Christopher Jackson at its Full Council meeting at the Guildhall on Thursday.

Sinn Fein Councillor Christopher Jackson.

Sinn Fein Councillor Christopher Jackson.

Dozens of people gathered with banners and Palestinian flags on the steps of the Guildhall ahead of the meeting, and also gathered inside the chamber to listen to the debate during the motion.

Councillor Jackson proposed that the Council “affirms its support for the Palestinian people”, and “that this Council affirms its support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign”.

The Council also agreed to the third part of the motion which involved the Council investigating “the most practical means of implementing this BDS Campaign”.

There was clapping and the displaying of Palestinian flags from the public gallery as the motion was carried.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement’s stated aim is to “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law”.

Speaking to his motion, Colr. Jackson praised BDS for the “work they have done to raise awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people.”

“I very much hope this ongoing work will continue and the momentum will continue,” he said, adding: “This campaign is a non violent response to the Israeli apartheid and occupation. It is inspired by the South Africa Anti-Apartheid movement.”

“By passing this motion today we would be making a symbolic statement,” he said.

SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly said that underpinning the BDS campaign were the values of freedom, justice and equality.

“This is something I hope everyone can support,” he said. “This city has a proud reputation of standing in solidarity with those who suffer abuse of human rights and against those who flaunt international law.”

DUP Councillor Drew Thompson however said he hadn’t heard “anyone talk about the rights of the Israeli people”.

“The Israeli government over the years have worked to try and get peace. It might not always have worked. Hamas have always broken the ceasefire that is agreed.

“Boycotts cause division and make matters worse,” he said, adding that such actions were also discriminatory against the Jewish people.

Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly took issue with this point, and said he would be supporting the motion.

UUP Councillor Derek Hussey said: “To get respect you give respect and you don’t see respect being given from Palestine to Israel.

“We have seen time and time again attacks on Israel from Palestine.”

Sinn Fein Councillor Karina Carlin recalled being involved in the South Africa antiapartheid campaign in her youth and said it was vital that the rights of Palestinians were protected.

Independent Councillor Darren O’Reilly meanwhile spoke of the Palestinians children who had come to Derry who had spoken of being stopped and searched on their way to school, and people being arrested and beaten.

The motion, which was seconded by Sinn Fein Colr. Elisha McCallion, was carried by a majority of 27 for to nine against.