Sinn Fein and the SDLP have been urged to abandon their ongoing support of the international boycott campaign on Israeli goods by a representative of a Northern Ireland Jewish community group.
Steven Jaffe, co-chair of the NI Friends of Israel, issued the hard-hitting response yesterday following the decision by the nationalist-dominated Mid-Ulster District Council to back a notice of motion from a SDLP councillor in support of the Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign last week.
The campaign is a global initiative that advocates the boycott of an extensive list of Israeli-made products until the nation meets what it describes as “its legal international obligations, primarily the Israeli withdrawal of occupied territories”.
The notice of motion — which also called for a peaceful end to the Middle Eastern conflict — was brought forward by Mid-Ulster SDLP councillor Malachy Quinn and gained support from fellow nationalist members, including Sinn Fein’s Ronan McGinley, the Tyrone Courier reported.
Unionist members, however, voted against the motion, which will now see the council investigate ways it can implement the BDS campaign.
In response, Mr Jaffe said it was time for both nationalist parties to recognise such council resolutions were “discrimination dressed up as a political campaign” — an accusation Sinn Fein and the SDLP strongly refuted yesterday, stressing it is a “legitimate” form of protest.
The position, however, did little to persuade the 53-year-old, who said the adoption of the BDS campaign by “nationalist-majority” councils was “abhorrent” and a “slap in the face not just of the Jewish community”, but also for those living here who consider themselves “friends” of Israel as well as the wider community.
“It’s time for Sinn Fein and the SDLP to recognise that very one-sided boycott resolutions are completely counter-productive,” added Mr Jaffe.
“And I would throw out the question, would it help if unionist-majority councils started passing equally one-sided resolutions?
“I wouldn’t want to see that.”
In response, the SDLP’s Malachy Quinn defended his notice of motion, stating that it was not about singling out the Jewish community, but rather was “an act of solidarity” with the Palestinian people.
“The BDS campaign is not about attacking the Jewish community but rather expressing disagreement with an intransigent Israeli government,” he said.
“Any attacks on the Jewish community here or abroad are to be condemned.”
Similarly, Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan said the boycott was an appropriate course of action to take against what he termed as the “Israeli apartheid regime”.
“The international community and Ireland need to send a strong signal that the slaughter of Palestinians in the open-air prison which is Gaza, is completely unacceptable,” said the West Belfast representative.