A boycott by any other name...
- A boycott by any other name ...
By James Bowen
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
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 Palestinians.
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
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
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
To subscribe to this group, send an email to:
NEWS ARCHIVE IS OPEN TO PUBLIC VIEW
Need some good karma? Appreciate the service?
Please consider donating to WVNS today.
Email ummyakoub@... for instructions.
To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to: