Powerlessness is undoubtedly one of the most debilitating feelings that anyone can experience.
At the moment the citizens of the world are looking on in impotent rage as the people of Gaza are being slaughtered by the Israeli state. Last weekend was the 30th anniversary of an episode that we in Irish Trade Union history can all be rightly proud of it.
I remember the Dublin of 1980s and it was grim, there was a recession on and thousands of young people were forced to emigrate.
Different now of course…
The Apartheid regime in South Africa seemed unstoppable and the world was looking on as a mightily militarised state was battering an oppressed people.
Then ordinary people in Ireland, supermarket workers, decided to make a difference.
The revolutionary generation in South Africa will tell you if you ask them that the boycott of the Apartheid regime was a crucial part of finally defeating that racist state. Undoubtedly the campaign had a negative impact on the lives of ordinary disenfranchised blacks in South Africa. However the long term gain was the final victory against Apartheid and the creation of a new multi-racial democratic nation.
Today in Gaza a regional superpower bankrolled and protected by the USA is smashing a defenceless people. It is imperative Israel must become a pariah state in the world just like the racist polity in Pretoria in the 1980s.
The pounding of Gaza and the illegal settlements in the West bank are part of a wider policy of ethnic cleansing. If an ethnically homogenous state is not the endgame for the Israeli political elite then I’m not sure what they’re about.
The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has been forcing journalists to sign these indemnifying letters on the Gaza border before they are admitted.
This is an ominous development.
In Glasgow on Saturday there was an impressive Palestinian solidarity march and, as with cities across the world, the Palestinian flag was ubiquitous. The world marched for Gaza.
However some people in my native city, many of them with a fondness for the flag of Israel, marched in a different direction and to the beat of a different drum. In the klan heartlands of East Belfast the flag of the state that is crushing the people of Gaza is considered de rigueur for many a loyal lamppost.
A century ago Sir Ronald Storrs, the first British Governor of Jerusalem, was very clear about what the utility function of a “Jewish homeland” in Palestine: “It will form for England,” he said, “a little loyal Jewish Ulster in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism.”
Being on a demonstration can be an uplifting experience, but after the march and the speeches there are things that you can do. Boycott any products made in Israel.
If you are in a trade union or a community group make sure that there is no equivocation on this issue within your organisation.
There can be no doubt that Israel is a rogue state every bit as much as the Apartheid regime was in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela said that everything was impossible until it was done. The Dunnes store workers thirty years ago are proof of that.
In 1990 he met them and said that their stand helped to keep him going while he was in prison. The twelve Dunnes workers weren’t in the ranks of the powerful, but they weren’t powerless and they proved it.
Boycott Israeli goods!