Activists demonstrate against the revisionism of the ‘Mayo Tapestry’ hung at Bank of Ireland, College Green.
Social media was aghast at the recent closure of the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaigns bank accounts by the suits in Bank of Ireland. This take place in the context of a wider coordinated, attack on Palestinian rights and pro-BDS organisations in Europe. Daniel Lambert takes a look for rabble.
The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) was established in 2001 as an independent NGO to advocate for Palestinian rights, as enshrined in international law, which are consistently denied to them by the state of Israel.
As UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month, in his tenth and final speech to the assembly, “this has been ten years lost to peace. Ten years lost to illegal settlement expansion (by Israel). All the while the occupation grinds into its 50th year. This is madness.” The IPSC in Ireland has spent the past 15 years trying to highlight this “madness” and use peaceful civil society action and engagement to do so.
It is a CRO registered non-profit company and registered lobbying organisation in Ireland and its supporters and members include sitting and former members of the Oireacthas, NI Assembly and British Parliament, municipal councillors, prominent sportspeople and academics.
In short the IPSC is not a rogue organisation, people from every section of Irish society including Uachtarán na hÉireann, Michael D Higgins, have taken part in IPSC demonstrations and given them support and assistance in their campaign.
Last week, on September 27th, the IPSC had all three of it’s bank accounts in Ireland closed by Bank of Ireland. There was no mediation, no dialogue, no clear explanations or reasoning. They were given two months notice and the accounts were abruptly closed. This move came without any change in banking activities by the IPSC after 15 years with Bank of Ireland.
Why the sudden change? Bank of Ireland has refused to engage with the media in any way following the termination of the accounts. When contacted by Rabble they stated that “they do not discuss individual accounts”.
When asked could they provide more information, or disclose the over-arching rules or policies that must have changed to result in this action, they repeatedly responded “no comment”. It’s hard to escape the impression that something more sinister is at play here, especially as similar moves have been taken by banks across Europe.
In the final correspondence the IPSC received from the BOI, they stated that their accounts are “operating in, or [are] associated with, high risk countries, industries or activities” and that following a “due diligence review, which covered multiple risk factors” the IPSC’s accounts are “no longer consistent with the risk appetite of the Bank.”
The activities in the IPSC account were fully legal and transparent at all times, and relate to relatively minuscule amounts of money in banking terms. According to IPSC treasurer Martin Quigley total income and expenditure through the account annually is circa 50,000, while all income is derived from donations, members direct debit contributions and small fundraising events.
The only monies transferred to Palestine in the past year was 1,209 in March, sent to the Herbawi Textile factory in the West Bank for the purchase of Kufiya’s, the Palestinian headscarfs sold by the IPSC. Rabble spoke to a former senior Bank of Ireland official, on condition of anonymity, and they stated that they “find it very stage that the IPSC has suddenly become a risk account for BOI considering they hold a record of all their transactions”, they added that the account “turnover is so small as to be no risk whatsoever.”
We spoke with the IPSC National Coordinator, Kevin Squires, who said “given that the activities of IPSC have not changed in the fifteen years we have banked with BOI, the closure strikes us as suspicious in the extreme.
There is a context to this closure, taking place as it does in the context of a wider, and seemingly coordinated, attack on Palestinian rights and pro-BDS organisations in Europe which has seen other accounts closed in the UK, France, Germany and Austria. It is thus difficult to escape the conclusion that the timing of the Bank of Ireland’s closure of our accounts is somehow related to this campaign.”
It is very difficult to disagree with the IPSC on this point. In the past 12 months banks across Europe have suddenly, and without any proper explanation or rationale, closed accounts of Pro Palestinian groups and organisations and all cited the same terminology as BOI, “risk appetite”.
The most logical explanation for this Pan-European action is some form of Israeli pressure being placed on major banking institutions to silence and disrupt BDS campaigns. Israel have publicly boasted of conducting a global campaign of ‘lawfare’ – using legal and other punitive threats to silence and attack supporters of Palestinian rights.
This would appear to be yet another part of this campaign which often involves sinister statements and actions. Amnesty International reported in April of this year, of “an especially alarming statement which came from Israeli Minister of Transport, Intelligence and Atomic Energy, Yisrael Katz, who called on Israel to engage in ‘targeted civil eliminations’ of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence”.
It is ironic that an Irish bank, in the country that gave the world the word boycott, and who’s Minister for Foreign Affairs (Charlie Flanagan) has publicly stated that the BDS movement holds a “legitimate political viewpoint”, and furthermore, that the Irish government does “not agree with attempts to demonise those who advocate this policy”, should take this reprehensible decision.
What is perhaps most tragic for the ordinary people of Palestine, for those denied the most basic of human rights, for those living under illegal military occupation, is that having silenced the world at UN level through constant US support at the Security Council, the Israeli state is now silencing ordinary citizens ability to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in supposedly free and democratic countries.