***image2***Several hundred Irish football fans and Palestinian solidarity activists demonstrated against the ongoing Occupation and colonization of Palestine in advance of the Ireland-Israel football match in Dublin on Saturday June 4th. As part of the wider movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Apartheid Israel, many protesters called for sporting boycotts to be put in place similar to those against the apartheid regime of South Africa.
The National Demonstration for Justice for Palestine, organized by the Ireland Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), began at Dublinâs Central Bank at 3pm, where speakers addressed the growing crowd. Stalls were set up in Grafton Street, one of Dublinâs main shopping streets, and shoppers signed petitions calling for an end to the Occupation. Hundreds of protesters then marched several kilometers, past the Dail â the seat of the Irish government â before heading to the Israeli embassy.
The crowd erected a model of the Apartheid Wall and banners and large flags were unfurled otuside the embassy. Protesters chanted âTear Down the Wall!â and âStop Israeli Apartheid!â Small clashes broke out as Zionists confronted the demonstrators and attempted to remove posters and flags.
Speakers at the demonstration included spokespersons for the Palestinian community in Dublin, trade union leaders, student groups, anti-war movements, and the Sinn Fein councillor Daithi Doolan. Many spoke of the 1967 Naksa, marking the extension of the Occupation of Palestine into the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and of the Apartheid Wall that is continuing this overall Zionist project of the expulsion of Palestinians today.
The IPSC earlier issued a statement outlining their plans to use the football match as âan occasion to remind the world that the Palestinian people are still under illegal occupation and are still experiencing the daily humiliation of checkpoints and closures, while the state of Israel continues to demolish Palestinian homes and build its Apartheid Wall on Palestinian land in defiance of international law.â
During the match itself, inside the stadium, the Israel national anthem was greeted by the waving of Palestinian flags. Throughout the match, groups of Irish fans shouted messages of support to the Palestinian people and chants such as âFree Palestine!â and âIn our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestiniansâ were sung.
Sporting boycotts played an important role in de-legitimizing the Apartheid regime of South Africa in the eyes of the world. Cricket and rugby players in particular refused to tour South Africa throughout the 1980s and 90s, until the fall of the racist regime. South African sporting tours of Europe were met with large protests and demonstrations, eventually forcing a complete isolation of the country.
Protesters in Dublin on Saturday stated their belief that similar action is needed to bring Apartheid Israel to account and end the Occupation: âIt is the belief of the IPSC that in the face of ongoing and unreported crimes by the Israeli Occupying Forces against the defenceless Palestinian people, it is meaningless to talk about sport being âabove politicsâ. This alibi was long since exploded at the time of the successful and popular campaign against South African Apartheid.â