Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign calls for support as Bank of Ireland closes accounts

Bethlehem/PNN/

The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) today has called for political and civil society support for its demand that Bank of Ireland (BOI) reinstates its accounts closed last week in a move they claim to be political banking. Although the IPSC has banked with BOI for 15 years, they were not given an explanation for the decision.

The IPSC is a Palestine rights advocacy group whose main activities are organising public meetings to raise awareness of Israeli occupation of Palestine and promoting the global boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) campaign against the Israeli state as means of securing freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people.

The IPSC says it has made a formal complaint to Bank of Ireland and intends to take a case to the Financial Services Ombudsman. The Bank of Ireland’s actions come in the wake of similar actions taken by banks against Palestinian solidarity groups in the UK, France, Germany and Austria.

The IPSC believes the BDS campaign is the reason for the closure of the accounts and has released a full statement on the matter on their website. IPSC Treasurer, Martin O’Quigley said, “As the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has grown exponentially worldwide, marking up many victories in the struggle for Palestinian rights against Israeli apartheid, Israeli officials, including government ministers, have repeatedly spoken of their intent to attack the BDS movement abroad, seeking to use its influence with allied governments to criminalise the non-violent campaign for Palestinian rights.

The Israeli Minister in charge of anti-BDS operations, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan has openly spoken of making BDS activists ‘pay the price’, and said that Israel is attempting to get banks to shut down BDS groups’ accounts.

In light of these statements, we view this as a sinister move by Bank of Ireland suggesting interference by the Israeli state in the business affairs of a sovereign nation.”

Mr. O’Quigley concluded by calling for support: “We are asking individuals, politicians and organisations to support the IPSC in its legitimate campaign to promote BDS and defend Palestinian rights by condemning the account closures and calling on Bank of Ireland to reinstate our bank accounts. This is not only a direct attack on our ability to function as an organisation – but an attack on free speech and the ability of civil society groups to take effective action for justice”.

Since 2005, Palestinian civil society has called on the international community to campaign for BDS as a means of forcing the Israeli government to end its occupation of Palestine and stop its violation of Palestinian human rights. Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan TD said in a statement to the Dáil in June 2016 that BDS was a “legitimate political viewpoint”.

The IPSC informed its members last week that Bank of Ireland had closed its accounts on 27th September despite being customers for 15 years and without having any previous difficulties. In June 2016 the bank requested information from the group about its sources of funds and how funds were spent. The IPSC, a registered not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, answered the questions and also sent its audited accounts which shows income of €51,000 for 2015, the bulk of which is spent on office and campaigning costs.

In 2016 the IPSC paid one invoice of $1,200 to the Hirbawi Keffiyeh Factory in Palestine for scarves used as solidarity items. The group is funded by membership fees, small donations and fundraising events.

Despite a request from the IPSC, Bank of Ireland failed to give a specific explanation of why it was closing the accounts.

The bank also refused a request for an extension of the closure date so the group had time to move financial standing orders in an orderly fashion.