Irish Left opposes sanctions targeting 'ordinary Russians,' supports BDS

Irish lawmakers were accused of having a "singular obsession with Israel."

THE IRISH flag atop the historic post office in Dublin.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
THE IRISH flag atop the historic post office in Dublin.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Lawmakers from the Irish left-wing party People Before Profit spoke out against sanctions on Russia this week because they hurt ordinary people, while at the same time supporting BDS sanctions on Israel.

“We must oppose any escalation in this war, such as NATO intervention or sanctions that will hurt ordinary people in Russia,” said MP Richard Boyd Barrett.

People Before Profit’s four legislators faced public criticism for refusing to applaud Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky when he addressed the Oireachtas, as the Irish parliament is known.

PBP lawmaker Brid Smith said on a podcast for Irish TV station Newstalk that it failed to applaud “because of his calls today for more stringent sanctions on the Russian people... We don’t believe, in this instance, that sanctions will actually stop Putin doing the horrible, brutal, murderous things that he’s doing in Ukraine. They will hurt and severely hurt the Russian people.”

Asked how sanctions on Israel are different, she argued: “We support [sanctions on] Israel because of the illegal settlements.”

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Northern Ireland v Israel - Windsor Park, Belfast, Britain - September 11, 2018 Free Palestine message displayed on a hill outside the stadium (credit: CLODAGH KILCOYNE/REUTERS)Soccer Football - International Friendly - Northern Ireland v Israel - Windsor Park, Belfast, Britain - September 11, 2018 Free Palestine message displayed on a hill outside the stadium (credit: CLODAGH KILCOYNE/REUTERS)

“But not against Russia because of the illegal war?” the interviewer asked.

Smith responded by asking not to be interrupted.

She said that “in certain circumstances,” like apartheid South Africa, sanctions do work.

“In Israel and Palestine, it is the Palestinians who are suffering hugely under the Israeli regime that are calling for sanctions and boycotts and divestment,” Smith said.

Smith did not, however, explain how that is different from Zelensky and other Ukrainians calling for sanctions on Russia.

In addition, the Palestinians have not been consistent on the point of boycotting Israel, with the PLO even having a committee on engagement with Israelis.

Ciarán Ó Raghallaigh, writing for the Ireland-Israel Alliance, argued that for People Before Profit, “pleas from Ukrainian leaders from right across the democratic spectrum for boycotts of Russia are not just ignored, but are cited as reasons to be less supportive of their cause. Meanwhile, far more questionable pleas from Palestinians for boycotts of Israel are unquestionable dogma.”

Ó Raghallaigh accused Smith of having a “singular obsession with Israel, and double standards with respect to Ukraine and so many other issues.”

This week the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee held one in a series of meetings on Amnesty International’s report accusing Israel of being an apartheid state.

Former Irish justice minister Alan Shatter called Amnesty’s accusation a “headline-catching big lie” that can “exacerbate division, foment hatred and incite and trigger violence, murder and terrorism,” The Irish Times reported.

Arab-Israeli activist Yousef Haddad said, “Israel is a Jewish state, but it is also a democratic state. While Israel is imperfect and racism exists, it is not systematic but individual. Every day, Arabs and Jews are standing side by side working to resolve the problems in our society. You know what doesn’t help our society? White Europeans and Amnesty International telling our sovereign nation of Arabs and Jews how to run our country.”