Israeli boycott: Are councillors prepared to give up their iPads?

A section of the crowd protesting outside the Guildhall in Londonderry ahead of the full council meeting on Thursday afternoon

A section of the crowd protesting outside the Guildhall in Londonderry ahead of the full council meeting on Thursday afternoon

Councillors in Londonderry who gave their backing to a campaign to boycott Israel have been urged to give up their council-issued iPads.

Technology company Apple have been using flash memory manufactured by Israeli company Anobit in products such as the iPhone and iPad for years and, in 2012, they purchased the company for around $500 million. The technology firm also operates multiple research and development centres in Israel.

DUP MLA Gary Middleton, a critic of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel that recently gained the support of Derry City and Strabane District Council, urged councillors to give up their iPads if they were “serious about the boycott”.

Mr Middleton, a Foyle MLA, described the BDS movement as “futile” and “discriminatory” and urged the council to “forget about silly motions like this”.

He pointed to the practical difficulty involved in carrying out an effective boycott of Israel, where companies such as Intel manufacture cutting-edge computer components.

Mr Middleton’s comments echo the criticisms aimed at Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions supporter Dr Stephen Hawking. The world-renowned physicist was urged in The Guardian newspaper back in 2013 to “pull out” the Intel i7 processor from his tablet computer by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Israel law centre Shurat HaDin if wants to “truly pull out of Israel”.

DUP MLA Gary Middleton said: “Not only is it discriminatory but it is completely unworkable. The iPads each and every one of the councillors has - are they going to stop using them? The computers used by the council - I wonder how many of those uses some sort of Israeli product in them.

“Are they going to start boycotting companies like Microsoft, who have a large research and development operation in Israel?

“Futile would be the word for it. Even the councillors’ families - how many of them use an iPad at home?

“It is a silly motion and I don’t see how they will put any sort of a boycott into practice at an organisation like the council or even on an individual basis.

“If you start looking at things like medical science and cancer drugs, are we going to make a political issue out of that as well?

“They have developed new cancer drugs in Israel - are we going to be putting someone’s life in danger by avoiding them because they come from Israel? Nobody wants to get into the business of putting people’s lives at risk.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Christopher Jackson, who proposed the motion, did not say whether he would give up his iPad. Instead, he pointed out that the council has been tasked with finding the “most practical means” of implementing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

“Anyone who cares about civil and human rights must take a clear stand to defend the right to advocate for the BDS campaign,” he said. “It is a matter of conscience and free speech and a peaceful means for society to support the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.”