In response to an article by Dr Steven King, Prof James Bowen , chairman of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, outlines why people should join the group’s protest today.Irish Examiner, 8 July 2006, page 15

Most supporters of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) are Irish, but our ranks include both Israeli Jews and Palestinians living in Israel. Contrary to Steven King’s allegations in this paper on Wednesday, what inspires and unites us is the goal of universal human rights. We seek a future in which all those who have the right to reside between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea will enjoy that right in justice and peace. Unfortunately, the Israeli government thinks that the indigenous Palestinians should have less entitlement in their homeland than Jewish Israelis who have made their homes in Palestine since the arrival of the first Zionist settlers in 1882. The IPSC thinks that both ethnic groups should enjoy all rights stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We have no view on the future organization of the territory. That may be two states, a federal state or a unitary state. The decision on political structures should be made by all, Palestinian or Israeli, with a legitimate interest.

The IPSC supports the right of both Israeli and Palestinian voters to choose their political representatives. The Israeli government, wanting a pliable "negotiating partner", has reacted furiously to a Palestinian election which does not suit their ambition. The campaign involves such fierce defamation that the government successfully pressured the European Union to boycott the Palestinians. It has included several months of almost continuous bombardment, air strikes and "targeted assassinations". It includes an economic blockade, causing a severe shortage of food.

Israeli callousness is underlined by Dov Weisglass, an advisor to the prime minister, who felt able to joke about the blockade: "The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet". Considering the current invasion of the Gaza Strip, it is useful to note Weisglass’s remarks about the August 2005 withdrawal of settlers. Israeli propaganda portrayed this as a move for peace. However, Weisglass revealed the truth, saying: "The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process. And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem . Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda."

What is the Zionist agenda? In 1895, Theodore Herzl, founder of the Zionist organization, wrote in his diary: "We must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country." When Herzl wrote, the population of Palestine , the area targeted to be his "own country", was overwhelmingly Muslim, with secure minorities of Druze, Christians and Jews. Herzl planned to incorporate the tiny existing Jewish minority into his utopian project for an ethno-religious state in Palestine and ethnically cleanse the others.

Scholars of colonialism distinguish "settlement colonies", where indigenous populations were removed and replaced by a settler population which included its own working class, from "exploitation colonies", where indigenous populations were retained to provide cheap labour. North America was an example of the former, an example of the latter. was intended to be a settlement colony but sufficient Europeans did not arrive, so it developed into a hybrid form where the indigenous population was pushed into reservations called bantustans and allowed to serve as migrant labour in the "white" areas.

Herzl and David Ben-Gurion hoped to create a settlement colony in Palestine. The Ben-Gurion quotation provided by King was not from a man anxious to respect Palestinian rights, but from someone intending to avoid the fate of South African whites by fulfilling the two Zionist slogans of "conquest of labour" and "conquest of the land". The Zionist settlers who entered Palestine under the shelter of the British Mandate, growing from a tiny minority in 1918 into one third of the population by 1947, were intent on building a self-sufficient Zionist economy. They had to sign a contract promising not to employ Palestinian labour.

In 1948, the Zionists succeeded in creating a good approximation to a settlement colony in the area that became , by ethnically cleansing the majority of the indigenous Palestinians. However, the desire to annex territories invaded in 1967 has placed in the South African dilemma. It wants to control the land but escape responsibility for the Palestinians, so it is creating fenced-in bantustans in Gaza and the West Bank . Israelis call it "hafrada"; like "apartheid", the word means "separation".

Anxious to avoid the criticism heaped on South African racists, Ben-Gurion decided to allow the few Palestinians who escaped ethnic cleansing to become citizens of . There are no Jews-only park benches in Israel — the country carefully avoided what, in South Africa, was called "petty apartheid" in order to concentrate on "grand apartheid", the settlement of the lands belonging to the expelled Palestinians and the ongoing discrimination against those that still remained.

The examples of "equality" paraded by King on Wednesday are mere window-dressing for hafrada. Last week, Meron Benvenisti, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem who has become a vocal critic of discrimination in Israel, wrote: "At the Caesarea Conference, a devastating report was revealed proving that discrimination against Arabs in education, the establishment of industrial zones, investment aid, and wage levels has led to poverty among Israeli Arabs that is three times greater than the Jewish population." He continued: "the ‘national institutions’ – the Jewish Agency and Jewish National Fund – primarily exist to enable institutional discrimination based on ethnicity". Much official discrimination in is delegated to these two agencies, which ensure that 93% of the land in is reserved for use by Jews, even though 20% of the citizenry is Palestinian.

This racism must stop.