Palestinian ambassador to Ireland Ahmed Abdelrazek visited the south Galway village of Kinvara yesterday to thank the community for their boycott of Israeli goods during the recent military assault on Gaza.
“It was very touching that people from the grassroots who don’t normally engage in political activities felt they could not accept injustice,” Mr Abdelrazek said.
"In politics, people are always calculating about taking decisions, but here it was from the heart," he said as he and his wife Rania Abdallah were greeted by residents, shopkeepers and stallholders in the weekly market.
“I think what was most special was that nobody asked the people in Kinvara to do this,” the ambassador said.
An informal chat just over a month ago led to the decision to ask local businesses to stop stocking Israeli goods.
Resident John Griffin said he had been particularly moved by musician Brian Eno's public letter to North American friends after he had seen a photograph of a Palestinian man carrying the remains of his four-year-old son, torn to pieces by a bomb, in a plastic carrier bag.
Along with neighbours Frank Naughton and Vicky Donnelly, Mr Griffin approached businesses and elicited a positive response for the stance.
Pharmacist Séadna Tóibín stopped stocking a particular range of toiletries, while publican Michael Burke of The Pier Head asked his chef to check items in the kitchen – removing salt, fruit and vegetables imported from Israel.
“We have several Israelis living in our community who are wonderful people,” Mr Burke noted.
Up in Seamount College, transition year students on the development education programme also became involved, principal Margo Mhic Dhomhnaill explained.
Mr Tóibín said his chemist shop’s website received a small number of very angry complaints, but most people were very glad to support it.
"I don't support Hamas firing rockets either, but the disproportionate response from Israel was something that shocked us all. And of course, the people who criticised us seemed more bothered about a range of toiletries than about the horrific shelling of children," he said.