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Activists call on Irish firm to divest from Israeli company

DUBLIN, Ireland (JTA) — Pro-Palestinian activists called on the Irish multinational building materials firm CRH to sell its stake in the Israeli group Mashav, accusing the company of profiting from the "illegal occupation" of the West Bank.

On Tuesday, protesters from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign at CRH’s annual general meeting in Dublin presented the board with a petition, which they claimed had 10,000 signatures, demanding the company divest its 25 percent shareholding in Mashav, which owns Nesher Cement, Israel’s largest cement producer. They said Nesher was the main supplier of cement used to build West Bank settlements and the separation fence, which the protesters say are illegal.

CRH chairman Kieran McGowan dismissed the accusations and said the company had no control over who bought cement from its subsidiaries.

CEO Myles Lee told reporters after the event that CRH was not involved in any construction or manufacturing of building products in Israel or the Palestinian territories, but that the board would consider the petition.

"We cannot discriminate against any customers — and I’d like to point out the Palestinian Authority is one of those customers," he said, adding that the Mashav stake was "not an issue in ongoing dialogue with investors."

The protest comes just weeks after an IPSC-led effort to enforce a cultural boycott against Israel persuaded the Irish music group Dervish to cancel its appearances at a June concert series in Israel. IPSC also has launched a letter-writing campaign to convince author Gerard Donovan to withdraw from the International Writers Festival in Jerusalem this month.

CRH has been a target of IPSC activists for years.  In 2009, IPSC members began buying small shareholdings in CRH to allow them attend the company’s annual meetings and give anti-Israel speeches from the floor. The group regularly pickets CRH’s corporate events.

In 2004, activist Caoimhe Butterly, a member of the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla, went on a two-week hunger strike on the doorstep of the company’s Dublin offices.

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