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(Wissam Nassar / Maan Images)

Irish academics’ union votes to “cease all cultural and academic collaboration with Israel”

At its annual congress today, an Irish lecturers’ union voted to for a comprehensive academic boycott of Israel, described by activists as the first such move of its kind in Europe.

In a unanimous vote, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland called on members to “cease all cultural and academic collaboration with Israel, including the exchange of scientists, students and academic personalities, as well as all cooperation in research programmes.”

The motion also called for the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to “step up its campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the apartheid state of Israel.”

David Landy, sociology lecturer at Trinity College Dublin, welcomed the motion in an Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign press release, explaining: “Undoubtedly apologists for Israeli apartheid will complain that such motions stifle academic freedom, but this is nonsense. The Palestinian call for an academic boycott of Israel is an institutional boycott, not a boycott of individuals.”

He also said: “We congratulate the TUI and call on all Irish, British and European academic unions to move similar motions.”

As The Electronic Intifada’s David Cronin has written elsewhere, some Irish universities are involved in multi-million-euro European Union “defense” projects that also involve Israel, so the motion could have significant implications.

Perfect timing

The vote comes at a time when anti-BDS, pro-Israel lobbying groups are still reeling from a major setback in their campaign against academic boycotts of Israel. Only last week a landmark ruling in a British tribunal comprehensively dismissed a Zionist legal attack on the University and College Union for merely discussing boycotts of Israel.

The fallout of that total defeat was still ongoing today. The Jewish Chronicle today carried one story calling the case an “act of epic folly,” quoting one pro-Israel lawyer. (Incidentally, the paper’s chairman happens to be Anthony Julius, the high-profile lawyer who took on Ronnie Fraser’s defeated case against the UCU pro bono, which might help explain why its coverage of the case was totally uncritical until it failed.)

UCU activist Sue Blackwell cautiously welcomed to the news, speaking to me on the phone today: “it will be interesting to see what happens, especially in light of the recent Ronnie Fraser ruling. I would be surprised if the Zionist lobby doesn’t try to find an angle of legal attack” against the Irish union too.

Blackwell has been a leading Palestine solidarity activist in her union, so has long experience with such anti-Palestinian “lawfare” campaigns.

She pointed out that the one of the UCU’s predecessor unions, the Association of University Teachers did briefly pass an academic boycott motion in 2005. However, that motion calling for a boycott of two specific Israeli universities was rescinded after enormous pressure. It was part of AUT policy for only two months.

But this new Irish motion is far more comprehensive. It “may be the first [in Europe] to do so explicitly,” Blackwell said.

Full motion

241 . Executive Committee/Dublin Colleges(x4)

TUI demand that ICTU step up its campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the apartheid state of Israel until it lifts its illegal siege of Gaza and its illegal occupation of the West Bank, and agrees to abide by International law and all UN Resolutions against it. Congress instructs the Executive Committee to: (a) Conduct an awareness campaign amongst TUI members on the need for BDS (b) Request all members to cease all cultural and academic collaboration with Israel, including the exchange of scientists, students and academic personalities, as well as all cooperation in research programmes. (ENDS)

Update

RTE Radio 1’s program Drivetime yesterday spoke to Landy on the boycott decision: you can listen back to the short segment on their website, and it’s well worth doing so (click Listen and then skip to time code 2:13:50).

Comments

No doubt our minister for Defence and Justice, Alan Shatter will not be pleased about this motion, but for me I'm not only pleased but I'm also proud of the support for Palestine here in Ireland.

I recently visited Gaza with a group and believe me they are very aware of and grateful for the Irish support in Europe for Palestine.

As an active anti-Zionist, who has publicly opposed Israeli oppression of Palestinians and has opposed the concept of a Jewish state for six decades, I suggest that the academic and cultural aspects of the BDS movement are misguided in principle and are on balance counter-productive for the Palestinian cause. I further suggest that pro- Palestinian groups should plan and hold some vigorous internal and public discussions of these aspects of BDS at which individuals, who have been part of the over-all Palestinian cause but who oppose the cultural and academic aspects of BDS, have the opportunity to debate the other side.

Norton Mezvinsky

Although it is often much too hopeful in tone, THE UN PALESTINIAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE points out Israeli intransigence to the General Assembly ("GA") on April 5, 20013, underlining the beginnings of a comprehension of the current Palestinian/Israeli situation and stating the need to "put pressure on Israel to comply with internationa law" although it unrealistically keeps alive empty hopes for a "two-state" solution. This document addresses Israel's 'tightening the siege' in East Jeruselum and Israel's " IMMORAL and ILLEGAL BLOCKADE of the Gaza Strip." Also mentioned is the death...of Mansoura Abu Hamdiye as "a continuation of the "crimes being perpetrated by Israel, the occupying Power..." Another meeting is scheduled for Caracas on 17 April. Our struggles are not with- out notice throughout the world..---Peter

What good will limiting the collaboration with academics of Israel achieve for this movement?