Ireland invented boycotts, so let’s use them to demand justice for Palestine

Trinity College Dublin has taken part in an EU-funded research partnership with Israel’s arms industry.

William Murphy Flickr

The term “boycott” has its origins in Ireland.

It entered the English language during the Land War of the 1880s — the struggle across the Irish countryside between impoverished tenant farmers and their often absentee landlords.

When Captain Charles Boycott, an agent of a major landowner in County Mayo, sought to evict tenants for non-payment of rent, he was shunned by the local communities: his workers went on strike, local tradespeople refused to deal with him; even the local post office refused to take his mail.

So it is fitting that Irish people have undertaken a number of significant boycott campaigns as a means of fighting injustice.

In 1984, a group of mainly female workers in Dunnes Stores, a supermarket chain, went on strike in order to comply with a trade union decision that they refrain from handling South African fruit. Nelson Mandela personally thanked members of the group following his release from prison.

In keeping with this tradition, Academics for Palestine was recently formed in Dublin.

Its main purpose is to encourage Irish universities to support the 2005 call made by representatives of a wide cross-section of Palestinian society for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.


To their shame, some Irish universities are involved in research partnerships with Israel’s arms industry and its academic supporters.

Trinity College Dublin, for example, has participated in a surveillance technology project alongside Elbit, one of two main suppliers of drones used by Israel to attack civilians in Gaza.

University College Cork has teamed up with the Technion, a Haifa-based institution that has developed bulldozers specifically designed for demolishing Palestinian homes.

These projects are financed by the European Union.

Israel has taken part in the EU’s scientific research activities since 1997. Since then, its universities and enterprises have coordinated no fewer than 1,070 EU research projects and participated in 3,000 more (“Academia against apartheid,” Academics for Palestine, February 2014 [PDF]).

A veteran Irish politician Máire Geoghegan-Quinn is currently overseeing the EU’s research program.

Despite a row last year over “guidelines” reiterating EU policy that work undertaken in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank should not be eligible for research funding, Geoghegan-Quinn has taken no action to prevent Israeli weapons-producers from receiving subsidies.

As a result, companies that make Israel’s tools of occupation and apartheid will be able to benefit from Horizon 2020, the Union’s new multi-annual research scheme.

Spurious legitimacy

When academics cooperate with Israel, they lend its apartheid policies a veneer of respectability.

The task of critical intellectuals is to challenge the spurious legitimacy that some of our colleagues in universities have conferred on Israel and to expose the lies told by officialdom.

Our task is all the more important, considering that the Irish media has for the most part refused to investigate our country’s academic cooperation with Israel.

At our launch, Academics for Palestine presented a list of more than 140 Irish academics who support calls for a boycott of Israel.

This builds on a previous initiative some of us took during Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 2006, when more than 60 academics signed a letter to The Irish Times seeking a moratorium on EU funding for Israeli universities.

Last year the Teachers Union of Ireland, which represents university lecturers, also voted to support the academic boycott against Israel.

The academic boycott is a legal and peaceful way for Irish academics — and academics everywhere — to take action against the Israeli occupation.

Given Ireland’s own history of oppression, it is only natural that we should stand in solidarity with the Palestinians.

Conor McCarthy teaches English literature at the National University of Ireland in Maynooth, near Dublin.




Despite having a party policy of boycotting Caterpillar, Sinn Fein have defied that position in order to publicly support Caterpillar and rubber stamp a $2 million grant from the taxpayers to them. Martin McGuinness went one better and travelled to their factory and had this to say about them:

"Caterpillar is an important investor, not just in terms of jobs and wealth creation but also in the credibility that its presence lends to doing business here"

"This £7m investment supported by a range of assistance, from both Invest NI and the Department for Employment and Learning, will ensure that Caterpillar has the support it needs to fully realise its manufacturing potential within this key area,”

“The First Minister and I met with Senior Executives in Caterpillar as part of our trade mission to the US in October 2013. During this meeting we reinforced our commitment to work closely with Caterpillar to protect existing jobs and identify areas of possible expansion.

“This further investment by Caterpillar is good news for employees, the local economy and is a strong endorsement of what the north of Ireland has to offer. It confirms our position as an excellent investment location for global companies.”

Their MP for west Belfast, Paul Maskey also welcomed them with the following statement issued by the party:

“This is welcome news for West Belfast. The creation of jobs is always good news but especially so in this current economic climate."

This is a link to their party position on boycotting Caterpillar


There are not now nor have there ever been "peace" talks. Naseer H. Aruri in
his book THE DISHONEST BROKER.... (The South End Press,2003) makes this
perfectly clear.

The US can never be a "mediator" since it is a CO-BELLIGERENT with Israel..

The US does not have a so-called "special relationship" with Israel but obscenely calls Israel Israel its "ally". In US aid to Israel it enables repeated violations of
myriad international laws, assassinations, depopulation,home demolitions, walls aid through tax breaks of continued establishment of settlements ...

The line is not from the Israeli War of 1967, one more of Israel's wars of
conquest, but from 1947-1948 which both Israel and its co-belligerent
the US fail to recognize.

And the depopulation of 1948 continues today. The US speaks in a high volume
of annexation and violation of international law elsewhere in the world but
mysteriously sees...NOTHING AT ALL.. in Palestine. NOTHING !!

The reports of UN committees such as GA/PAL/1287 of March 5, 2014, now
also at the UN Security Council, will continue the previous extermination
policies of Israel/US.

(Even if there were a resolution, there would never be any implementation or
"consequences" ---the current buzz word--- and Israel and the US would
continue violating international law the name of "peace". And blame
any and all problems on Palestinians, the victims.)

How can the US assume that the rest of the world is so stupid as to view it
as a "mediator"? That is absurd !

---Peter Loeb, Boston, M, USA


A particular thanks to Frank's comment on Caterpillar in the comment above.
Frank must realize that his contribution of knowledge to all of us is of crucial

Peter Loeb