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Boycott Calls Against Israel
The BDS Movement Marches On
Editorial Note: 
A recent debate among policy makers and academic experts wrestled with the issue of assessing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the West. Assessing the impact of such an amorphous and multilayered phenomenon is never easy.  Most observers rightly argue that, in spite of years of agitations and an enormous financial input by Arab states, the BDS has made little impact on the economy of the State of Israel and its international relations.  They note that Israel today is much less isolated and indeed, its extensive network of diplomatic relations has never been stronger. 
The one caveat to this assessment pertains to the academy.  It should be noted that the BDS originated on the campus as a result of an alliance between Palestinian and Muslim groups and left-wing faculty for whom the Israeli-Palestinian conflict became the new fulcrum of activity following the end of the Vietnam War and the collapse of Communism.
Of late, the normally neutral Australian campus has entertained such notions. IAM reported that Jake Lynch a professor at Sidney University and an unabashed backer of BDS has launched a nation-wide campaign aimed at cutting contacts with  academic institutions such as the Technion and Tel Aviv University. 

Here are some recent campus developments:  

The student body at the University of California recently voted in support of divestment from companies that have business relations with Israel.  

The union of Irish faculty (see below) has joined its British colleagues in calling for a cultural boycott of Israel. 

Afflicted with cancer and not expected to survive much longer,  the British novelist Iain Banks urged to impose a cultural boycott on Israel because to this would matter to its self-esteem: "Feeling increasingly isolated, Israel is all the more vulnerable to further evidence that it, in turn, like the racist South African regime it once supported and collaborated with, is increasingly regarded as an outlaw state."  
In a recent move, Canada's York University’s Federation of Students decided to join BDS which also claims support of graduate students unions at York, Concordia University, the University of Regina and the University of Toronto. 

Clackmannanshire, a small council in Scotland recently resolved that “Clackmannanshire Council condemns the Government of Israel for its continuing illegal occupation of Palestine’s East Jerusalem and the West Bank and for its continuing illegal blockade of Gaza....Just as individual sanctions against apartheid in South Africa led ultimately to its demise there, so individual and collection sanctions against the state of Israel will end apartheid and suffering in Palestine. Clackmannanshire Council therefore resolves to resist, insofar as legislative considerations permit, any action that gives political or economic support to the State of Israel.”

Since universities educate the next generation of leaders, exposure to a one-sided "narrative" of the conflict is bound to influence their view on the issue.   The BDS events, including Israeli Apartheid Week and open forums condemning Israel expand the reach of the "narrative" beyond students who attend courses on the Middle East- a field notoriously politicized by radical leftist faculty and/or instructors who hail from the Middle East.  

Jewish students and faculty who try to stand up to the BDS often find themselves in the unhappy position of defending Israel before belligerent campus crowds.  Many, unwilling to pay the cost, withdraw from the arena.  Studies indicate that the Israeli problematique affects the identity of younger Jewish cohorts in several ways, most notably by loosening the once strong ties of affinity between Diaspora Jews and Israel.   

The BDS movement has also imposed a heavy burden on the local Jewish community and the diplomatic service of the State of Israel as each of the numerous campus BDS events has  to be responded to.  Israeli diplomats had a particularly hard time presenting their case, requiring  local Jewish  activist to engage  in remedial actions such as petitioning campus administration or mounting  legal challenges.  In a first of its kind, Kenneth Marcus founded the Louis D. Brandeis Center (LBC) for Human Rights Under the Law that advocates for the civil and human rights for the Jewish people.  The LBC has launched an extensive legal outreach to Jewish students and faculty and has been involved in litigation arising out of particularly offensive cases of BDS activity.
While quite successful, such efforts drain the limited resources of pro-Israel advocates that could have been used to create a more realistic and positive picture of Israel.


Teachers Union of Ireland calls for Academic Boycott of Israel in unanimous vote; first academic union in Europe to do so


At its Annual Congress on Thursday 4th April 2013, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) became the first academic union in Europe to endorse the Palestinian call for an academic boycott of Israel. The motion, which refers to Israel as an “apartheid state”, calls for “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” was passed by a unanimous vote during today’s morning session.

The motion further calls on the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to “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”, and on the TUI to conduct an awareness campaign amongst members on the need for BDS. The motion was a composite motion proposed by the TUI Executive Committee and TUI Dublin Colleges Branch. It was presented by Jim Roche, a lecturer in the DIT School of Architecture and member of the TUI Dublin Colleges Union branch, and seconded by Gerry Quinn, Vice President of the TUI.

Speaking after the successful passage of the motion, Jim Roche said: “I am very pleased that this motion was passed with such support by TUI members, especially coming the day after Israeli occupation forces shot and killed two Palestinian teenagers in the West Bank yesterday. BDS is a noble non-violent method of resisting Israeli militarism, occupation and apartheid, and there is no question that Israel is implementing apartheid policies against the Palestinians. Indeed, many veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa have said that it’s worse than what was experienced there.”

Mr. Roche pointed to the desperate situation of Palestinian education under occupation saying that: “Palestinians are struggling for the right to education under extremely difficult conditions. They are eager for it, as shown by the large numbers of students in third level education inside and outside the occupied Palestinian territories. Education has always been a target of the Israeli occupation, seeing forced closures of universities, disruption under checkpoint, closure and curfew regimes, and arrests, beatings and killing of both students and teachers. Sometimes, such as during the 2008-09 attack on Gaza, educational institutions have been militarily attacked. In fact I have just returned from a solidarity visit to Gaza where I had the opportunity to hear first-hand from Palestinian educators and students about their difficulties. The unanimous passage of this motion that shows that the Palestinian struggle for freedom, of which academic freedom is a key part, resonates with TUI members and sends a strong message of solidarity to their counterparts in Palestine”

Mr. Roche concluded: “We proposed this motion as we believe that, as with South Africa, the trade union movement has a vital role to play in helping apply pressure to end Israeli apartheid and occupation. I am proud that the TUI has taken a clear stand, and now support a full academic boycott of Israel in line with the Palestinian call for BDS”.

Dr. David Landy, a member of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign and founder member of Academics for Palestine welcomed the motion saying: “This is an historic precedent, being the first such motion in Europe to explicitly call for an academic boycott of Israel. We congratulate the TUI and call on all Irish, British and European academic unions to move similar motions. 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. Ironically, those that will jump to complain about this motion will have no words of condemnation for the de facto boycott imposed on Palestinian education by Israel, nor for its continuing attacks on Palestinian education, students and educators”.



The TUI Motion in full reads:

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)

The Palestinian Call for a Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel can be read here:

Jim Roche is a lecturer in DIT School of Architecture and a member of the TUI Dublin Colleges Branch He is also PRO of the Irish Anti-War Movement and a member of both the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Gaza Action Ireland.

David Landy is a lecturer in the TCD Department of Sociology, a member of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign national committee and a founder member of Academics for Palestine

Posted April 4, 2013

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