LONDON – The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has become the first educational trade union in Europe to adopt a boycott of Israeli academia.

At its annual congress last week, the TUI voted unanimously to endorse Palestinian activists call for an academic boycott of the Jewish state, “including the exchange of scientists, students and academic personalities, as well as all cooperation in research programs.”

It also calls on the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, to “step up its campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions 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.”

The motion was raised by Jim Roche, a lecturer at the Dublin Institute of Technology and member of the fringe groups Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) and Gaza Action, and seconded by the vice-president of the TUI Gerry Quinn.

“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 antiapartheid struggle in South Africa have said that it’s worse than what was experienced there,” said Roche, who visited Gaza recently.

David Landy, a lecturer at Trinity College Dublin, member of the radical IPSC and founder of Academics for Palestine, called on other unions to follow suit.

“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.”

He said it was “nonsense” that boycotts stifle academic principles.

“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,” Landy said.

The motion also instructs the executive committee of the union to conduct an awareness campaign amongst TUI members on the need for a full boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

The TUI represents teachers and lecturers across Ireland and has 14,500 members. It has declined to comment.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Monday, Maurice Cohen, chair of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland, said: “The Irish Jewish Community knows that while there are many fine people throughout the TUI and across the Irish teaching profession, it would appear, however, that some of its members have been unwittingly manipulated by a tiny number of activists who are pursuing other agendas in line with their own view of the world.”

Stephen Scott, director of the London-based Trade Union Friends of Israel, told the Post: “The move by the TUI to boycott Israeli teachers and lecturers is a regressive step that will not enhance the chance for peace or reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

“Surely as trade unionists they should be seeking peace through dialogue and exchange between educationalists on both sides,” he added.

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