LONDON – The Irish trade union that adopted a boycott of Israel earlier this month did so without any debate or discussion, one of its officials told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) become the first educational trade union in Europe to adopt a boycott of Israeli academia.
At its annual conference on April 4, it voted to endorse a call by Palestinian activists for a boycott of the Jewish state, “including the exchange of scientists, students and academic personalities, as well as all cooperation in research programs.”
The boycott motion was one of four – submitted months before the three-day conference – that made up the “Miscellaneous” section of the gathering’s final day. Typically this section allots very little time to debate the finer details of a motion, and the first two motions – which looked at opposition to a new property tax and the funding of political parties in Ireland – took up all the allotted time, leaving none for the other two.
The boycott motion was third on the list.
After an impassioned plea by the proposer of the fourth motion – which dealt with the degenerative disease muscular dystrophy – it was decided that both motions should be discussed.
However, on Thursday, Annette Dolan, TUI’s deputy general secretary, told the Post that the boycott had not been debated at all and that there had only been time for the proposer and seconder of the motion to speak before the union voted on it.
“Had it not been for the muscular dystrophy motion, it would not have been raised at all,” she said.
Alex Bjarnason, from the London-based Trade Union Friends of Israel, said they were concerned by the lack of debate on the issue.
"TUFI are disappointed by the TUI call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. We are concerned about the lack of debate and think it is important that all sides are heard within democratic institutions, particularly on an issue as important as this.
“International trade unions have an important role to play in helping to improve cooperation and build bridges between Israeli and Palestinian trade unions. We have a responsibility to help our sister unions and promote positive initiatives rather than boycotts that are one-sided and polarising.”
The one who raised the boycott motion was Jim Roche, a lecturer at the Dublin Institute of Technology and a member of the fringe groups Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) and Gaza Action. TUI vice president Gerry Quinn seconded the motion.
The proposal also called 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.”
Speaking after the vote, Roche referred to BDS as “a noble non-violent method of resisting Israeli militarism, occupation and apartheid,” and said there was “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.”
Dolan said the motion still needed approval from the union’s executive committee, which will meet on Friday.
She also affirmed the union’s “strong commitment” to anti-racism, and said the TUI supported National Holocaust Memorial Day every year. She added that the union was “open and willing” to speak with representatives from the Israeli side.
Roche did not comment on the matter by press time.