In January of this year, in the tiny Irish town of Cahersiveen, teachers of
impressionable teenagers led them into the streets with placards reading “Free
Palestine.” Post-Christmas, these schoolchildren were still wearing their red
and white Christmas hats. Symbolically, it had become a religious thing to save
When asked who they were freeing Palestine from, a trio
of bright young faces answered, “From the Jews.”
Such is the level of
education in that beautiful little town.
They had been taught they were
on a charitable mission to raise money to plant olive trees.
if they were sure their money would not go to fund Palestinian terrorists their
shocking answer was, “What have they done to you? They are only against Jews.
Jews are evil.”
They did not know the questioner was Sarah Honig, an
Israeli Jew, and a journalist with The Jerusalem Post, who has experienced
Palestinian terrorism personally.
In March, the Irish Teachers Union
imposed a boycott on Israel. Irish teachers can no longer have contact with
their Israeli counterparts. As with the teachers of Cahersiveen, their actions
were motivated by a perverted form of altruism.
So let me raise this
suggestion: If Irish teachers wish to encourage their students to boycott
Israel, they should lead by personal example.
May I suggest all Irish
teachers throw away their computers, Apple apps and cell phones – all operate by
virtue of an Israeli educational system that not only nurtures the free flow of
ideas, including expression across the wide spectrum of political opinion,
teaches individual and collective initiative and innovation that gives the world
the wonders of our age, as well as the universal benefits in science, medicine
and agriculture that is turning back starvation and disease.
communication equipment, with which they teach and relate to the outside world,
operates with Israeli ingenuity, a result of our teaching profession. So come on
Irish teachers, show your students your commitment to your cause. Trash your
computers and phones, lest you be called a hypocrite.
If it’s teaching
that the boycott is all about, then Irish teachers are advised to examine a
Palestinian educational system that teaches children to hate Jews. Echoes of
this seem to have reached Cahersiveen. It also teaches young minds to turn to
violence, that Israel has no right to exist, and the falsehood of a Palestinian
This is what the TUI is supporting.
leadership stifles opposing voices of protest. They imprison teachers and
journalists who challenge the corrupt, violent and failing Palestinian
leadership whose rejection of Israel leaves Palestinian Arabs with little hope
of political progress.
Now the TUI joins them in stifling the ability of
Irish teachers to reach out to their Israeli partners.
They did so
without allowing debate or an opposing voice. It was proposed and seconded
without delay. Is this the way that teachers practice democracy in Ireland? This
is not the free exchange of thought and expression. This is the closing of the
academic mind in Ireland.
Once you announce to the world, as did the TUI,
that you stop dialogue, that you dogmatically come down on one side of an
argument, you cease to be a scholar or teacher. An academic union that denies
other academics causes more damage to itself than those it will not communicate
When it is applied against the teachers of one nation, and one
nation only, turning the Jewish State of Israel into a nation of pariah
teachers, it exposes the manipulation of those that impose the
Israel will continue to prosper with its free exchange of ideas
despite the TUI ruling. The true victim is the reputation of Ireland as an
open-minded and enlightened society. It has taken a backward step. It has done
so because their leading teachers’ union has been hijacked by people of
unthinking and unreasonable extremism.
This Irish boycott is a
double-edged sword. It is not only meant to isolate Israel, but also to
manipulate public opinion against Israel. Their boycott proposal was dressed up
in the language of lies, half-truths and disinformation, as are most anti-Israel
campaigns. If we are to reclaim the legitimization of Israel, the disinformation
and false narrative of those who act to harm Israel must be
The adoption of the Irish boycott is a further act against
Israel, namely dehumanization. To attempt to remove Israel from the academic
world is also to make it fair game for all sorts of incitement and violence; by
designating it as a legitimate target for legal recourse and abuse, the TUI has
acted to dehumanize Israel on fallacious grounds. Just as we heard the evil
anti- Semitic words coming out of naïve teenage mouths in Cahersiveen, so we
must ask: what is behind this biased act that was steamrolled into acceptance by
the TUI? As Joel Fishman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs pointed out
in his “The Relegitimization of Israel and the Battle for the Mainstream
Consensus,” there is real danger of a link between dehumanization and actual
The Irish teachers’ boycott is the antithesis of peace between
Israelis and Palestinians, and those that placed the boycott proposal before the
membership of TUI know this to be true.
The late Ehud Sprinzak, a past
associate professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, described
delegitimization as a process involving manipulation where an accepted political
entity that is recognized as having the right to exist, is transformed into an
unacceptable entity without such a right. This political entity is not only seen
as misguided and wrong, but undeserving of existence.
Sprinzak said, “The
loss of legitimacy effectively means the loss of the right to speak or debate in
certain forums.... At best, they will be indulged as members of a sub-human
Can anyone doubt after hearing the words of young
schoolchildren in a tiny Irish town that this is not happening in Ireland, or
that this was not the intention of the Irish Teachers Union? Noted jurist
Anthony Julius wrote in his book Trials of the Diaspora, “The boycotted person
(or state) is pushed away by the ‘general horror and common hate.’ It is a
denial, among other things, of the boycotted person’s freedom of expression. To
limit or deny self-expression is thus an attack at the root of what it is to be
Boycotting is thus an activity especially susceptible to
hypocrisy. It implies moral judgments both on the boycotted and the
When seen through the prism of what is taught in Israeli and
in Palestinian schools, can anyone doubt that there is hypocrisy at play in
Ireland? When the Irish Teachers Union picks out one set of teachers and loathes
them above all others, when it simplifies politics and history to fit a biased
ideology of victim and oppressor, or imposes a twisted view of good and evil on
events that defy such categorization, academic thinking has been abandoned. As
such, such actions should have no place in any academic union purporting to
represent scholars and teachers.
In the end, it is not about Israel at
all. It is the way they practice free thought in Ireland. It is about the idea
and concept of academia and those who think differently to you. It is about a
voice that desires to be heard but has been blocked out by closed ears, ears
that refuse to listen to reason.
It is the closing of the academic mind
The author is the special consultant on delegimitization
issues to The Strategic Dialogue Center at the Netanya Academic College. He is
also the author of Israel: Reclaiming the