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April 10, 2018 6:30 pm

Irish Students Condemn Union’s Endorsement of Anti-Israel Boycotts

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Students present a BDS resolution at the Union of Students in Ireland. Photo: USI.

An Irish student group that seeks to raise awareness about Israel has come out against two resolutions adopted last week by Ireland’s largest students’ and teachers’ unions, which singled out the Jewish state for boycotts.

The motions — adopted by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) at their respective annual meetings — expressed support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign, which seeks to isolate Israel until it complies with Palestinian demands.

Daniel O’Dowd, a law student at Maynooth University and president of Irish Students for Israel, told The Algemeiner on Tuesday that the measures are “merely a continuation of the partisan stake the USI and INTO have taken in the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict.”

“For a nation now celebrating the 20-year anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, it seems we have forgotten how this agreement was forged and the principles underpinning its operation,” he said. “Alienation and boycott of one side is not a pathway to peace, rather it leads to the entrenchment of both sides.”

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“Contrary to some theories, peace doesn’t lie in the destruction of Israel,” O’Dowd said of the BDS campaign, which has been criticized for opposing the existence of a Jewish homeland in the Levant. “The fact that the Jewish state is the only state that the USI and INTO support the boycott of, is a worrying state of affairs.”

He pointed to a 2016 essay by former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, which identified the BDS campaign as “a front for the new antisemitism, an unholy alliance of radical Islamism and the political left.”

“Considering the prevalence of antisemitism in certain quarters of Irish society and in this nation historically,” O’Dowd argued, “the burden of proof lies on these organizations to justify their unique treatment of the Jewish state in comparison to rogue Arab states.”

“This unique treatment of the Jewish state by the USI and INTO is rooted in either willful ignorance or prejudice, neither of which is justifiable,” he said.

O’Dowd’s concerns over the USI and INTO’s apparent singling out of Israel were shared by Sara Epstein, a fellow officer at Irish Students for Israel, which is supported by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

“There is absolutely no justification for boycotting the only Jewish State in the world,” she said, noting that other Middle Eastern nations — which have been accused of egregious human rights violations — have nonetheless received no condemnation from the Irish students’ and teachers’ unions.

“The USI and INTO have no appreciation of what the State of Israel represents, and they don’t seem to care,” Epstein observed. “They are essentially saying any ethnic denomination can have a State — except the Jews.”

She criticized the USI for adopting a BDS resolution while failing to effectively tackle issues of relevance to Irish students, including “rising rent prices, costs of university and the tough job market facing graduates.”

“As for the INTO, surely the procuring of adequate pay for its members should be their primary concern, rather than a centuries old conflict which they know nothing about,” Epstein asserted.

Both students agreed that the fundamental narrative promoted by BDS advocates would need to be publicly challenged before there could be perceptible change in Irish attitudes toward Israel and its conflict with the Palestinians.

Current Irish sympathies toward Palestinians are often “rooted in psuedo-equations of the Irish struggle for self-determination with that supposed struggle for independence of the Palestinians,” O’Dowd said.

He contended that conversely, it is the Jewish and Irish struggles for autonomy that “are remarkably similar.”

“They both fought to throw off the yoke of the British Empire, they both underwent centuries of religious, cultural and systematic persecution — the Irish at the hands of the British, the Jews at the hands of the Romans, Crusaders, Arabs,” O’Dowd reflected.

The two nations similarly experienced “the dispersion of their peoples, the [need] for armed resistance and struggle, and the struggle to preserve this new-found independence — the Irish in facing economic uncertainty and the Israelis facing several wars seeking to destroy the state itself,” he continued. “If we as Zionists and pro-Israel activists wish to challenge the status quo here in Ireland, here is where we must do battle.”

Representatives for USI and INTO did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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