Two Irish Parliamentarians Oppose Israel Boycott by Teachers Union Ireland
Members of Irish Parliament, Joanna Tuffy (Labour) and Charlie Flanagan (Fine Gael) have both said publicly that they oppose the recent motion by the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) to boycott Israel.
At its annual congress during Easter week, the Irish union passed motion #241, which says that:
The Teachers Union of Ireland demand that Irish Congress of Trade Unions (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.
While the ICTU has called for a boycott of Israel since 2009, TUI is the first academic union in Europe to do so.
Flanagan, who sits in the Dail, told 5MFI that “I don’t agree with TUI Motion.” At a meeting this month of the Belfast Council of Christians and Jews, Tuffy rejected the TUI motion. Both Flanagan and Tuffy are known as publicly supporting Israel, a minority position in primary chamber of Ireland’s Parliament.
For people who earn their living from public speaking, TUI’s leadership and its 14,500 members have been surprisingly reticent since the passage of the motion. In response to a phone call at TUI’s Dublin headquarters, the secretary said there was no one available to comment. No announcement was made on the TUI website or TUI-approved social media. No interviews have been granted. No mention has been made of how many delegates voted on the motion. No explanation about the way the vote was conducted or if the TUI members had a chance to consider the boycott measure in advance.
TUI’s union handbook discusses the details of its voting procedure for such measures, saying that “17. (i) All motions of Branches, the Executive Committee or the Security Fund Committee shall be submitted to the General Secretary fourteen (14) weeks before Easter. The motions will then be submitted to the Standing Orders Committee for co-ordination where possible.” There is no evidence that this measure was passed according to the rules.
TUI seems unclear about what or who it is boycotting. Israeli professor Haim Beresheet has been invited to speak at the Dublin Institute of Technology and to explain why the boycott against Israel is a good idea. This invitation would seem to be a violation of the boycott against Israeli academics. Perhaps the boycott is only against Israelis who support their country?
TUI’s motion is not likely to have any real effect because it is illegal in Ireland to discriminate on the basis of religion, race or nationality. There is no effective way for it to be enforced. Student exchanges between the two countries have also been banned, but if they take place perhaps the TUI could sanction their members. Beyond that, it appears there is nothing they can do except spread baseless hatred of Israel.
David Landy is a lecturer at Trinity College Dublin who pushed the boycott measure on the agenda. He is also a member of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, a small but vocal group that pushes for a total cultural, academic and political boycott of Israel in the European Union.
The second academic who introduced the boycott measure at the TUI meeting is Jim Roche of Dublin Institute of Technology, a second-tier school in the Irish capital. For his efforts, he was awarded a prize from the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem.
The caption appearing with the published photo states that “Archbishop Theodosius Hanna of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem presented tokens of appreciation on behalf of the Palestinian people to: – Jim Roche of the TUI for the successful academic boycott motion at the annual conference of the TUI – Martin Quigley, accepting on behalf of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign for their work in promoting Palestinian rights – Dr Bassem Naser as the leader for the Palestinian community here in Ireland. Archbishop Hanna is part of the delegation of Church representatives from Palestine that includes Rev Dr Naim Stifan Ateek, Canon Emeritus of St George’s Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem and Fr Peter Madros of the Latin (Roman Catholic) Patriarchate of Jerusalem.”