Student activists demonstrate solidarity with Palestine

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Photo by Ciarán O’Rourke, Trinity College Apartheid Free Campus Campaign.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine was brought to the forefront of public consciousness again last summer when Israel launched an offensive on the 8th of July. Increased rocket fire into Israeli territory by Hamas sparked the reaction, which in turn was due to a crackdown on Hamas by Israel, after the disappearances and deaths of three Israeli teenagers.

The scenes of destruction and high civilian casualty rates saw strong reactions worldwide. For founders of the Trinity College Apartheid Free Campus Campaign, this has meant highlighting and protesting what they see as a compliance of Irish academic institutions in the academic oppression of Palestinians. Ciarán O’Rourke, a founder of the movement adds that the issue goes beyond the subject of the occupation itself, saying, ‘The point is to get as large a number and as wide a cross-section of staff and students on-board as possible – whether it is through the petition, through events like the poetry reading, or on social media. The whole idea is to make some noise and speak our minds about the standards that Irish universities should respect and adhere to, so the more people involved, the more people adding their voices to the campaign, the better.’

The group object in particular to associations between Trinity College and Elbit Systems, The Israeli Security and Counter Terrorism Academy, as well as between the college and the Weizmann Institute of Science. An online petition to the Board of TCD has 450 of the intended 500 signatures and before Christmas the Graduate Student’s Union passed a majority vote supporting the campaign.

In response to my question about whether the group has connected with other university opposition groups, O’Rourke says that ‘Lots of groups have been in touch, and have been stating their support for the TCD Campaign, which is great. The TCD Campaign is distinct from other similar campaigns, however, in not calling for boycott, divestment, and sanctions of Israel per se. We’ve kept this in mind when thinking about direct collaboration with pro-Palestinian groups elsewhere in Ireland, whose work we admire and in many ways follow from.

The ‘Apartheid-Free’ theme, though, is precise in advocating for a condemnation of apartheid crimes, and for a severance of research ties with institutions that contribute to their continuance. Under the terms of the TCD Campaign, Trinity could still collaborate with an institution in Israel such as the human rights organisation B’Tselem without breaking its standards of ‘apartheid-free’ research.’
TCD Apartheid Free Campus campaign is organising a Poetry for Peace reading on March 12th and on Tuesday March 10th, in a non-related event, TCD academic Elaine Bradley will give an eyewitness account of the eight months she spent in Gaza and the West Bank at 7pm in Cassidy’s Hotel on Parnell Square.

By Sinéad Fitzgerald

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