The campaign for an academic boycott of Israel is gathering momentum after a petition started by a pro-Palestinian group, Academics for Palestine, garnered over 170 signatures from teaching staff at third level institutions both north and south of the border on Friday.
In a statement, Academics for Palestine (AfP) described Israel’s actions in recent weeks as “an attack on education itself”, pointing to UN figures that suggest its bombardment of the Gaza Strip has resulted in the damage or destruction of 141 schools, including four nurseries.
10 Trinity academics – Dr Ciaran Cosgrave from the Department of Hispanic Studies; Dr Cormac Deane from the Department of Film; Dr David Landy, Dr Barbara Bradby, Dr Mark Ward, Dr Andrew Finlay, and Dr Ronit Lentin from the Department of Sociology; as well as Dr Iain Atack, Dr Jude Lal Fernando , and Dr Bill McSweeney from the Irish School of Ecumenics – are among the signatories of the boycott pledge.
Ireland’s universities have a long history of co-operation with their Israeli counterparts and to date the two countries have jointly collaborated on 257 projects, of which seven were deemed “security” related and a further 13 of which were categorised as “aerospace”.
As previously reported by Trinity News, several of these projects are known to have channelled EU research grants into the development of drones and “counter-terrorist” weaponry, a number of which were supervised by Ireland’s current EU Commissioner, former Fianna Fáil Cabinet Minister, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.
Academics from Trinity College are known to be working with both drone manufacturers Elbit Security Systems and Israel’s notorious International Security and Counter-Terrorism Academy. In addition, Trinity’s Biomedical Sciences Institute maintains a strong partnership with the Weizmann Institute of Science which is known to have been used to further Israel’s nuclear weapons programme.
The University of Limerick is also known to have assisted in the development of surveillance and security for Israel’s West Bank Barrier, the so-called Separation Wall, judged illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004 but which remains standing to this day.
In response to claims that calls for boycott constitute censorship, Dr Ghada Karmi, a Palestinian lecturer in medicine at the University of Exeter, pointed to “Israel’s well-documented repression of Palestinian academic life and victimisation of Palestinian teachers and students is a scandal to be denounced by all those who claim to care about academic freedom.”
She insisted, “Irish academics have to examine their consciousness and ask themselves if they are happy to collaborate with Israeli institutions they are complicit in this kind of oppression.”
Public demand for a boycott of Israel is not new in Ireland. As recently as 2012, in response to such calls, Nurit Tinari-Modaik, the Deputy Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, proposed a plan to smear pro-Palestinian activists by calling into question sexuality and suggesting that they were in fact double agents working for the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad.
In an Embassy leak. she suggested that “pro-Palestinian activists are motivated by problems in sexual orientation,” before suggesting that, “You have to hurt their soft underbelly, publish their pictures, with the hopes of local activists understanding that they might actually be working on behalf of the Mossad.”
The Israeli Embassy were contacted for comment but had not replied at the time of writing.
Photo: AfP meeting in Trinity College on February 20 (Catherine Healy)