Students in Dublin City University (DCU) are set to vote on whether their Students’ Union should take a stance on supporting Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), a movement seeking to limit international support for Israel’s actions in Palestine.
Students will be asked to vote on whether Dublin City University Students’ Union (DCUSU) should “adopt a stance in active solidarity with Palestine by aligning the Union with the Palestinian call for BDS”.
The DCU branch of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) launched a campaign last November calling on DCUSU to hold a referendum on the matter. The group collected 500 students’ signatures on campus in order to raise support for the referendum.
Speaking to Trinity News, DCU SJP Chairperson, Stephanie O’Toole, stated: “This campaign can and should pass.”
“We want our Students’ Union to take steps to implement the demands of the Palestinian call for BDS,” said O’Toole. “But we also want to build a culture of solidarity with Palestine on campus and reach as many students as we can through means of education.”
SJP is a pro-Palestinian student activism organisation. SJP is aligned with the BDS movement, which campaigns for various forms of boycott against Israel, including the boycott of Israeli fruit and vegetables, bulldozer brand Caterpillar, and IT company Hewlett Packard. The BDS movement began in 2005.
O’Toole cited the Repeal campaign, the housing movement, and student support for nurses’ and midwives’ strikes as examples of students’ unions being at the “forefront” of Irish movements.
“Students’ unions everywhere have a duty, I believe, to stand up for what is right. Now more than ever we need to draw on the radical and progressive history of student organisations in taking a stand for the oppressed everywhere,” O’Toole stated.
The referendum is set to take place from March 5 to 7, in conjunction with the union’s sabbatical officer elections.
“If this passes, the Union would be mandated, among other actions, to lobby DCU to end ties with companies and institutions who are found to be complicit in occupation and apartheid,” O’Toole explained.
In 2018, Trinity students voted for Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) to support the BDS movement with a 64.5% majority, with 2,050 students voting in the referendum. TCDSU President, Shane De Rís, and Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) President, Oisín Vince Coulter, expressed their support for BDS at the time of the vote.
Speaking to Trinity News at the time, De Rís stated: “The Palestinian people have been suffering for far too long at the hands of the Israeli state and affiliated organisations, and students must stand with them and advocate for their liberation.” Vince Coulter added that Trinity and TCDSU had a “long and proud history of fighting apartheid”, referencing Trinity’s stance against apartheid in South Africa, noting that Trinity should “show solidarity again with the struggle of the Palestinian people for peace, justice, and human rights”.
Last August, Provost Patrick Prendergast sparked student opposition when he represented Trinity on an official trip to Israel, with an aim to “deepen engagement in the region”. Prendergast visited the region previously in 2015 when he signed a memorandum of understanding with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which is located in the occupied West Bank.