Unite With Palestine, a “direct-action group committed to ending Ireland’s complicity” in Israeli affairs, yesterday joined with the Trinity Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign and Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) to protest against the organisation of flights between Dublin and Tel Aviv.
In a statement to Trinity News, TCDSU President László Molnárfi said that he is “opposing Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinians through direct action”, stating that “the new flight route is a symbolic target, because Israeli citizens can easily travel to Europe, whereas Palestinians’ freedom of movement is severely curtailed by authorities”.
He concluded by promising: “The student movement will continue to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian liberation movement.”
The coalition plans to protest “every Sunday at 6:30PM until the flight route is shut down”. Currently, only one airline operates direct flights between Dublin and Tel Aviv, EL AL, which is Israel’s national airline.
Zaid Al-Barghouthi, former chair of Trinity BDS and current Vice President for Campaigns for the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), said that EL AL is both “an active testament to the apartheid State of Israel” and “an active arm of the regime and of the Israeli Occupation Forces”.
Planes in EL AL’s fleet have been equipped with anti-missile systems since the early 2000s, and the airline has been named “the world’s most secure” by Global Traveler magazine.
He continued by recounting instances “of invasive strop searched as part of the screening for travelling to Palestine”. He echoed Molnárfi through the sentiment that “until Palestinians are able to […] not be subjected to differential discriminatory treatment, we will be supporting the campaign and the wider BDS movement”.
EL AL was brought to the Supreme Court of Israel on the basis that it was discriminating against ethnically Arab passengers, subjecting them to increased security measures. The Israeli government defended the airline by stating that “it could not completely change [this practice] without heavily burdening all travellers”.
There have been multiple accounts of women being harassed on EL AL planes, particularly a number of cases of ultra-orthodox Jewish men refusing to sit next to women. After a string of petitions, protests, and work by activist groups, the company decided to “immediately” remove passengers who refuse to sit next to somebody on the basis of race, gender, or religion. This action was prompted by an incident in which a woman was moved from her seat next to a man in New York’s JFK Airport.
Tracing its origins to 2001, the BDS Movement is a “global movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world” that “works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians”.
In 2021, the Dáil became the first of its European counterparts to condemn illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney labelling it as “de facto annexation”. In 2018, Dublin became the first European capital city to officially take up a pro-BDS stance in business dealings.
The BDS movement states that “Israel maintains a regime of settler colonialism, apartheid, and occupation over the Palestinian people”. Francesca Albanese, a UN expert on Palestine, concluded her report on human rights in the region with: “Israeli endeavours in the occupied Palestinian territory are indistinguishable from settler-colonialism”.
Amnesty International stated in a 2022 publication that the actions of the Israeli state towards Palestinian people “amount to apartheid as prohibited in international law”. It recognised “systems of institutionalised segregation and discrimination”, ranging from civilian administration to military and government projects that “are involved in the enforcement of a system of apartheid”.
In 2022, 204 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), the majority of them, 125 people, being civilians. In the same year, 3 IDF soldiers were killed.
Trinity BDS attended the demonstration stating that “Palestinians (except those from East Jerusalem) are prohibited from flying” the newly established flight route “as they are forbidden from using Israel’s airports”. They also said: “Israel destroyed Palestine’s two airports in 2001 – one in the West Bank, another in Gaza, and prohibit them from rebuilding”.
They also said that “the Irish government should halt any relationship with a state that commits such crimes against humanity. We must all demand an end to Ireland’s complicity, through direct-action, and the principles of Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions which aims to pressure Israel to end the brutal occupation and comply with international law”.
They conclude with a focus on College itself: “We remain aware that Trinity College Dublin still retains connections with 15 Israeli institutions, some of which are involved in arms manufacturing. Trinity BDS calls on Trinity to cut all ties with the institutions and enact a policy of BDS and non-cooperation with Israel College-wide.”