SJP submits petition for TCDSU referendum on Israeli boycott

The Electoral Commission may a date for the referendum

The Trinity Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) group handed in a petition calling for a referendum on Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU)’s support of a College-wide boycott of Israel on “anti-apartheid” grounds today.

The group gathered approximately 1,200 signatures, exceeding the 500 quota. In a statement to Trinity News, the group stated that the “signatures were collected over several days in December on stalls around campus”.

The petition is calling upon TCDSU to “support and endorse the global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement,” and to “comply” with the “principles of BDS in all Student Union shops, trade, business and other Union operations”. In addition, the petition is looking for the establishment of a “BDS implementation group open to all members of the union that will ensure compliance” with the movement, and to “lobby government and relevant external organisations to support BDS and the Palestinian anti-apartheid cause”.

The petition aims for the Union to “campaign and lobby College to adopt BDS” by means of a “total boycott of the State of Israel”. This includes “cultural, academic and economic” boycott, as well as “divestment of college funds from Israeli and other companies listed on the BDS Divestment List. Divestment should also involve termination of contracts with companies complicit in Israel’s violations of international law, the occupation of Palestinian Territories and/or violations of the Human Rights of Palestinians”.

In the statement, SJP said :“The remarkably positive response we’ve received from classmates and students at large is testament to the relevance of BDS as a student issue. In the last two years we’ve seen two similar campaigns launched and supported by the SU, Fossil Free TCD and the Boycott Aramark campaign. The successes of these campaigns goes to show that Trinity students care about ‘big issues’ and are not afraid to act to effect change in line with our passionately held beliefs, both within College and beyond. We believe that the drive for BDS will prove this point once more.”

The group highlight Trinity’s “extensive research collaboration” with Israeli institutions and the “Israeli Military-Industrial Complex”. College also has academic links with the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Weizman Institute for Science. College has invested €344,995 in BAE Systems, the third largest military contractor in the world. The group state that the company is “a major provider of military technology to Israel”.

“Trinity students bravely joined a fledgling campaign to boycott apartheid South Africa” in the 1980’s, the group noted. “The students secured an institution-wide academic, economic and cultural boycott of South Africa until the end of Apartheid. This brave stand, along with the famous Dunnes Stores strike were the start of a domino process that grew a formidable international campaign that complemented the efforts of the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. Today House 6 is officially named Mandela House, a permanent memorial of the last brave stance taken in Trinity against Apartheid.”

Concluding the statement, SJP said: “We look forward to starting a productive dialogue on campus, convincing people and delivering a strong statement of our solidarity during this referendum campaign, echoing the proud anti-apartheid tradition of our union and university. Free Palestine!”

On April 4  last year, a motion was brought to Student Council seeking TCDSU to support a boycott of the state. The motion called TCDSU to “inform students on the background to the situation in Israel and Palestine,” as well as setting up a student led Palestinian solidarity group. The motion sought the Union to lobby for “the divestment of university funds from Israel”.

During last year’s TCDSU elections, then-presidential candidate Kevin Keane pledged his support to the campaign and “for non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel on human rights grounds. To advocate the full academic and economic boycott of Israel by Trinity College Dublin, in accordance with guidelines laid out by the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott and the global BDS movement”. However, following his election, Keane spoke against the motion when it was brought to Council. The motion was defeated.

In April last year, SJP were fined €150 following their protest of a talk, organised by the Society for International Affairs (SoFIA), given by the Israeli ambassador to Ireland, Ze’ev Boker. Approximately 30 SJP protesters prevented the question and answer session with Boker from taking place.

Seana Davis

Seana Davis is a fourth year Geology student and News Editor of Trinity News.