Student Congress votes for national mandate and calls for greater sanctions against Israel

USI to denounce apartheid committed by Israel.

by Rose Barrett
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Last week, the Union of Students Ireland (USI) voted for a national BDS mandate during its annual Congress which was hosted from April 3- 6.

The motion “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” was drafted in collaboration with the USI Vice-President for the Dublin Region Sierra Müller Owens, and was brought to Congress on behalf of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) under the delegation of President Fabi Fullam against Israel group (TCD BDS).

Congress is USI’s main policy-making body and is tasked to debate various motions that are submitted on behalf of Students’ Unions in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. 

Following the motion being passed, Zaid Al-Barghouthi says “This is something that we, as a student organization, are proud to see. One must recognize that this is only setting the tone for further policies, actions and relations the Union for Students in Ireland has.

“In the general sense, this motion resembles the BDS approach, that is, depriving the apartheid state of Israel from the institutional support it usually receives. 

“The student body has mobilized multiple times, asking the Irish government and the wider international community to apply sanctions against Israel in line with sanctions applied against other actors that are complicit in war crimes such as Russia.

“The sanctions against Israel students have called for include the Occupied Territories Bill, tabled for years at the Oireachtas, and various calls on the European Commission to end trade with Israeli settlements that still illegally exist under international law” he noted.

“The motion comes at a time where the three religious groups in Palestine observe and celebrate Ramadan, Easter and Passover. Actions taken by occupation forces make this holy time witness to widespread increase in collective punishment, provocation and war crimes of the highest grades.

“The knock on the international community’s door by the tens of thousands of Palestinians losing their lives remains unanswered. The USI is now mandated to demand that Palestinians have the same rights as the rest of the world and will not stop until this is justly achieved.”

Following the motion being passed, László Molnárfi says “In an age where social justice advocates for the Palestinian cause are increasingly persecuted in the media like what we have seen with Jeremy Corbyn, it is ever more important as the Irish student movement to reaffirm our opposition to Israeli apartheid.

“Israeli apartheid commits human rights violations against Palestinian men, women and children every day, including killings, deprivation of basic necessities of life and living in constant fear of forced expulsion to make way for more settlements.

“The persecution and witch hunt of activists in the media due to strong Zionist lobbies is not far from home and I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the unfair dismissal of Shaima Dallali from the National Union of Students (NUS) on false accusations of Anti-Semitism. It is also important because Irish third-level institutions are deeply complicit in Israeli apartheid, for example via partnerships, investments and inviting Israeli officials onto campuses, so it is crucial that the Union of Students Ireland took a committed stance in favour of the Palestinian cause of justice.” 

The motion mandates the USI to follow BDS principles in all of its dealings, and mandates the USI to denounce apartheid committed by Israel. This includes supporting local BDS branches in third-level institutions and to establish a toolkit to aid in the establishment of local BDS branches. Furthermore, calls on the USI Executive to call on the European Students Union (ESU) to re-consider Israel’s membership of the union, and to encourage Palestinian efforts to engage with the ESU.

The motion also mandates the USI to sever ties with Israeli companies, organizations and entities complicit in Israeli apartheid.

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