DCU to hold referendum on solidarity with Palestine

Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque

DCU Students’ Union could have to advocate for a boycott of imported goods from Israeli settlements in Palestine due to an upcoming referendum.

DCU Students for Justice in Palestine society (SJP) successfully campaigned to hold the referendum. Voting will take place between March 5th – 7th.

The exact wording of what students will be asked is: “Do you think DCU SU should adopt a stance in active solidarity with Palestine by aligning the Union with the Palestinian call for BDS?” Students in favour of the motion should vote yes, while those who are opposed should vote no.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement seeks to place international pressure on Israel to advance the rights of Palestinians.

According to the BDS Movement website, they have three main aims: end the occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands and dismantle the Israeli West Bank barrier.

They also want to get Israel to recognise the “fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality”. Finally, they want to respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.

BDS – as the name suggests – hopes to achieve this through three tactics. First, they want people and companies to boycott Israeli institutions and individuals who are complicit in the violation of Palestinian rights.

Chairperson of SJP Stephanie O’Toole said that “we currently don’t know at the moment what DCU, in particular, is trading”. She added that “With regards to academics or institutions, [sic] we don’t target identity or one academic in particular – it’s all about complicity.”

Divestment seeks to stop these same Israeli institutions and individuals from receiving money from foreign investors. This includes universities.

Through a Freedom of Information request, O’Toole found out that DCU is currently in three agreements with three Israeli academic institutions. They are the Hadassah University Medical Centre, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Finally, the BDS Movement website states that it wants to pressure governments to sanction Israel by “by ending military trade, free-trade agreements and expelling Israel from international forums such as the UN and FIFA.”

If the referendum were to pass, it would not cut links between DCU and Israeli institutions and individuals complicit in the violation of Palestinian rights. Rather, it would mandate the SU to advocate for an end to these ties.

O’Toole thinks it’s likely the referendum will pass. She added: “One of the main aims of the referendum is about awareness. It’s about information. It’s about mandating the Students’ Union to take on either Israeli apartheid week or Palestinian solidarity day.”

In regard to the referendum, SU President Vito Moloney Burke said: “The SU doesn’t have a stance because the referendum itself is to dictate our stance.” The SU itself will not be campaigning for either outcome.

However, Moloney Burke said that “we all have our own personal views, and they will be respected if people want to be vocal about them”.

Assuming the referendum is successful, he discussed how – in order to follow through on the mandate – the SU would explore the options available to them, such as lobbying. He said: “It’s very feasible for us [the SU] to just get to work on it, and should it go through, cool.”

Both O’Toole and Moloney Burke said they had yet to encounter any opposition to the referendum. But journalism student Jenny Keegan doesn’t think student unions should have a stance on anything.

She said: “I don’t like the thought of big bodies having opinions… they encapsulate and umbrella so many different people of different opinions… I don’t really like that in anything – not just this issue.”

Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque

Image Credit: Wikipedia