Is DCU holding an anti-Semitic referendum?

Jimmie Byrne

Will DCU students vote in favour of the BDS movement?

Looking at the state of the world, it’s easy to draw parallels with the 1930s. 

The recession and the migrant crisis has stoked the flames of right-wing xenophobia across the world, from Moscow and Beijing tyrants holding sway over millions to Brexit and Trump. Countries seem to be severing the ties of solidarity and going out for it for themselves.

Another surprising and unfortunate parallel is the growth of anti-Semitism.

Perhaps it is not so surprising when a survey of 53,000 people in 100 countries including Ireland by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), 32 per cent believed the Holocaust was a myth or had been greatly exaggerated.

British Labour MPs have quit their party due to anti-Semitism and other issues. Attacks on Jews have risen in countries such as the US and France, and a US Congresswoman has openly commented on Jewish money influencing US politics.

Even Ireland is not immune. According to the ADL survey in 2014, 52 per cent of us think it is “probably true” that Jews are more loyal to Israel than their home country and 30 per cent think they talk too much about the Holocaust.

DCU is preparing to hold a referendum on whether the SU should support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS).

It has been argued that there is nothing anti-Semitic about BDS and that they just want to protest the oppression of the Palestinian people by Israel.

A common defence of BDS that I’ve heard is that they’re not anti-Semitic, but anti-Zionist. They’re of Israel, not Jews.

Zionism doesn’t mean what they think it means i.e. a blanket term for any Israeli policy they don’t like. Oxford dictionary defines Zionism as the “development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel”. When all those defenders say that they’re anti-Zionist, it would seem that they’re really saying they oppose Israel’s very existence.

Can you imagine the outcry if a British politician said “I’m not anti-Irish, I just oppose the existence of Ireland”?

Another argument is that this is not what the movement means by anti-Zionism.

“A Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the indigenous Palestinian population and perpetuate a system of racial discrimination that ought to be opposed categorically….Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.”

Those are the words of Omar Barghouti, co-founder of BDS.

Don’t get me wrong. Israel’s hand are definitely not clean and they should be definitely be criticised on their policies.

But you can’t convince me that the return of 7.25 million Palestinian refugees to a country of 8.7 million inhabitants won’t result in that country’s dissolution or that calling for a boycott of Israeli products, regardless of whether they are made on the occupied territories or not, isn’t anti-Semitic. That the many, many comments made by BDS activists regarding the annihilation of Israel isn’t emblematic of the movement as a whole.

Look, I don’t want to be hyperbolic. I’m not saying that if we pass this referendum in DCU, the state of Israel will be overthrown in the morning.

What I am saying is that BDS is a symptom of the worldwide growth and normalisation of anti-Semitism, and that if it this vote passes, DCU is contributing to it.

Jimmie Byrne

Image credit: Wikipedia