Richard Boyd Barrett, People Before Profit TD for Dún Laoghaire, spoke to DCU students about the BDS movement and pro-Palestinian activism last Wednesday in Glasnevin campus’s U Building.
Approximately two dozen students were in attendance in the Páirc room to hear Boyd Barrett accompanied by Harry Browne, the Co-chair of Academics for Palestine and a senior media lecturer at the Technological University of Dublin (TUD).
The BDS movement encourages people across the world to Boycott of Israeli goods, refuse to invest in Israeli companies or commercial ventures and to lobby for legal and economic sanctions against the Israeli government.
Boyd Barrett told the crowd of a trip to Israel he took as a student in the 1980s and the treatment of Palestinians that he witnessed.
“We arrived to work at a farm near the border with Jordan. It was backbreaking work and we realised that labourers were coming from a refugee camp in Hebron and they were treated despicably. Treated like animals by the Israeli farmers. There was institutionalised wage discrimination based on religious and ethnic backgrounds,” he said.
Boyd Barrett also claimed that he was scolded by a farmer because he “liked the Arabs too much,” and said that this experience was eye-opening about in terms of Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Harry Browne, an American academic who studied journalism in DCU for a year explained his organisation’s academic boycott of Israel.
Hundreds of university staff from across the world, including 24 DCU lecturers, have signed the organisation’s pledge not to engage with Israeli academic, research and state institutions.
“Palestinian groups have said ‘what we need you to do for a peaceful struggle is to do what you did to South Africa in the 1970s and 80s. BDS.’ It wasn’t Westerners that came up with this. This isn’t us imposing our particular version of what we think should happen,” he said.
“The Irish solidarity movement for Palestine is the créme de la créme of the global community. The government doesn’t always reflect that but Richard can tell you more about that later,” Browne joked.
“That role of Ireland will only continue if people like Richard and myself pass that onto younger people like you.”
Dara Adelaide, Chair of DCU’s branch of PBP, gave a brief introduction about the 1948 Nakba, in which tens of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes, before Barrett and Browne each spoke for 25 minutes followed by some questions and a discussion with the audience.
One student lamented that DCU’s Social Justice for Palestine Society had collapsed after a 2019 Student Referendum to affiliate with the BDS movement was passed.
A form was circulated at the end of the meeting which would re-establish the society if enough signatures were received from DCU students.
One member of the crowd asked what form of activism fellow students could take to bring about change on the issue of Palestine.
“Create networks of people who want justice for Palestinians, groups like Social Justice for Palestine would be an important starting point. But what we need to do is to pressure the government into standing up to the EU for refusing to sanction Israel,” Boyd Barrett said.
“And you should definitely help elect a left wing government,” Browne said to laughter from the crowd.
Jamie Mc Carron
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