Ironically, whilst we are in the midst of a calmer interlude by the standards of Israel’s engagements with its neighbours in the wake of Operation Protective Edge in 2014, the debate over Israel rages ever more furiously on college campuses across the globe. As the brave soldiers of the IDF defend Israel – the culmination of the Zionist dream – so is it contingent on us, as “Warriors for Israel” to defend Zionism on campuses where the reputation of Israel and her children is slurred and attacked in the most reprehensible of ways.
In Ireland, this war on Israel has trickled down to the college level directly from the lips of a biased media and bigoted politicians. Be it a certain medical student wishing for a Third Intifada, or the physical assault of the former President of Maynooth Students Friends of Israel, or the direction of a “credible death threat” against a gathering by Maynooth Students for Israel and Ireland-Israel Alliance, it has become evident that those who oppose Israel intend to use means unfair and foul to bring about their objective – the destruction of Israel and the dispersion of the Jewish people to the wind once more.
As the Occupied Territories Bill lurches – bit by bit – towards becoming the law of the land, as BDS has been endorsed by the Union of Students in Ireland, the Irish National Teachers Organisation and Trinity College Dublin, with more referenda scheduled to be held, and with SJP groups springing up on campuses across the country, those of a Zionist persuasion might simply write off Ireland as a lost cause, and become disillusioned by the seeming inevitability of the imminent BDS takeover. However, to relent is to surrender. Simply because the board is stacked does not mean we get a free pass, a pat on the back, and acknowledgement we are a hard case; rather it is our fighting of this hard case which might persuade even one other to join our cause or at the very least not join BDS.
Fighting BDS in Ireland
So the question might be for those sensible and principled enough to recoil at the prospect of BDS on campus or in wider Irish society, what can possibly be done to resist?
First of all, there are several pro-Israel institutions in Irish universities which have done an incredible job at advocating for Israel.
As President of Maynooth Students Friends of Israel, I am proud to say that we have combatted BDS at every turn since our inception. We countered “Israel Apartheid Week” with our own “Israel Peace Week” which drastically outperformed the former. We have held several cultural events be it Hebrew lessons, movie nights or bake sales – in spite of those who targeted our efforts. Further to this, we have been a forum for a slate of guest speakers to advocate for Israel in their own unique way, from IDF veterans Shai DeLuca-Tamasi andTal Hagin, to Jerusalem Post journalist Lahav Harkov, to pro-Israel, Irish academic Dr Mark Humphrys. In the end, it took a deceitful measure to force through BDS without our knowledge, and the threat of closing down our society for being pro-Israel to attempt to counteract our efforts. Although we are only one campus we have proven extremely effective – with aid from CAMERA on Campus – in countering BDS on campus, which goes to show how movements like BDS struggle when challenged. It must be the objective of the pro-Israel movement in Ireland to counteract every SJP group on every campus.
Behind Maynooth Students for Israel’s growth as a society has been CAMERA On Campus, an international Israel advocacy organisation countering media bias against Israel and ensuring students can counteract the lies told against the Jewish State with whatever resources they require on hand. With Maynooth Students for Israel, CAMERA sponsored the talks from Shai DeLuca-Tamasi, Tal Hagin and Lahav Harkov to allow Irish students to hear first-hand from IDF veterans and Israeli journalists on the truth of the conflict. Undoubtedly, without CAMERA On Campus, Maynooth Students for Israel would not have made half the impact it has.
Students Against BDS in Trinity helped to the best of their ability advocate for a ‘no’ vote in the BDS referendum held by Trinity Student Union notwithstanding the demographic mountain facing them. Through savvy social media and a steady stream of publications, Students Against BDS have proven effective and were instrumental in exposing many of the anti-Semitic, academic boycott of Israel conferences being held on their campus, and publicising the vitriol within.
On a more national, non-University level, we have Ireland-Israel Alliance and Alumni for Campus Freedom Ireland.
Run by the indomitable Jackie Goodall, Ireland-Israel Alliance has gone from strength to strength since taking on the baton from Irish4Israel. From broadcast protests, to guest speakers, to international networking, and to a conveyor belt of media contributions, Ireland-Israel Alliance has emboldened the pro-Israel, Irish community and exposed the hypocrisy of the pro-Palestinian movement. Serving as a beacon of hope, IIA has gotten the message out that not all Irish are anti-Israel, receiving coverage from the Irish Times, Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post. In 2018 IIA held events such as an interview of MosabHassan Yousef – the “Son of Hamas” – by Kevin Myers, and has an upcoming event with Nati Rom, the founder of Lev HaOlam – an organisation to guard businesses in Judea and Samaria from BDS.
And of course, there is our own Alumni for Campus Freedom (Ireland). We are a new co-ordinated network of alumni from across the nation pushing back against the spread of BDS on campuses we hold dear. When BDS comes to campus, there are two corollaries of this arrival: (1) Anti-Semitism; and (2) targeting of pro-Israel groups and persons. Scroll back through the reporting of the Trinity referendum or Maynooth Students for Israel by JNS and Algemeiner, and one will find a litany of incidents and slurs endured by the pro-Israel side. This is only a taster of what occurs when BDS arrives. Through our reporting and advocacy, we endeavour to counter the suppressive tactics of BDS and promote honest and open dialogue vis-á-vis the Israel-Palestine conflict.
BDS is looking to make Ireland its launchpad into Europe. Politicians and college groups are espousing their bigoted rhetoric in ever increasing numbers. Currently, there is a media bias against Israel; there are probably more people pro-Palestine than pro-Israel; and there is a majority of politicians in the Oireachtas who are supportive of anything pro-Palestinian. Nonetheless, there is resistance. From Alan Shatter to Rory Cowan, there is a vocal cohort challenging the BDS side. If BDS goes unchallenged, BDS will spring into Europe and the voices of dissent quashed. By challenging BDS, we will show to the taxpayer that BDS is little more than a bigoted movement that will only hurt your pocket.
Originally published in the Alumni for Campus Freedom Ireland blog.
Contributed by President of CAMERA-supported society Maynooth Student Friends of Israel and Maynooth University CAMERA Fellow Daniel O’Dowd.