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Students Show The Way!

18 May 2024

The genocide in Gaza has caused an outpouring of rage and grief across the world and waves of protests.  Ireland has not been immune to this and we have seen many protests, some big and others small.  But it was not till the students at Trinity College took action that we have seen the first really powerful action.

The students copied the protests which began at Columbia University in the USA.  The spark spread like wildfire throughout the US with more than 130 universities seeing encampments or sit ins.  Nearly 3,000 students have been arrested in the US, students have taken action putting at risk their university places, economic future and even running the risk of a criminal record.  The TCD students did the same and won.  They were strategic and hit the university’s pocket, blocking access to the Book of Kells.  This is the type of action needed.

We have marched, in almost routine like fashion, to the Dáil and the Dept. of Foreign Affairs in Dublin, the City Hall in Belfast etc. and listened to the speeches.  At those marches we have also heard trade union leaders and Sinn Féin representatives speak of their support for Palestine. Francesca Albanese the Special Rapporteur on Palestine said of the Irish government that its “Gaza Rhetoric was meaningless when there was zero action”.  The same could and should be said of the trade union movement in Ireland.  We have heard lofty words from them, but very little collective action. The Sinn Fein decision to meet genocide Joe Biden has significantly weakened the Irish solidarity movement, a problem made worse by the decision of the IPSC to accept the Sinn Féin action.

The Trinity students proved the value of collective action, the university is to divest from Israel and companies associated with the occupation.  Other students in Ireland have carried out similar actions and the encampments are spreading.  Now is the time to show the same resolve and carry out concrete actions.  The trade unions should strategically block Israeli goods coming into the country, the loading of exports to Israel and workers should refuse to have anything to do with the US military planes in Shannon.  They should not be refuelled, serviced or attended to in any way.  But it should not be left to individual workers, it should be collective.

The Dunnes Stores Anti-Apartheid strike approaches its 40th anniversary in July.  Some speeches have mentioned it and spoke of it in glowing terms.  It was a successful workers’ boycott that saw them refusing to handle South African produce, but it took three years to win, because the wider trade union movement did not back them.  Any action has to be collective and across the board.  It is time to move from the rhetoric of solidarity to the reality of action.  Unite should end its insurance deal with Axa Insurance and other unions should look at their own investments in companies and their use of goods and services from companies involved in Israeli Apartheid.

In order to make this possible we need an independent movement dedicated to ending the genocide and confronting the Irish opportunists turning a blind eye to an Israeli presence. The students could help make it a reality by calling a national conference to build a democratic and unified movement.

Examples of collaboration are all around us. To challenge them we need unity and determination.  Rhetoric is not enough.  It is time for action.

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