A new organisation to create awareness about the Palestine/Israel conflict is being spearheaded by Ballymahon native, Jim Roche.
‘Academics for Palestine’ was established to create awareness about the issue and to build the academic boycott of Israel campaign in Ireland.
Mr Roche has been to the helm of the issue for a number of years now and has been part of a number of Irish flotilla’s to the Gaza region in recent times.
“We aim to organise and publicise meetings, discussions and events on campuses across the island of Ireland, to keep members informed about ongoing developments in Palestine/Israel, and to encourage unions and academic bodies in Ireland to take a leading role in the academic boycott of Israel, just as they took such a role in relation to the boycott of apartheid South Africa,” he said. “At the moment, students, teachers and schools have been targets of Israel’s brutal attacks in Gaza, making it an attack on education as well as a war crime. “Acording to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 141 schools were significantly damaged or destroyed by airstrikes and shelling, including 90 UN schools and four kindergartens. Seven of the UN schools that were bombed by Israel were designated as emergency shelters and hosted thousands of displaced persons.”
Israel also bombed the Islamic University in Gaza (IUG), causing extensive damage to Gaza’s largest institution of higher education. A lecturer from IUG was also killed in a military strike, and Israel then attacked a branch of Al Quds Open University, killing 22 people.
“This is not new, as Israel similarly targeted education during the onslaught in 2008-2009, but is has, however, acontinuously made Palestinians’ pursuit of education difficult through general harassment, the siege of Gaza and regular military incursions,” Mr Roche continued.
At least 18 Palestinian students who have successfully completed their qualifying high school exams (tawjihi) in preparation for college were killed, before they had a chance to see their results. In UN schools, a school principal, five teachers, and a school attendant were among the UN staff killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza. “It is all the more shameful that Irish universities have participated in joint research programmes, funded by the EU, in collaboration with Israeli educational institutes and companies with strong links to the Israeli military,” he continued.
More than 170 Irish academics have now signed a pledge, launched by AfP earlier this year, to boycott such collaboration with Israeli institutions until Palestinian rights are respected.