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Jewish Labor Committee opposes Irish Teacher Union’s academic boycott of Israel

April 9, 2013: New York, NY - The Jewish Labor Committee is committed to a fair, just and negotiated peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We strongly believe that a two-state solution is key to that outcome. Motion 241, the resolution passed on April 4 by the Teachers Union of Ireland, that calls for an academic boycott of Israel, requesting its members “to cease all cultural and academic collaboration with Israel, including the exchange of scientists, students and academic personalities as well as cooperation in research programs” will take us farther from that outcome by encouraging extremists on both sides, and their partisan supporters, who seek to undermine the prospects for a two-state solution that is fair to both Israel and the Palestinians.

Academic boycotts are anathema to academic freedom, a principle that must be embraced, not spurned by teacher organizations. They are totally inconsistent with the democratic values embodied in academic freedom and free expression of ideas.

This TUI resolution implicitly discourages all open discussion and debate between Israelis and Palestinians in a way that can resolve their conflict. It explicitly focuses solely on Israel, without even mentioning actions or policies of Palestinian or other Arab governments, parties or movements that hinder a peaceful outcome toward a two-state solution. Indeed, the resolution goes so far as to label Israel an ”apartheid state.” While there is much that needs to be done to improve the situation of Arab citizens of the State of Israel, Israel is the only country in the region with freedom of speech, a free press, free and fair elections with numerous parties, including those specifically representing Israeli Arabs, an independent, vibrant trade union movement, an independent judiciary and freedom of religion – all of which are afforded to and used by Israeli Arabs and hardly the mark of apartheid. Arab-Israelis have full equality under Israeli law.

The situation confronting Palestinians living in the West Bank is hard, and must be improved. But the boycott called for by the TUI Motion 241 will do nothing to ameliorate or change in any meaningful way the lot of the Palestinian people. Indeed, there is nothing within that resolution that either rhetorically or programmatically addresses the real needs of Palestinians, either teachers in specific or Palestinians more generally.

Blanket cultural and academic boycotts of Israel imply that all Israeli academic institutions and the people associated with them -- academics, researchers, scientists – are inherently guilty But the majority of Israelis, and a majority of Jewish Israelis, support the creation of an independent Palestinian state beside the State of Israel. As do, of course, the majority of Palestinians. That the political leadership of both sides is unable to make any meaningful progress is both clear and tragic. The TUI Motion 241 will do nothing, we are certain, to bring the parties back to the negotiating table, nor will it bring them closer to a resolution of the conflict.

For peace, both sides must work with each other. Resolutions such as the one passed by the Teachers Union of Ireland cannot help but make the two parties more inflexible, hurting moderates on each side and encouraging extremists and rejectionists on both sides. While respecting the internal decision-making process of the Teachers Union of Ireland, we call on all within the TUI to pursue a far more productive course -- to encourage those organizations with which it works in Ireland, the UK, and elsewhere to be fair and even-handed as they work to press both sides to negotiate in good faith. The TUI and all of us must support moderates on both sides. For the Jewish Labor Committee and for trade unions everywhere, this means helping to encourage cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian workers and their unions, and those supporters who respect the legitimate needs of both.