Irish delegation looks into ways to strengthen solidarity with Palestine

A delegation representing the Irish organization Trade Union Friends of Palestine (TUFP) visited Birzeit University on October 2, 2019, to learn about living conditions in Palestine, promote policy motions to help  address Israeli human rights abuses, and mobilize solidarity activity in light if the injustices inflicted on the Palestinian people.

Trade Union Friends of Palestine (TUFP) was established in 2006 by the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) to campaign in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

The delegation first met with Sa’d Nimer, a faculty member at the Palestine and Arabic Studies Program (PAS) who explained the ongoing the Israeli violations against the education sector that disrupt the education of Palestinian youths and hinder their opportunities to grow and prosper. Israel has targeted schools and universities through arrests of students, constant raids to campuses and schools, and efforts to manipulate Palestinian curricula to erase the Palestinian narrative, history, and identity.

Following Nimer, Samia Al-Botmeh, dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics and an active member at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, identified and assessed the overall economic impact of the occupation. She highlighted that the Palestinian economy suffers from a heavy, far-reaching, and debilitating dependence on the Israeli economy, stipulated by the conditions outlined in the Paris Protocol of the Oslo Agreement, and from a deep-rooted reliance on foreign aid.

Al-Botmeh pointed out that a push to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israeli companies that engage in carrying out occupation-related activities and securing international public solidarity can play a great role. “Translating solidarity into practical, effective action can impact Palestine’s paths towards independence and liberation,” she asserted.

TUFP, through ICTU, adopted in 2007 a BDS policy that committed the congress to actively boycott Israeli goods and divest from Israeli companies engaged in occupation-related activities as well as from international companies that are complicit in and profit from the occupation.

Rita Giacaman, a professor of public health at the university’s Institute of Community and Public Health, explained the broad determinants of health and how they are affected by the contexts of war, colonization and occupation. Giacaman called for a re-conceptualization to health in wars, because researchers, academics and policy makers cannot separate the intertwined relationship between the mental and physical health of Palestinians as they are affected by the long-running occupation.

TUFP seeks to develop a cohort of active trade union ambassadors, who are committed to promoting ICTU’s solidarity policy in their workplaces and communities.