Home News How pro-Palestinian students are pushing for Trinity College Dublin to divest

How pro-Palestinian students are pushing for Trinity College Dublin to divest

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Discontent over the Gaza war has been building for months at Trinity College Dublin, but last week the roar suddenly turned into a roar. It has been revealed that Trinity College is demanding huge fees from its students’ union after protests prevented visitors from visiting the Book of Kells – a major attraction for paying tourists.

Trinity’s demand for about $230,000 angered students and drew widespread media attention, with some anti-war demonstrators setting up encampments on Friday similar to those seen in American schools.

Irish lawmakers fear the university is trying to suppress independence protests, and lawyers and pro-Palestinian groups have offered to help. The university closed part of its campus that day, citing safety concerns.

Trinity University, Ireland’s oldest and most prestigious university, agreed on Monday to negotiate with pro-Palestinian demonstrators as a campus dispute becomes a national one.After a few dizzying days, Trinity first agreed Give up some Israeli investmentsNearly all U.S. colleges and universities have so far resisted the move and said Wednesday they would investigate Divest all such investments.

“It feels like we won,” student body president-elect Jenny Maguire said. “It wasn’t just us, everyone who campaigned for this won. We got what we wanted and what we came here to do.

“It’s shocking how quickly they pivoted,” she said of the university.

The tent encampment and two Palestinian flags that had been hastily set up days earlier by about 60 students were quickly put away. Students wearing plaid kaffiyeh scarves packed up their gear and left Wednesday night. Within minutes, only patches of discolored grass remained.

A spokesman for Trinity declined to comment on any link between its shift, currency demands and the resulting scrutiny. She said what the university said was an invoice against the student union had not yet been discussed in divestment talks but would be discussed later. Student leaders say they want the rule repealed.

But to some students and outside observers, it was clear that Trinity had seriously miscalculated. Rather than quelling the protests, it added fuel to a fire that threatened not only the school’s finances but also the university’s reputation. The university’s alumni include writers such as Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and Samuel Beckett, as well as a number of distinguished politicians, physicists and philosophers.

“The message sent by the fine is that Trinity is trying to suppress and disrupt unionized student protests,” said Aiesha Wong, a student union spokesperson, who called it a “fear-mongering tactic.”

“They may have decided that it would be less costly to divest from Israel than not to divest,” said David Wolfe, editor-in-chief of the Trinity News, a student newspaper.

The pro-Palestinian movement has been active at Trinity College for many years as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. At Trinity, like other campuses around the world, it gained momentum after the current war began seven months ago.

Students, faculty and staff are pressuring the university to more strongly condemn Israel’s military offensive in Gaza. Pro-Palestinian groups petitioned together, wrote open letters and disrupted campus meetings.

But nothing is more eye-catching than the €214,000 the university was charged for blocking access to the Book of Kells, a world-famous illuminated manuscript that is some 12 centuries old and is hidden within in university library.

Each year, the book attracts about a million paying readers. Their tourism industry provides financial support to the university, and past protests unrelated to Israel have hindered admissions to the university as a way to put pressure on the Trinity government. The invoice covers protests that blocked access to the Book of Kells exhibition for other reasons, but the ones that received the most attention were by pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

The student union said more students took part in anti-Israel campaigns in the days after the fine was announced. Plans were made to set up camp, but the timetable was accelerated.

legislator Appeal to the Trinity Withdrawing what they called a “hefty fine”, some of them wrote to the university asking officials to ensure students had space to protest.

As at universities in the United States and elsewhere, there are complaints that student leaders have failed to address the rise of anti-Semitism alongside anti-Zionism.Agne Kniuraite, president of the college’s Jewish community, said in an article that Jewish students felt excluded by the student union’s stance last month.

“Jewish students who have suffered endless prejudice spoke of the isolation, fear and rejection they experienced on campus this year,” she wrote.

On Monday, anti-Israel protest leaders and the university met in a senior dean’s office to negotiate an agreement.

“They have made it clear that they will immediately divest from companies in the occupied territories,” said Ms Maguire, the student union’s president-elect, who said it was a surprising turn from Trinity’s earlier statement. The university agreed not to call in outside forces to break up protests or encampments, as some U.S. schools have done, and in a statement released after the meeting called the response from other institutions “disproportionate.”

The school said it would divest three Israeli companies listed by the United Nations for their involvement in settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and offered places and waived fees to eight Palestinian academics.

Protest leaders said they were demanding a tougher stance, and on Wednesday the university agreed to explore divesting all ties with Israel. Students are still negotiating with administrators over how to ensure the university keeps its promise in the long term.

A university spokesman declined to say how much money the school has invested in Israel, but said the project involved 13 companies and represented a “very small portion” of the college’s €250 million endowment; American universities said similarly about their own investments if. Ms Maguire said students were told when they met with administrators that the total investment would be at least €70,000.

Aidan Regan, associate professor of politics and international relations at University College Dublin, said he believed Trinity’s management would weigh the financial and reputational costs of dispersing the protesters and seek a deal instead.

He said it was “unthinkable” that the university would call in the police to forcibly remove them as public opinion in Ireland was in favor of the students.

Many Irish draw parallels between Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories and centuries of British rule in Ireland.

“Ireland has a long history of solidarity with Palestine, driven by a shared colonial past,” said Hannah Boast, a researcher on Israeli and Palestinian politics and culture at the University of Edinburgh. She said the camp would increase pressure on Universities take action.

She said the decision to divest was too large to be attributed to image repair after inadvertent negative publicity, but “the divestment announcement did seem to make the negative publicity from the fine go away.”



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