Ireland's Trinity College agrees to divest from Israel after student protests

European universities including Dublin and Barcelona under pressure to sign up to boycott demands

Students take part in an encampment protest over the Gaza conflict on the grounds of Trinity College in Dublin. AP
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Students at Ireland's Trinity College Dublinended a five-day protest after the university agreed to divest from Israeli companies operating in occupied Palestinian territories.

The university said that “an agreement was reached” after “successful talks between the university's senior management and the protesters”.

The news came after the senate of the University of Barcelona approved a motion in support of Palestine on Wednesday.

The motion, which will now go before the university’s board of directors and governing council, calls for the university to break all institutional and academic ties with “any Israeli university, research institute, company or other Israeli institutions as a mechanism of pressure on the state of Israel until the genocide ends”.

“This is a big step forward in our fight in solidarity with the Palestinian people at universities,” student council member Pablo Castilla told the Catalan News Agency.

In Dublin, Laszlo Molnarfi, president of the institution's student union, said Trinity’s decision was a “testament to grass roots student-staff power”, adding that the camp would be ended.

The university said it “will complete a divestment from investments in Israeli companies that have activities in the occupied Palestinian Territory and appear on the UN blacklist in this regard”.

Student activists began the protest on Friday as a “solidarity encampment with Palestine” echoing similar protests on US campuses.

Mr Molnarfi previously said that the protest would continue until the university cut any relationships with Israel.

Dozens of students pitched tents on one of the main squares at the university and piled benches to block the entrance to a library that houses the ninth-century gospel manuscript Book of Kells, one of Dublin's most popular tourist attractions.

Security staff closed the campus gates, which are usually open to the public, during the protest.

“With the encampment and blockade of the Book of Kells removed, plans are being put in place to return to normal university business for staff, students, and members of the public,” TCD said on Wednesday.

Last week, the union was fined €214,000 ($230,000) by the university for loss of tourist revenue this year after protests over student fees, rent and the war in Gaza.

Pro-Palestinian protests have rocked US campuses for weeks, spreading to countries throughout Europe.

In Britain, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan met with university leaders in Downing Street on Thursday to urge British universities to protect Jewish students.

“A vocal minority on our campuses are disrupting the lives and studies of their fellow students and, in some cases, propagating outright harassment and anti-Semitic abuse,” Mr Sunak said. “This has to stop.”

In the past week, about a dozen encampments have been launched at universities including Oxford and Cambridge. The demonstrations so far have been relatively small and peaceful, but some Jewish students have expressed concerns about anti-Semitism.

The number of anti-Semitic incidents on UK university campuses tripled last year as tensions rose over the war in the Middle East, according to the Communities Security Trust, which works to combat anti-Semitism in Britain.

Meanwhile, police broke up a protest by pro-Palestinian activists at the University of Amsterdam on Wednesday in a second straight day of unrest over the war in Gaza.

After police ended a blockade on university grounds, hundreds of demonstrators moved to a nearby square to continue protesting, demanding an end to the war. Some asked the university to sever academic relations with Israel.

At Utrecht University, about 45km to the south, students occupied a university building to protest Israeli actions in its war in Gaza.

Updated: May 09, 2024, 12:05 PM