Daniel O'Dowd

Creches, Classrooms & Campuses: The Palestinian Infiltration of Irish Education

Preceding October 7th, Ireland’s status as a stalwart proponent of the Palestinian cause and an insatiable critic of Israel was well known. Following the Hamas terror attacks, that support and criticism has plunged to new depths. Hebrew speakers are now scared to utter their native tongue for fear of attack. Synagogues have increased their security levels. Jewish children are being bullied out of Irish classrooms. Elected representatives have called for an Intifada against the Jewish State outside the Israeli embassy, whilst others have celebrated the “inspiration” of the October 7th attacks. This has led to widespread fear amongst Ireland’s Jewish community, and apprehension for what the future may hold. When these concerns have been communicated to our political leaders, they have fallen on at best deaf ears.

However, of particular concern, has been the attempt to capture the “means of education” in this country post-October 7th. From Creches, to classrooms, to college campuses, the siege is real. A day-care facility in Blackrock, a well-to-do area of Dublin, held a “Play for Palestine” session for children aged from 6 months to 6 years of age. It seems you can never start too early in setting one’s child off on the path to Palestinian advocacy.

In the classroom, the largest teachers’ unions in Ireland (namely the INTO and TUI) and largest public service union (Fórsa) backed a #LetsTalkAboutPalestine campaign proposed by the Teachers for Palestine Advocacy Group. This two week long campaign aimed to directly advocate for Palestine in Irish classrooms, and asked schoolchildren to fly the Palestinian flag and share messages of support to Gaza. The campaign was launched without any consultation with parents or educational bodies. There is no evidence that the materials that were provided to students had been vetted. According to the campaign group, their campaign reached schools across the island – including the majority of counties in heavily-populated provinces of Leinster and Munster.

Following a review of the Teachers for Palestine website and suggested educational materials, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this campaign was not about indoctrination. One of the materials suggested for Junior/Senior infants (4–6 years old) is to colour in a picture of a Palestinian Youth with a Palestinian flag and donning a Keffiyeh atop the Temple Mount. Another image is to color in the Al-Aqsa Mosque or an “I Love Palestine” image with the Palestinian coat of arms. For Junior Cycle students, they are subjected to a tutorial on “Palestine Para Kite Making”.

For older students, the focus switches to learning about the case for sporting boycotts of Israel and ethical economics (essentially economic boycotting of Israel). The recommended materials utilize partisan and ideological sources, such as Mondoweiss and Al-Jazeera and videos from People Before Profit TD, Richard Boyd Barrett, as recommended materials for students to engage with subjects such as “Israeli Apartheid”, “Mapping: Israeli Occupation” and comparisons between the Holocaust and Gaza.

In the additional sections, the Irish association of international development workers/volunteers (Comhlámh), provide a number of additional resources including several works (“The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”, “The Biggest Prison on Earth” and “Ten Myths About Israel”) from Ilan Pappé, a report from Al-Haq (branded a terrorist organization by Israel in 2021) on “Zionist Settler Colonialism”, links to “DecolonizePalestine”, and videos on the case for BDS from BDS founder Omar Barghoutti. This particular folder also included a number of policy demands, including enactment of the Occupied Territories Bill, passage of the Illegal Israeli Settlements Divestment Bill, suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, and closing Shannon Airport to the US Military.

Founder of the Ireland-Israel Alliance, Jackie Goodall, put it bluntly in her analysis of the campaign: “this initiative shows how beholden our systems of governance are to the Palestinian cause. Without any consultation or procedure, an advocacy group launched a biased and dangerous educational campaign directly at our schoolchildren.” It is hard to disagree. This campaign was devoid of objectivity and was to put it mildly indoctrination. There are well-worn paths to amending the educational curriculum in Ireland, paths which have been bypassed in this instance. At a time when educational materials have become a hot-button political issue, this campaign is a partisan effort to further the Palestinian narrative on the Middle East. Sadly, there has been no concern in the Irish Parliament or media to prevent its occurrence.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. In recent months, Jewish parents have been left fearful for their children in Educate Together schools. This multi-denominational school group has found itself embroiled in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, following the actions of its CEO Dr Emer Nowlan. Nowlan posted on social media that she was in attendance at a pro-Palestinian protest in Dublin. Compounding matters, two constituent schools of the Educate Together group intended to bring a motion to the group’s May AGM, declaring Israel an apartheid state and formally adopting a BDS position. This was the first attempted politicization of the AGM in the group’s 40-year history.

These campaigns and scandals are not without consequence, and create a culture of hostility towards Jewish students in this space. If this is not brought under control, how long before parents are left with the no other choice than sending their children to Ireland’s only Jewish school, or home-schooling?

Finally, from the Creche to the Classroom, it was inevitable that the final frontier would be College Campuses. Mimicking their radical brethren on the American East Coast, university students’ unions have been unequivocal in their solidarity with Palestine and hostility to Israel. This was also the case long before October 7th. Student Union leaders have pledged to organize a ‘mass student uprising’ across the country, drawing inspiration by the violence seen on US Campuses. The pressure brought to bear has succeeded, following the capitulation of the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG), and shows no sign of abating. The authorities of Trinity College Dublin capitulated to an encampment of 70-odd students (a fraction of the 22,000 student population), who flew the flag of the PFLP terrorist group on campus and barricaded access to a national treasure (“the Book of Kells”) with memorial benches. Their success fathered similar protests at University College Cork (UCC), University College Dublin (UCD), and Maynooth University. What stood out at UCD, was that the flags of Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad flew proudly and without intervention by university authorities. That particular encampment of mostly empty tents shortly won a similar victory over university authorities. It will be a question of when not if the other campuses will fall.

One particular sign at UCD remained with me, namely a cardboard sign denoting the encampment as a “Zionist Free Zone”. As I reflect on the seemingly seamless integration of the Palestinian narrative into our educational landscape in this country, I wonder how long shall it be before that protestor gets their wish not only for UCD, but for every centre of learning on this island.

About the Author
Government Relations & Public Affairs Professional | Former Political Advisor in the Irish Parliament, and to both local and national election campaigns in the Republic of Ireland, and United Kingdom | Former CAMERA Fellow (2018/2019)
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