Israeli teens counter ‘stupid’ Irish boycott call

Two Israeli schoolchildren have toured Northern Ireland in a bid to combat anti-Israel activity.

Yedida Jacobs and Paz Ben-Nissan, both 17, spoke to youth groups and school pupils and met political leaders during the five-day visit. They stressed the need for people to talk about the Middle East conflict, and repeatedly said they were opposed to boycotts.

Their trip was co-ordinated by the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel (Nifi) advocacy group as a response to an academic boycott of Israel imposed by the Teachers Union of Ireland in April.

As part of the ban, union members voted to end educational exchanges between Israeli and Irish pupils.

Miss Jacobs, a biochemistry student from Jerusalem, said: “Without taking part in dialogue, we cannot move forward. Paz and I are too young even to vote; we cannot influence the situation in Israel. A boycott on us seems unfair.”

On Monday evening, around 300 people, including Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers and members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, attended a Kristallnacht memorial event at Belfast Synagogue at which the Israeli students spoke.

Mr Ben-Nissan, from Ramot Meir, in central Israel, said: “The TUI has crossed the line by trying to boycott schools. It’s stupid of them. We need dialogue and this has been the best way to achieve it.”

A Nifi spokesman said: “The TUI move flies in the face of our own experience of peace-building in Northern Ireland. But the reaction to the boycott call has been a near unanimous resolve to engage with young people in the cause of peace.”

Last updated: 10:45pm, November 14 2013