Israeli students are expected to travel to Ireland to challenge a teachers union’s academic boycott.
The initiative, planned by the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel (Nifi) group, follows the Teachers Union of Ireland vote in April to boycott all collaboration with Israel.
The students — who have not yet been selected — are expected to travel from Israel later this year for a short stay in Belfast. But they will also be taken to meet Irish students in Dublin to directly challenge the TUI’s policy in the Republic.
Steven Jaffe, Nifi co-chair, said: “The move by a Republic-based union is designed to shut down dialogue among the young. It is a betrayal of values which teachers should hold dear.
“The Israeli students are going to meet, discuss, listen and engage with young people from Northern Ireland. We believe this will be the perfect antidote to bigotry and boycotts.”
Donations have been made by Nifi supporters to help fund the visit.
Non-Jewish supporters of Nifi have also been working to challenge the Co-operative supermarket’s boycott of products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank. A petition signed by more than 600 people has been presented to Co-op bosses by Democratic Union Party councillors in County Down.
One of the leading supporters of the initiative, Peter Martin, said: “The head of Northern Ireland Co-op being there when we presented the petition was proof of how seriously they are taking it. We have been a thorn in their side.”
Meanwhile, Newry and Mourne District Council has ditched a proposal to boycott trade and investment with companies that work in the settlements.
The authority was expected to vote on a motion last month but postponed the decision until September, after the UK Lawyers for Israel group warned that a boycott could breach equality legislation.
Social Democratic and Labour Party councillor Connaire McGreevy had proposed the motion, but has now withdrawn it entirely after claiming its “original intent and sentiment… has been lost”.
He said he had met constituents to explain that the plan was “never intended to be a Palestine versus Israel motion but no more than a fair-trade motion”.