Letter from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) to RMIT re Elbit collaboration
(This statement was co-ordinated by PACBI – the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – https://bdsmovement.net/pacbi – which is part of the Palestinian led BDS movement. )
To the attention of:
Professor Alec Cameron, RMIT Vice Chancellor Dr Sharon Andrews, RMIT Academic Board Chair RMIT University Council Members RMIT University Student Union, c/o RUSU General Secretary Sheldon Gait Professor John Thangarajah, RMIT Associate Dean of Computer Science and Software Engineering
Subject: RMIT’s partnership with Elbit Systems
Dear Prof Cameron, Dr Andrews, Members of the University Council, RUSU, Sheldon Gait, and Prof Thangarajah,
We are writing to you as the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE), the principal faculty union in the occupied Palestinian territory. We represent 6,000 Palestinian university professors and staff at more than a dozen higher education institutions.
We were shocked to learn that the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) has partnered with apartheid Israel’s weapons producer, Elbit Systems. We urge you to suspend all collaboration with this company.
We would first like to explain our use of the term apartheid. Many of our members, and Palestinian scholars in general, have for decades studied and documented Israel’s regime of racial domination and systematic oppression of Indigenous Palestinians, concluding that it constitutes the crime against humanity of apartheid, as defined in international law. Recently prominent Israeli and international human rights organizations, includingAmnesty International, Human Rights Watch, andB’Tselem, have issued detailed reports coming to the same conclusion.
Partnering with institutions or companies complicit in Israel’s apartheid regime contributes to prolonging Israel’s violent rule over Palestinians and comes with serious legal and moral concerns.
Partnering with a company that works closely with that regime to produce weapons and repressive surveillance systems used against not only Indigenous Palestinians but other oppressed communities around the world takes those concerns to an entirely different level.
While not an international household name, Elbit Systems is certainly notorious among Palestinians, including our members.
Our faculty members in Gaza and their students have lived through repeated Israeli military assaults, including the most recent attack, which has killed at least 44 Palestinians, including 16 children, and damaged infrastructure including 1,600 homes and parts of Al Quds University. They know that Elbit Systems provides 85% of the military drones used by Israel in those assaults. They know that drones, mostly supplied by Elbit Systems, killed 164 Palestinian children in Gaza in 2014 alone. They know that during Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in May 2021, the Israeli Air Force dropped Elbit-produced MPR 500bombs on Palestinian civilians. They know the constant sound of Elbit drones buzzing in the skies of Gaza, interrupting their studies and research and exacerbating their traumas.
As those suffering under a purely man-made disaster, including an Israeli-imposed 15-year land, sea and air blockade made possible by Elbit technology, please understand that it will be of little interest to our members in Gaza that your particular project with Elbit Systems is reportedly for civilian use during natural disasters. This does nothing to alleviate the moral and legal concerns.
Our members know that the Israeli military chose Elbit Systems to produce its artillery cannons despite a German company winning the tender, over concerns that Germany would forbid the cannons from being used to fire cluster munitions. Our members know that Elbit Systems has no such concerns. In fact, Australia’s sovereign wealth fundexcluded Elbit Systems from its investment portfolio over allegations of involvement in the production of cluster munitions.
Our members stuck at crowded military checkpoints while trying to get to their university, or driving for hours to get around Israel’s apartheid wall that cuts through and annexes large swaths of the occupied Palestinian West Bank, know that Elbit Systems produces the surveillance technology used on that oppressive infrastructure to keep Palestinians caged in ever diminishing Bantustans.
Our members also know that Elbit Systems markets its weapons around the world, including to other oppressive regimes, as “battle-proven” and “field-tested.” Our members know that they are the subjects of those tests.
Our members know that Elbit Systems provides surveillance technology for the US wall on the border of Mexico backed by former president Donald Trump and specifically-built surveillance towers that violate the privacy and sovereign rights of the Tohono O’odhamNation. Our members know that cyber weapons produced by Elbit Systems and sold to Ethiopia were used to spy on opposition members.
In short, our members, and Palestinians as a whole, know that Elbit Systems provides the deadly technology enabling Israel’s apartheid rule and supports oppressive regimes around the world.
RMIT’s website includes a land acknowledgement statement and emphasizes its respect for Indigenous peoples of Australia.
We ask that you also show respect for Indigenous Palestinians living under Israel’s Elbit-powered regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid by ending RMIT’s collaboration with Elbit Systems. It is the only option if RMIT intends to uphold its commitment to “making a difference both locally and globally.”
Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees
BDS Australia condemns Melbourne’s RMIT University partnering with the Israeli arms company, Elbit Systems
Elbit Systems of Australia’s (ELSA) Centre of Excellence has teamed up with RMIT University and the Victorian Government to develop drone technology for civilian use.
This two-year partnership will undertake two joint research projects using drones to assist with mass evacuations during natural disasters and other emergencies.
BDS Australia maintains that partnering with Elbit for such projects is unconscionable given Israel’s use of Elbit drones and other weapons over many years against Palestinian civilians creating ongoing manmade disasters in Gaza and in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Elbit’s weapons have all been developed and ‘field tested’ for use against Palestinians – who are being progressively dispossessed from their lands and property by the apartheid Israeli government. Israeli forces use arms manufactured by Elbit Systems and its subsidiaries to commit serious violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.
In 2018 both HSBC and AXA Investment Managers divested from Elbit due to its involvement in the production and commercialization of cluster munitions and white phosphorus shells. In 2020, the City of Liverpool in the UK cancelled the Elbit-sponsored Electronic Warfare Europe arms fair on ethical grounds after a campaign of 40,000 emails protesting at the city’s involvement. More information here. In March 2022, Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Future Fund excluded Israeli arms manufacturer, Elbit Systems Limited from its investment portfolio because of allegations of its involvement in the production of cluster munitions.
BDS Australia calls on the Victorian state government, RMIT and the Australian federal government to abandon any association with Elbit.
Rejecting the Victorian Government’s and RMIT University’s support of the Israeli weapons manufacturer, Elbit Systems and Elbit Systems of Australia and demanding that all financial and other support and collaboration with this company and its Australian subsidiary, is withdrawn.
We are calling on the following people to reject Elbit due to its ongoing collaboration with the Israeli state’s illegal and violent oppression of Palestinians.
PAT CONROY MP, FEDERAL MINISTER FOR DEFENSE INDUSTRY DANIEL ANDREWS, PREMIER OF VICTORIA RMIT Academic Board Chair – Dr Sharon Andrews RMIT Professor John Thangarajah
This is BDS Australia’s response to the Melbourne University Student Union Motion passed recently in support of BDS as a non-violent means to pressure Israel to end its violations of Palestinian human rights. (See below for the motion).
We are writing to congratulate you on your recent vote of support for the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel, in favour of Palestinian rights.
The political project to maintain Jewish majority and rule throughout historic Palestine, entails ongoing crimes against humanity and cannot be separated from this.
The call for BDS has grown internationally, and is a crucial, non-violent way to apply pressure to the Israeli government to act in accordance with international law and cease its grave violations of Palestinian human rights. The spread of this movement among universities is proved not only by your own initiative but also the recent publication of an editorial in The Crimson, the student newspaper at Harvard University, indicating support for BDS.
A series of expert reports have established a wide consensus of credentialed opinion, backed by rigorously assembled evidence, that Israel is operating a system of apartheid in its treatment of Palestinians. These reports have come from international monitoring groups, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; from Israeli NGOs Yesh Din and B’Tselem, and from a group of Palestinian human rights organisations (Al-Haq, Badil, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, a-Damir, the Al-Mizan Centre for Human Rights, the Civil Coalition for Palestinian Rights in East Jerusalem, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights and the Beatat Coalition for Housing and Land Rights) and most recently from the Harvard Law School and the UN Human Rights Council.
The racist nature of the Israeli state was evident from its inception, according to the AI report: “Since its creation, the Israeli state has enforced massive and cruel land seizures to dispossess and exclude Palestinians from their land and homes”, thus rendering them “a group with perpetual lesser rights”.
In case any doubt remained, Israel in 2018 adopted the Nation State Law – later upheld by the country’s supreme court – which specifies that the country is a state only of its Jewish inhabitants.
We note that critics of your historic decision have invoked the so-called IHRA definition of “anti-Semitism”, one of whose accompanying examples claims that calling the State of Israel “a racist endeavour” should itself be seen as tantamount to racism. This is no more than a cynical attempt at truth-suppression by vested interests, directly analogous to climate change denialism in the face of the overwhelming scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming.
According to a recent opinion poll commissioned by the Australia-Palestine Advocacy Network, most Australians support both the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and the ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court. The former is made impossible by Israel’s blatant ongoing theft of Palestinian land; the latter should rule that the entire program to build Jewish-only settlements, or colonies, in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, is a war crime. The Fourth Geneva Convention baldly states: “An occupying power must not move any part of its population into the territory it occupies”.
The IHRA definition has been adopted by political parties and institutions in shadowy meetings through bullying by the Israel lobby, including here in Australia. It is a plot to thwart public opinion as a factor to be considered in the formulation of government policy.
A minimum expectation for such a policy, to reflect both the established facts about Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, and Australian public opinion, would be to adopt the three key demands of the BDS movement: an end to the occupation of 1967; equal rights for all citizens of Israel to replace the panoply of apartheid laws, and support for the right of return by Palestinians driven out of their homes in the racist campaign of ethnic cleansing at Israel’s establishment in 1948.
In this context, we thank and congratulate you for your initiative, and look forward to working with you to promote peace and justice for all the peoples of Palestine.
Motion: UMSU stands with Palestine – BDS and Solidarity Policy
In the late 1800s, Political Zionism was born to establish a Jewish home in Historic Palestine, disregarding the Indigenous Palestinians living there. This colonial project has led to the establishment of the state of Israel, the blockade of Gaza and the occupa#on of the West Bank through massacres, forced expulsion and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Israel has been deemed as a se8ler colonial apartheid state. It continuously denies the native Palestinians of their right to self-determination, freedom, dignity and equality. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges ac#on to pressure Israel to comply with interna#onal law.
With the recent bombing of Gaza, Israel has carried out a police raid at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Israeli forces have detained 500+ and injured 170+ Palestinians in Jerusalem since the beginning of Ramadan. These Palestinians were simply congrega#ng and praying at the mosque, which is one of the few remaining public spaces for Pales#nians in Jerusalem.
Students in Palestine and around the world have been key participants in the fight against the illegal occupation of Palestine, protesting, organizing, and creating a discussion on respective campuses. Many student unions and associations across Europe, North America, and Australia have formally endorsed BDS or some version of solidarity, it’s long overdue for a clear and firm stance by UMSU on these crimes. Policy, UMSU stances and actions:
General Stance: UMSU stands against the Israeli occupation of Palestine and condemns the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians
UMSU supports the self-determination of the Palestine people and their right to engage in self-defence against their occupiers
UMSU deems Zionism as a racist, colonial ideology UMSU rejects Israel’s continued settlement, expansion, and annexation of Palestinian land
UMSU condemns the Australian government’s support for Israel and its ongoing crimes including occupation, settlement, expansion, and ethnic cleansing.
UMSU condemns any and all forms of antisemitism against students of the Jewish faith and stands in solidarity with Jewish students.
UMSU recognises that Israel’s actions are not representative of the Jewish community. Similarly, Israel’s crimes are its responsibility alone and not that of Jewish people worldwide.
UMSU strongly endorses that Judaism and Zionism are not to be conflated as one
UMSU supports the academic boycott movement of Israeli institutions
UMSU calls on the university to participate in an academic boycott and cut ties with Israeli institutions, researchers, and academics that support the Israeli oppression of Palestinians
Divestment Actions and support:
UMSU calls on the university to divest from corporations complicit in and profit from the Israel apartheid Direct the CEO to update the UMSU ethical register and boyco8 companies that support and profit from the Israeli apartheid in line with the BDS Australia organization guidelines.
UMSU publishes a statement prepared by the UMSU POC department and relevant student groups announcing this policy and its support for Palestnian rights.
To direct the General Secretary to update the UMSU stance booklet to reflect this policy and subsequent vote on it.
To direct the President and POC officer to send a letter of support to the Australian Centre for International Justice affirming UMSU’s support for Palestine on behalf of UMSU.
Civil society organisations working for human rights for Palestinians and others welcome the news of Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Future Fund’s exclusion of Israeli arms manufacturer, Elbit Systems Limited from its investment portfolio because of allegations of its involvement in the production of cluster munitions.
The organisations call on the Future Fund as part of its duty to undertake responsible investment and human rights due diligence, to investigate its investment portfolio and divest from any entity involved in or complicit in serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights against the Palestinian people. Some of these serious violations include credible and well documented abuses which amount to serious crimes under international law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. Australia’s public funds should not be involved in furthering grave human rights abuses.
They further call on the Victorian Government to immediately cease its partnership with Elbit Systems Australia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Elbit Systems, to establish a research ‘Centre of Excellence’.
The organisations call on the Australian Government to suspend its defence cooperation with Israel and any facilitation of defence industry partnerships. These recommendations were supported by a coalition of Palestinian human rights organisations in a 2021 submission with the ACIJ to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which is currently conducting a feasibility study into a Free Trade Agreement with Israel.
The organisations are encouraged by the Australian Government’s rapid response to the crisis in Ukraine through implementing measures in responding to and condemning Russia’s illegal invasion and act of aggression in Ukraine. The Australian Government must respond similarly to Israel’s serious, decades long and continued violations of international law.
Executive Director of the Australian Centre for International Justice (ACIJ), Ms Rawan Arraf, said:
“The Victorian Government’s outrageous partnership with Elbit Systems should never have been made. We believe the Victorian Government either neglected to consider the human rights implications of the partnership, or ignored them outright. It’s a shameful partnership that must be suspended on account of Elbit’s complicity with serious human rights abuses and crimes under international law. If it continues, the Victorian Government will stand accused of complicity with international crimes.
“Further, the Australian Government’s eagerness to enhance defence industry cooperation and partnerships with Israeli defence firms has been forged in complete disregard of Australia’s international legal obligations, and respect for Palestinian human rights. All of these must end.”
Hilmi Dabbagh from BDS Australia said:
“BDS Australia sees the Future Fund’s divestment from Elbit as a milestone development which will have ramifications right throughout state and federal Australian governments, companies and academic institutions whose partnerships and trade with Elbit are highly problematic and in breach of international law.
“BDS Australia has been calling for an end to Australia’s ties with Elbit for many years and has seen the growth of a strong grassroots movement which in 2017 saw the Royal Flying Doctors end its association with this Israeli arms company. Most recently our campaigns in relation to the Victorian and federal Government’s associations with Elbit, have been met with silence from both governments but are strongly supported by growing numbers of people who want to see an end to Australia’s complicity with the apartheid regime of Israel.”
Bishop George Browning, President of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) said:
“Australia must not explore a free trade agreement with Israel and should halt all military trade while Israel continues its flagrant violations of international law. Israeli officials are under investigation by the International Criminal Court, demonstrating the seriousness of Israel’s crimes against Palestinians. Australia must not be complicit.”
Dr Sue Wareham, President of the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW) said:
“The terrible Ukraine crisis has shown us that governments can act quickly when human rights are being grievously violated. We call for the same level of action to protect the Palestinian people who have long suffered from Israeli military aggression. There is no place in Australia for partnerships with companies, such as Elbit Systems, that are complicit in inflicting human harm.”
Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN)
Australian Centre for International Justice (ACIJ)
Australian Friends of Palestine Association (AFOPA)
Australian Palestinian Professionals Association (APPA)
Australian Students for BDS (ASBDS)
Australians for Palestine (AFP)
Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine (CJPP)
Federation of Italian Migrant Workers and their Families (FILEF)
Free Gaza Australia
Free Palestine Melbourne
Friends of Hebron (FOH)
Friends of Palestine WA (FOPWA)
General Union of Palestinian Workers (GUPW)
Justice for Palestine, Meanjin (Brisbane) (JFP)
Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia)
Elbit Systems is an Israeli based manufacturer of military, security and surveillance equipment and is widely known as a major research and development partner to Israel’s Ministry of Defence, who after the US Government, is its second biggest customer.
Elbit is known for its drones (UAVs) and land weapons.
In 2018 Elbit Systems completed its acquisition of Israel-state owned IMI (Israel Military Industries). IMI – which was merged into Elbit Systems Land manufactures and supplies a wide range of weapons, munitions, missiles, tanks and military technology to the Israeli military. Elbit is also a major partner to Israel’s police and Ministry of Interior. More information on Elbit can be found on WhoProfits.com.
Elbit Systems is excluded from many investment funds, pension funds and sovereign wealth funds worldwide including but not limited to:
NZ Super excluded Elbit Systems in 2012 for involvement in Israel’s illegal construction of the Annexation Wall in the occupied West Bank;
BDS Australia is joining groups around the world for the Global Day of Action on February 12 and regular rolling protests as we step up pressure on PUMA to ends its partnership with Israeli apartheid.
PUMA’s continued support for Israeli apartheid puts it squarely on the wrong side of history.
The year 2021 saw unprecedented support for Palestinian rights across the world of sports, as apartheid Israel escalated its violent oppression of Palestinians.
In record numbers, star athletes took courageous stands in stadiums and on social media to millions of followers, including footballers Riyad Mahrez, Paul Pogba, Mohamed ELNeny, and Benjamin Mendy, cricket stars Babar Azam, Rashid Khan, and Irfan Pathan, basketball players Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and Layshia Clarendon, and boxing champs Amir Khan and Badou Jack, among others.
Olympic hopefuls Fethi Nourine and Mohamed Abdalrasoo renounced life-long dreams and withdrew from the games, refusing to compete with official Israeli representatives.
Teams, players, coaches and fans kept Palestinian rights front and center at the Arab Cup finals.
Let’s step up the pressure and make 2022 the year PUMA ends its partnership with Israeli apartheid.
Join the Boycott PUMA Global Day of Action, February 12.
PUMA sponsors the Israel Football Association (IFA), which governs and advocates on behalf of teams in illegal Israeli settlements.
In a leaked internal memo, PUMA admitted its celebrity ambassadors and business partners are increasingly questioning its support for Israeli apartheid.
More than 120,000 people have signed the SumOfUs petition urging PUMA to “stop its complicity with the Israeli apartheid state.”
A PUMA lawyer told us the #BoycottPUMA campaign is making their lives “miserable.”
Let’s help PUMA find its way over to the right side of history!
Join groups around the world calling on PUMA to drop the IFA.
PUMA has a window of opportunity to live up to its progressive image and stated “devotion to universal equality.” PUMA’s contract with the IFA ends in June of this year. Now is the time to act to convince PUMA to cut ties with Israeli apartheid.
The #BoycottPUMA coalition, which stretches from Auckland to Oakland, is launching regular rolling protests at PUMA shops, offices, and sponsored clubs. Vibrant protests at PUMA shops have succeeded in shutting them down. Join a protest near you or organize one in your area!
This website is maintained by BDS Australia, which is affiliated with the coalition of Palestinian organisations that leads and supports the BDS movement and by the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a BNC member organisation.