ACTIVISTS CLAIM VICTORY AS RMIT ENDS ELBIT PARTNERSHIP Activists are celebrating the announcement by RMIT that it has ceased its research partnership with Israel’s largest weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems, which develops, tests, and provides weapons and drones to the Israeli military for use against Palestinians.
This victory comes just over a year after RMIT was targeted by BDS Australia due to its advertised partnership with Elbit Systems in the development of AI systems. In 2022, Palestine’s largest academic and tertiary union (PFUUPE), representing over 6,000 academics and staff, wrote to RMIT and urged it to suspend all collaboration with Elbit Systems. Subsequently staff and students held on-campus protests and speak-outs. RMIT did not respond to any of these representations nor to the large online petition with 2000+ signatures calling for an end to all ties with Elbit Systems.
Throughout 2023, two Melbourne activists, Shane McCartin and Mark Bradbeer, took the campaign to RMIT’s doorstep and for 8 and a half months picketed each week outside the campus. They were joined by members of Free Palestine Melbourne and Students for Palestine (Victoria) distributing information about the use of Elbit technologies in war crimes against Palestinian civilians and calling for an end to RMIT’s complicity with these crimes.
“At first, many students and staff we spoke to knew nothing about Elbit Systems or its relationship with RMIT,” said Mark Bradbeer. “It was slow work but our support grew steadily as people learned of the partnership.”
The campaign received a boost in July when high profile journalist and author Antony Loewenstein denounced the RMIT-Elbit partnership,
“If you partner, as a state or a university, with a company like Elbit, you have blood on your hands because the record of Elbit in Israel-Palestine, on the US-Mexican border and elsewhere is so damned clear”, said Lowenstein. “So RMIT needs to answer very serious questions about it, and actually feel pressure about that – a lot of pressure.”
On 19 October 80 activists associated with Students for Palestine (Victoria) marched on the RMIT campus denouncing the university for its complicity in ongoing Israeli atrocities in the Gaza Strip.
In response to this protest, RMIT released a statement that it no longer has any partnerships with Elbit Systems or Elbit Systems of Australia. When clarification was sought, RMIT confirmed that their planned partnership with Elbit Systems was terminated, and that they have no relationship with the company or any of its subsidiaries.
“This is a significant victory for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in Australia,” said Hilmi Dabbagh, from BDS Australia, which partnered with Free Palestine Melbourne throughout the campaign. “Australian universities have been put on notice that they will be targeted if they partner with any Israeli company or institution complicit in human rights abuses and attacks on Palestinians.”
Tilda Swinton among 2000+ artists calling for Gaza ceasefire
They accuse governments of “aiding and abetting” Israel’s “war crimes” in Gaza
Palestinians face “collective punishment on an unimaginable scale”
Governments should “end their military and political support for Israel’s actions”
Renowned actors Tilda Swinton, Charles Dance, Steve Coogan, Miriam Margolyes, Peter Mullan, Maxine Peake and Khalid Abdalla are among more than two thousand people from across the arts who have signed a letter saying that: “Our governments are not only tolerating war crimes but aiding and abetting them.”
The artists, including Robert del Naja and playwrights Tanika Gupta and Abbie Spallen, condemn “every act of violence against civilians and every infringement of international law whoever perpetrates them”.
THE LETTER IN FULL
We are witnessing a crime and a catastrophe. Israel has reduced much of Gaza to rubble, and cut off the supply of water, power, food and medicine to 2.3 million Palestinians. In the words of the UN’s undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, ‘the spectre of death’ is hanging over the territory.
Gaza is already a society of refugees and the children of refugees. Now, in their hundreds of thousands, bombarded from air, sea and land, Palestinians whose grandparents were forced out of their homes at the barrel of a gun are again being told to flee – or face collective punishment on an unimaginable scale. Dispossessed of rights, described by Israel’s minister of defence as “human animals”, they have become people to whom almost anything can be done.
Our governments are not only tolerating war crimes but aiding and abetting them. There will come a time when they are held to account for their complicity. But for now, while condemning every act of violence against civilians and every infringement of international law whoever perpetrates them, our obligation is to do all we can to bring an end to the unprecedented cruelty being inflicted on Gaza.
We support the global movement against the destruction of Gaza and the mass displacement of the Palestinian people. We demand that our governments end their military and political support for Israel’s actions.
We call for an immediate ceasefire and the opening of Gaza’s crossings to allow humanitarian aid to enter unhindered.”
We mourn the loss of Palestinian and Israeli lives.
We call for peace with justice and an end to Israel’s occupation, apartheid and ongoing genocide;
We call on the Australian government to condemn Israeli war crimes, recognise Palestine and support the ICC investigation;
We call for immediate sanctions on Israel;
We call on Australian trade unions to impose boycotts against Israeli apartheid as they did to isolate apartheid in South Africa;
We call on all Australian organisations and entities that have investments or partnerships in Israeli companies which are complicit in Israel’s ongoing violations of international law and apartheid, to divest from such ties.
BDS Australia believes that this tragedy is wholly the result of the impunity given to Israel since 1948 by Western and other governments which have allowed Israel to constantly violate international law and impose its violent military occupation and colonisation throughout the occupied Palestinian Territories and the inhumane 16-year blockade of Gaza.
Palestinians have long called for justice in international law only to be progressively dispossessed and subject to an apartheid regime while Israel and its allies including Australia, maintained the lie of a 2-state solution.
The silence from the Australian government over Israel’s current indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, and the rapidly mounting civilian death toll and widespread destruction, continues this long and disgraceful record of double standards and gives Israel increased impunity and incentive to commit further war crimes.
This year has already seen more Palestinians killed, and more arrested and held without charge, than for three decades. The armed campaign of ethnic cleansing, led by settler militias that enjoy near-complete impunity, has intensified, with their leaders now sitting in the Israeli cabinet. The Hamas attack on Israel came in response to an incursion by these armed thugs supported by Israeli forces, into Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest shrine, with the clear aim of forcing out Muslim worshippers. It also came after increased ethnic cleansing of Palestinian rural communities and major military incursions into the West Bank cities of Nablus and Jenin this year.
The building of Jewish-only illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank has reached a record level this year. The entire settlement-building programme is a war crime, in breach of the unambiguous prohibition in the Fourth Geneva Convention: “An occupying power must not move any part of its population into the territory it occupies”.
Key international, Palestinian and Israeli human rights reports have shown conclusively that Israel is committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians, both grave crimes against humanity in international law. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, his government and the Opposition do not even acknowledge these findings, yet Australia as a signatory to international conventions, is obliged in law to take action to end these crimes.
Labor in 2022, went to the election with a national policy platform that committed it, once in office, to recognising Palestine as a state “as an important priority”. No progress has been made on even this modest demand.
This is significant in withholding Australia’s support for the investigation by the International Criminal Court into war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories since June 2014, when indiscriminate Israeli bombardment killed over 2,000 civilians in Gaza.
As the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: “It is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law”.
Through its collusion in closing off legal, diplomatic and political pathways to justice, Australia has blood on its hands. The Palestinians have been driven, by Australia among other countries, to the last resort of rebellion against tyranny and oppression.
The state of Israel continues to deny the right of self-determination to Palestinians and continues to dispossess them of their land. We aim to rectify this injustice in ways that will allow both Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace, security and equality, exercising self-determination as described by the United Nations Charter.
Recognise that the state of Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories and the expropriation of Palestinian land, water, airspace, and resources is illegal and must be opposed.
Recognise that the September 2022 Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur found that “the occupation is not merely belligerent ,but is settlercolonial in nature and that Israel has prevented the realisation of Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, violating each component of that right, wilfully pursuing the “de-Palestinianisation” of the occupied territory.”
Support freedom and statehood for the Palestinian people.
Recognise that our ability to resolve the climate crisis is made more difficult by the ongoing violent conflict in the region and peace and stability are required for regional and equitable solutions to the climate crisis.
Call on all parties to comply with international law, relevant United Nations (UN) resolutions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.
Recognise that the state of Israel, as the sole State power exercising control over all Palestinians, has the primary obligation to comply with such laws.
Recognise that Israel’s ongoing colonisation of Palestinian land is rendering a two- state solution unachievable.
Reject and condemn all forms of violence, especially against civilians, whether perpetrated by a state, organisations or individuals, while recognising the right of the Palestinian people to resist Israeli occupation in accordance with international law.
Oppose all forms of racism, religious or cultural intolerance and discrimination, in Australia and internationally
Demand the protection of human rights in the Palestinian territories and Israel
Recognise that the state of Israel is practising the crime of apartheid against Palestinians as noted by prominent human rights organisations – including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as Palestinian and Israeli groups including al-Haq, Yesh Din and B’Tselem.
Recognise the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their place of origin through a just and acceptable solution based on UN Resolution 194, or compensation for those who choose not to return. Additionally, support the establishment of international mechanisms guided by international law to facilitate this outcome.
Recognise that the rise of right-wing extremism in Israel is contributing to the intensification of repression, violence and a further worsening of the humanitarian situation for Palestinians.
In accordance with the Australian Greens Resolution on Boycotts, Divestments & Targeted Sanctions, support the tactics of boycotts, divestments and targeted sanctions that are strategic and human rights aligned on: a) Government representatives, institutions and state-affiliated entities of the state of Israel and the Israeli military and/or; b) Corporations, entities and organisations that profit from or are complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights
Affirm that criticism of Israeli government policies and actions is not antisemitic, and therefore oppose the adoption and enforcement of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism which conflates criticism of the state of Israel with antisemitism. Recognise the rise of hateful and violent racism and bigotry including antisemitism and Islamophobia in Australia and commit to the development of thorough anti-racism policies.
Support and promote an open, human rights-aligned public debate about the state of Israel’s policies toward, and treatment of, Palestinian people.
Recognise the particular impact on children living under military occupation and exposed to conflict, in terms of their physical, psychosocial and social development needs.
Recognise that the state of Israel’s policy of conscription has involved young people in conflict and occupation which is counter to the goals of peace. Goals The Australian Greens will work for:
The end of the occupation of the Palestinian territories and the removal of the Separation Wall.
The removal of Israeli settlers and Israeli security and military forces from all the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including the land and sea blockade of Gaza.
The equitable allocation of all natural resources, including water.
Full equality before the law for every person, irrespective of ethnicity, religion, language, race, gender identity, class, disability, sexuality, or other social status.
The Australian government to join the international community in recognising the statehood of Palestinians and maintain the position of not recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The support of progressive political and civil society movements within the state of Israel and in the Palestinian Territories
The Australian Government to recognise and uphold the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in relation to investigations into the actions of members of the government of the state of Israel, the Israeli Defence Force, Palestinian Authorities and armed groups to ensure individuals found to be responsible for crimes under international law are brought to justice. Additionally, the Australian Government to use all diplomatic and peaceful means to ensure all parties to any such investigation cooperate and comply fully with all requests, requirements and rulings of the Court.
The Australian Government to support initiatives in the United Nations, including the International Court of Justice, to hold the state of Israel, Palestinian Authorities and armed groups accountable for crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations; including but not limited to the expansion of illegal settlements, targeting of civilians, treatment of civilian populations within their jurisdictions and treatment of enemy combatants under their control.
Australia to promote human rights of Palestinians in its diplomatic relationships with those directly or indirectly involved in the conflict.
The involvement of progressive women’s organisations in establishing and building peace, in line with the principles set out in UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
The Australian Government to increase support for NGOs promoting peace with justice for all Palestinians and Israelis.
The Australian Government to work for UN-supervised removal of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, from all states in the region.
In independent Australian foreign policy in relation to South West Asia and North Africa region, based on principles of peace, disarmament, ecology, self determination and human rights. As preliminary steps to the achievement of the goals, the Australian Greens call for:
The immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Israeli military from all Palestinian cities, towns, refugee camps, surrounding areas and transport routes, allowing freedom of movement of Palestinians.
The immediate release of Palestinian political prisoners and all Palestinian child prisoners held in Israeli detention.
The end of dispossession and destruction of Palestinian homes by the authorities of the state of Israel and Israeli settlers.
Palestinian control of their borders with Jordan and Egypt.
The immediate freezing of all Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including expansion, and the simultaneous commencement of the repatriation of the Israeli settlers from the Palestinian territories.
The immediate dismantling of the separation wall.
The deployment of an international peacekeeping force endorsed by the United Nations to monitor the implementation of the above preliminaries by the parties; ensure that civilian populations are not exposed to the risk of hostile attack; and provide assistance to re-establish infrastructure.
An immediate end to refusal of, or hindrance to, medical aid to Palestinians and an end to the destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, agriculture and homes by authorities of the state of Israel and Israeli settlers
International support to establish a joint healing process, based upon the principles of a truth and reconciliation commission.
Australian, international and Israeli assistance programs in the Palestinian territories which together are sufficient to repair and rebuild Palestinian infrastructure, institutions, agriculture and the environment, and democratic civil society.
UN-endorsed measures, such as targeted sanctions, as needed and in conformity with Australian Greens policies.
An end to Australian taxation deductions for donations to states, institutions and organisations engaged in violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in Israel and Palestine, including settlement activity.
Given the continuing disregard by the state of Israel of calls to halt settlement expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Australian Greens:
Call upon the Australian and State governments to halt military and security trade and cooperation with the state of Israel.
Reiterate our call for the immediate freezing of all Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Call for the removal of existing Israeli settlers and Israeli security and military forces from the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
That the Australian Greens: • Acknowledge Australia’s history of cultural, consumer, sporting and labour movement boycotts as a legitimate, non- violent political expression in support of national liberation, health, human rights and environmental causes. • Support the application of targeted sanctions, boycotts and divestments by the Australian Government when they are strategic and human rights-aligned and one or more of the following criteria are met: • The grave repression of the human rights or democratic freedoms of a population by a government • The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction • Internal or international armed conflict • Genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity or the perpetration of war crimes • State-sponsored mass violence • In the event of a military coup These criteria should serve to assist the deliberations of the Australian Greens and of the Australian Greens Party Room when considering calling for the application of targeted sanctions, boycotts or divestments against: • Government or state officials • State entities • State-affiliated or state-funded entities and/or; • Corporations, entities and organisations that profit from or are complicit in the violation of human rights. The Australian Greens reaffirm its support for the following calls made by the Australian Greens Party Room Foreign Affairs spokesperson for the following boycotts, divestments and targeted sanctions: • Targeted sanctions, boycotts and divestments on Myanmar’s military junta, government representatives, institutions and state-affiliated corporations for the 2021 February coup and treatment of the Rohingya population • Targeted sanctions, boycotts and divestments on Iranian government officials and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, government representatives, institutions and state-affiliated corporations including financial asset freezing and visa bans on key officials, the IRGC and morality police • Targeted sanctions, boycotts and divestments on Russian government representatives, institutions and state-affiliated corporations including boycott of the Russian oil and gas purchases.
(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. )
Palestinian academics call on RMIT to cut ties with Elbit –
11 August 2022
Palestine’s largest union of academics and tertiary education employees has called on RMIT university to end its ties with the Israeli arms company, Elbit.
In a forceful statement, the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) which represents some 6,000 Palestinian university professors and staff at more than a dozen higher education institutions in the occupied Palestinian territory, has written to RMIT Vice Chancellor, Prof Alec Cameron, to the Head of the Academic Board, Dr Sharon Andrews, to Professor John Thangarajah, Professor in Artificial Intelligence and Associate Dean of Computer Science and Software Engineering and to the University Council and Student Union, and urged them to suspend all collaboration with Elbit Systems.
‘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. And 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.
‘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 500 bombs 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 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.
Today students and academics at RMIT are protesting the university’s association with Elbit and this statement from Palestinian academics will be read out as they stand in solidarity with those in Palestine suffering under the violence perpetrated by the Israeli state using Elbit weapons and technology.
Full statement from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees here
More information on Elbit and the BDS Australia call to end all military ties with Israel here.
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;
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.