University of Melbourne Student Union stands with Palestine and supports BDS

The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) passed an historic motion on August 15, 2022 in solidarity with Palestinians and in support of BDS.

BDS Australia believes this is a major turning point for BDS activism in Australian tertiary institutions and congratulates the UMSU for their ethical stance and for their strength standing strong against threats of lawfare.

BDS & SOLIDARITY – UMSU STANDS WITH PALESTINE

Motion on BDS and Solidarity follows this preamble from UMSU

On Monday 15 August 2022, a motion relating to actions in support of Palestine was moved by a student at the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) Students’ Council. This motion was considered following the same process as all valid motions put to Students’ Council.

The motion was debated publicly and passed 16 votes to three with one abstention. The resultant policy has been incorporated into UMSU’s Stance Booklet which can also be accessed on our website.

UMSU considers that the motion is robust, was supported by appropriate consultation and was passed with due diligence by Students’ Council.

UMSU recently engaged an independent agency to facilitate a consultation process with relevant stakeholders, including pro-Palestinian and Jewish bodies on campus. This consultation process was conducted to help inform Students’ Council about student perspectives on this topic. It was not conducted for the purpose of preparing a motion. The consultation process was completed on 1 August 2022.

UMSU and its predecessor organisations, has maintained a 130-year tradition of students standing up for human rights issues, including those relating to international affairs. This is consistent with the purpose, mission and values of UMSU. 

UMSU continues to encourage respectful debate of international affairs on campus and deplores and denounces bigotry and hate speech in all its forms. Following research, consultation and engagement, UMSU does not believe that supporting the Palestinian cause and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is anti-Semitic. This is a position that is shared by many organisations and commentators around the world, including the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. 

Our highest priority, as always, is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all students.  UMSU has a diverse student body and Students’ Council regularly considers motions on issues about which people feel passionately – as always UMSU encourages all students/stakeholders to engage with each other respectfully. 

Minutes UMSU – 15 August 2022 – Meeting 13

Students have been key participants in the fight against the illegal colonization and occupation of Palestine by protesting, organizing, and educating fellow students. Student unions and associations across the world continue to formally endorse BDS. As one of the biggest universities in Australia, the University of Melbourne’s monetary and academic connections to the State of Israel have helped legitimize the narrative created by the state of Israel. Thus, the University of Melbourne’s Student Union must take a clear and firm stance to communicate both to the university and the world that the apartheid and oppression of Palestinians will not be ignored, upheld, or accepted by the university’s student body.

General Stances:

1. UMSU stands against the Israeli occupation of Palestine and condemns the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians

2. UMSU supports the self-determination of the Palestinian people and their right to engage in self-defence against their occupiers

3. UMSU deems the use of Zionism to justify the illegal occupation of Palestine as racist and colonial

4. UMSU recognises that Israel is an apartheid state in accordance with prominent human rights organisations like Amnesty International, B’Tselem, and Humans Rights Watch.

5. UMSU condemns the Australian government’s support for Israel and its ongoing crimes including occupation, settlement, expansion, and ethnic cleansing.

6. UMSU condemns any and all forms of antisemitism

7. 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.

Academic Boycott:

1. UMSU supports the academic boycott movement of Israeli institutions in accordance with the PACBI guidelines: PACBI Guidelines for the International Academic Boycott of Israel | BDS Movement

2. UMSU calls on the university to participate in an academic boycott and cut ties with Israeli institutions, researchers, and academics to be in harmony with the Palestinian call for boycott, as a contribution towards upholding international law and furthering the struggle for freedom, justice and equality

Divestment Actions and Support:

1. UMSU calls on the university to divest from corporations complicit in and profit from the Israel apartheid and that operate on illegally occupied Palestinian land.

2. Direct the CEO to update the UMSU ethical register and boycott companies that support and profit from the Israeli apartheid in line with the global BDS guidelines.

3. To direct the President and POC Officers to write and publish a joint statement announcing UMSU’s decision to adopt BDS and its support for Palestinian rights to be published on all UMSU socials.

4. To direct the General Secretary to update the UMSU stance booklet to reflect this policy and subsequent vote on it.

5. To direct the President and POC officers to send a joint letter of support to the Australian Centre for International Justice affirming UMSU’s support for Palestine on behalf of UMSU.

Letter of solidarity to Melbourne University Student Union

Letter of solidarity to Melbourne University Student Union

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

The motion:

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

Academic Boycott:

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.

Sanction Israel petition

Sanction Israel petition

Update: This petition was signed by 21,991 Australians in the limited time it was online (4 weeks) and was presented to the Australian Federal parliament in August 2021. The then Foreign Minister, Senator Marise Payne responded to this petition and her letter is here and copied below.

May 27, 2021
PETITION TO THE AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL PARLIAMENT

BDS Australia believes that it’s time the people who want to see justice for Palestinians, tell our politicians that it’s time to sanction Israel. We have one month until this petition is closed and it will be presented to the parliament. Australia is obliged to take action to support international law. BDS Australia is committed to championing the rights of Palestinians in law.

Background

Successive Israeli governments have severely discriminated against and brutally dominated Palestinians since the Nakba of 1948. The latest attacks in Gaza and throughout East Jerusalem, the West Bank and inside Israel show that the Nakba has never ended.
The systematic oppression of Palestinians amounts to grave breaches of international law and the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution. Palestinians have been subject to ongoing largescale military assaults and an illegal 14-year physical and economic blockade in Gaza; a brutal 54-year military occupation; decades-long restrictions on freedom of movement; widespread imposition of an illegal settlement enterprise; confiscation of land and mass denial of residency rights.
These actions intentionally and severely deprive millions of Palestinians of key fundamental rights and protections including the right to self-determination, the right of return, the right to equality and non-discrimination, and the rights to life, liberty, health, water, and security.
The Australian Government has a responsibility as a signatory to numerous international treaties to take action against Israel due to these grave violations of international law, which are also criminal offences under Australian law.

Petition Request

We therefore ask the House to
1) publicly condemn Israel’s assaults on Palestinians.
2) support targeted sanctions and an arms embargo on Israel.
3) support the suspension of defence cooperation with Israel and end defence industry partnerships.
4) introduce legislation to ban all settlement goods and services from entering Australia.
5) prevent Australian companies from operating, trading, or investing in settlements or contributing to their maintenance and/or expansion.

Response by the then Foreign Minister, Marise Payne
October 7, 2021



UTS does not see Israel’s human rights violations as an issue

UTS does not see Israel’s human rights violations as an issue

May 26, 2021

BDS Australia wrote to the UTS Vice Chancellor,Professor Attila Brungs and the Vice President (Advancement), Celia Hurley about the UTS series of webinars hosted by the Israeli Technion university and other partnerships UTS has with this institution – see details here. We received a response which indicates that UTS does not take these issues seriously and does not intend to address them.

This is the response from Celia Hurley to our letter which was shared as an online petition to her and the Vice Chancellor as well.

“Thank you for your email regarding the upcoming webinar event with the Technion Institute of Technology (Australia) and your request that UTS cancel all ties with Technion.
UTS has a commitment to academic freedom and international knowledge exchange, and as a public university we base our partnerships on advice from the Australian Commonwealth Government.
We acknowledge the enormous human impact the recent conflict is having and as a university committed to social justice our sympathies are very much with all of those affected.
The UN Security Council has not, to date, made any sanctions against Israel regarding the conflict and we are not aware of any international law violations. At this point in time UTS is not aware of any new information that leads us to conclude that Technion is not an appropriate partner and that the event should be cancelled.
With kind regards,
Celia Hurley”

BDS Australia does not accept this response from the University of Technology Sydney – this is our reply:

We note your response to our call that UTS cancels its involvement in the forthcoming Technion sponsored webinar and to cease all partnerships with any institutions that contribute to the oppression of Palestinians and violations of international law.

We do not accept the arguments you have provided for not withdrawing from your association with the Israeli Technion University.  You note that UTS is committed to social justice however your actions in partnering with this university raise serious concerns about whether UTS can legitimately make this claim.

It is extraordinary that you refer to the UN Security Council and the lack of sanctions against Israel regarding this conflict especially given that every academic employed by UTS with the vaguest understanding of this issue, would be able to refer you to the ongoing veto that the United States has used and again most recently in relation to Israel’s ongoing grave violations of international law. The United States this month repeatedly blocked the adoption of a joint UN Security Council statement calling for a halt to the current hostilities despite the fact that all other 14 members of the Security Council were in favour of issuing this statement. In addition, since 1947, Israel has been the subject of almost 300 UN General Assembly resolutions – the most censured state in the history of the UN.

Regarding violations of international law, we draw your attention to this recent submission by the Australian Centre for International Justice and the Palestine Human Rights Organisations Council, which details Israel’s breaches of international law and also to the Human Rights Watch report on the Israeli crimes of apartheid and persecution. Israel’s violations of international law are well documented and have been on the public record for many years.  Again, any academic at UTS with basic knowledge could provide them for you and any other decision maker who is ignorant of these facts.

You state that you base your partnerships on advice from the Commonwealth Government which we presume means that unless a country is sanctioned by Australia, UTS will not consider ongoing violations of international law,  human rights and UN Resolutions alone, as a reason to cease partnerships. We would like to point out that as a high contracting party to the Geneva Conventions, Australia has accepted the full scope of obligations under these Conventions which oblige it to respect and apply them in ‘good faith’.

The fact that the Australian Commonwealth Government is in breach of its duty under these Conventions, does not relieve UTS of the responsibility to thoroughly investigate its partnerships with institutions and bodies implicated in grave breaches of international law through their support for states like Israel.

The Israeli government’s actions to deny and hinder the right of Palestinians to an education are well documented. This Norwegian Refugee Council report shows that there were an average of 10 attacks per month on West Bank kindergarten and school students, staff and facilities between 2018-2020. Unicef documented that in 2016 alone, 256 education-related violations were documented in the West Bank, affecting nearly 30,000 students. This World Council of Churches / Unicef report offers detailed analysis and documentation of the way the Israeli Occupation and illegal settlement enterprise has impacted many thousands of Palestinian children’s education.

The UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Save the Children reported on May 19th that 50 schools in Gaza were damaged by Israeli airstrikes over the past week, impacting some 41,897 children. Three schools were reportedly damaged in Israel by rockets from Gaza.

Technion’s collaboration with the Israeli government and with Israeli weapons manufacturers
is well documented. Elbit Systems have partnered with Technion in numerous ways including a joint vision systems research agreement, through which Elbit offered grants to selected Technion undergraduate and graduate students and researchers in the electrical engineering department. Elbit uses vision systems in its helmet-mounted displays for pilots in combat aircraft. Many employees of Elbit Systems are Technion graduates, including the current CEO.

The euphemisms used in your response, such as “the enormous human impact” and “sympathies are very much with all of those affected” are familiar tropes used by the corporate media and other unofficial spokespeople for the Israeli state. They imply that this is an equal ‘conflict’, which is grotesque when one considers the asymmetry, the enormity of Palestinian suffering and the fact that Israel is an occupying power with the fourth largest army in the world.

We look forward to UTS actions which demonstrate that this institution takes its commitment to social justice and human rights seriously.

We will continue to advocate for UTS to cease all partnerships and affiliations with Technion and any other company or institution which supports Israel’s violations of the human rights of Palestinians and their right to justice under international law.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sign the petition to UTS Vice Chancellor, Professor Attila Sprungs and Vice President (Engagement) Celia Hurley HERE.

Urge Lewis Hamilton To Help Convince Puma To End Support for Israeli Apartheid

Urge Lewis Hamilton To Help Convince Puma To End Support for Israeli Apartheid

Take two quick actions HERE to thank Lewis Hamilton for his stand against racism and to urge him to take that stand to Puma over its support for Israeli apartheid that South Africans say is worse than what they endured.

Lewis Hamilton, Formula One’s first and only Black driver, is shattering records and fighting against racism on and off the race track.

He recently said, “We all have a responsibility to educate ourselves and raise awareness of the tragedies happening in the world around us and take action where we can”.

Let’s take this opportunity to do just that!

Lewis Hamilton’s sponsor Puma supports Israeli apartheid that South Africans say is worse than what they endured.

Take two quick actions HERE to thank Lewis Hamilton for his righteous stand against racism and ask him to take that stand to Puma.