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Citing Israeli apartheid, Melbourne University Students' Union endorses BDS

Protest in support of Palestine in New York, US on 5 May 2022 [Tayfun Coşkun/Anadolu Agency]
Protest in support of Palestine in New York, US on 5 May 2022 [Tayfun Coşkun/Anadolu Agency]

In further indication of the growing support for Palestine in campuses across the world, Melbourne University Students' Union (UMSU) recently passed a resolution -10 to 6- endorsing the global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

"In the late 1800s, Political Zionism was born to establish a Jewish home in Historic Palestine, disregarding the Indigenous Palestinians living there" says the motion in its introduction to the pro-BDS resolution. "This colonial project has led to the establishment of the State of Israel, the blockade of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank through massacres, forced expulsion and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians".

Describing Israel as a "settler colonial apartheid state" the motion states that the Occupation State "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 action to pressure Israel to comply with international law" the motion continues, before drawing attention to Israel's recent bombing of Gaza, raids on Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Commenting on the growing global solidarity, UMSU explained that students in Palestine and around the world have been key participants in the fight against the illegal occupation of Palestine, protesting, organising and creating a discussion on respective campuses, and that 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" UMSU said.

Declaring its stance, UMSU said that it stands against the Israeli occupation of Palestine and condemns the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Regarding Israel's State ideology, it declared "Zionism as a racist, colonial ideology".

READ: Harvard University student newspaper endorses BDS movement

UMSU expressed solidarity with Jewish students, saying it opposes "any and all forms of anti-Semitism against students of the Jewish faith". The motion explains that 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" the motion insisted, before endorsing a number of pro-BDS Resolutions. "UMSU supports the academic boycott movement of Israeli institutions" said the motion.

Urging the University not to be "complicit in and profiting from the Israeli apartheid" it called on the governing body to participate in an academic boycott and cut ties with Israeli institutions, researchers and academics that support the Israeli oppression of Palestinians.

Melbourne University, which is one of Australia's top-ranked tertiary institutions, condemned the motion in a statement on Wednesday. "This anti-Semitic motion … is not the position of the University of Melbourne; nor is it one that is endorsed or supported by the University," a spokesman is reported saying.

Responding to the criticism, Assistant Professor, Lana Tatour, urged Melbourne University to

learn from its students and not conflate Israel with Judaism which is considered a form of anti-Semitism. "Israel's crimes are its responsibility alone and not that of Jewish people worldwide … Judaism and Zionism are not to be conflated as one," she said.

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