Students at Melbourne University passed a motion yesterday in favour of endorsing the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. The Student Union at the university (UMSU) passed the motion by 13 votes to 3, with one abstention.
"The UMSU has decided to adopt a number of stances and actions, against the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians," said the union. "UMSU supports the self-determination of the Palestinian people and their right to engage in self-defence against their occupiers." The use of Zionism "to justify the illegal occupation of Palestine," UMSU added, "is racist and colonial."
The resolution comes after the approval of an earlier version in May, which was revoked after a law student at the university threatened to sue the union for violating the State of Victoria's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. The union then said that it would bring an amended version of the resolution to be voted on. "The legitimisation of the Israeli state is the legitimisation of Palestinian oppression," it said.
Israel's occupation of the West Bank and its blockade of Gaza, the resolution added, "is built on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, intending to forcefully expel Palestinians and massacre those who remain, in order to grow the state of Israel."
In response, leading Zionist and Jewish organisations in Australia have condemned the resolution. A joint statement accused it of being "imbued with racism and its language drips with venomous hatred. It is shocking to see such a worldview so openly displayed at one of the world's best universities, a place where the drive to understand complexity is supposed to be celebrated."
The statement, which incorrectly conflates criticism of Zionism and the Zionist state of Israel with unacceptable anti-Jewish racism, was issued in the name of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the Zionist Federation of Australia, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, and Zionism Victoria.
"Motions like this do nothing for Palestinians," they concluded, "but they make life on campus more dangerous for Jews."