Creating new perspectives since 2009

Australia uni students vote to divest from Israel

May 31, 2024 at 5:06 pm

People demonstrate in solidarity with Palestinians and protest against Israeli attacks on Gaza Strip, in Melbourne, Australia on May 15, 2021 [Stringer/Anadolu Agency]

Students at Australia’s University of Queensland voted on Wednesday to cut ties with weapons manufacturers and divest from Israel in a meeting attended by 1,500 people.

According to Green Left, the Student General Meeting (SGM), organised by Students for Palestine from the UQ Gaza Solidarity Encampment, was the first SGM initiated through a petition of two per cent of the student population rather than by the UQ Union (UQU) student council.

Petitioning began on 8 May and within 12 hours organisers collected the 1,000 signatures needed. A total of 1,027 validated signatures were submitted to the UQU.

Despite concerns about mobilising enough students during a study break and just before exams, in addition to complications from a bomb threat that led to evacuations, the UQ Centre remained unaffected.

Moreover, the turnout exceeded the 500-seat capacity of the lecture theatre, leading to hundreds of students outside demanding to vote. A procedural motion was passed to include their votes.

The motions debated included severing ties with companies supplying the Israeli Defence Forces, shutting down the Boeing Centre on campus and divesting financially from Israel.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Boeing is the fourth largest arms dealer in the world with an annual revenue from weapons sales of $29.3 billion.

All three motions passed almost unanimously, sparking chants of “Free, free Palestine” and leading to a 1,500-strong march to the administration building.

Activists celebrated the event as the largest pro-Palestine demonstration on an Australian university campus and emphasised it as a victory for the Gaza Solidarity Encampment at UQ.

Students For Palestine organiser Ella Gutteridge said: “I think that students should come to university to learn to make the world a better place, not a worse place. We should not accept that we come here, we keep our heads down, we study, and we go and be quiet worker bees for Australian capitalism. Students have the responsibility to not become complicit in the war machine and this is not a new argument. I am sure people in this room know of the radical history of students, standing up for justice, for humanity, against the crimes of our ruling classes, all around the world.”

She added: “That’s what we need to do, again, today, for Palestine. Just like we did for South Africa, just like we did for Vietnam, we need to make these disgusting states, these genocidal, apartheid states, we need to make them pariahs in the world system. And any company that wants to work with them, any company that wants to arm them, they need to become a pariah too.”

WATCH: German police officers brutally attack pro-Palestine protesters