Kiraz Janicke, Perth
Two-hundred people heard Ali Kazak, head of the Palestinian delegation to Australia, speak at public forums in Perth, Fremantle, Darlington, Curtin University and the University of Western Australia (UWA) during the first week of August. His speaking tour was sponsored by the No War Alliance.
Kazak's forum at UWA, attended by 90 students and organised by the UWA Resistance Club, was also addressed by Reverend Neville Watson, a member of the Iraq Peace Team present in Baghdad when the US launched its invasion in March 2003.
The forum had initially been organised as part of Social Justice Week, which is sponsored by the UWA Student Guild's public affairs council (PAC). Social Justice Week has traditionally been an opportunity for campus clubs to organise forums and other events to relating to social justice themes.
However, PAC president Katy Venn and Social Justice Week directors Giri Parameswaran and Tim Morris decided to ban the forum from being part of the official calendar events on the pretext that it was not a "debate".
In further discussion between UWA Resistance Club members, the Social Justice Week directors, the PAC president and Greg Weinstein, the societies council president of UWA Student Guild (who is also a member of the pro-Israel Australian Union of Jewish Students), it became clear that the real reason for banning the forum from Social Justice Week was the fact that it was about Palestine and that Kazak was speaking.
The question of Palestine has been a contentious one at the UWA over the past few years, with pro-Israel students often disrupting forums and events organised by Palestinian students and their supporters.
In response to the ban, the UWA Resistance Club initiated a petition calling for an end to political censorship on campus. The club collected several hundred signatures in a few days, including that of guild president Susie Byers and a number of academic staff.
Despite the political interference, the Palestine forum was the most successful event held during Social Justice Week.
"It is an outrage that in 2004, the crucial issues of Iraq and Palestine are not only not the key focus of a week dedicated to social justice, but actually excluded from it", commented Fred Fuentes, a UWA guild councillor and UWA Resistance Club member. "The several hundred signatures and turnout at the meeting shows that students want to campaign around these issues and see the attempts to disallow our participation in the week as political censorship."
From Green Left Weekly, August 11, 2004.
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