Jewish academic walks to Canberra for Palestine

A Jewish academic will walk from Sydney to Canberra in September to promote the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS) against Israel for its continuing subjugation of the Palestinians.

Marcelo Svirsky is a lecturer in politics at the University of Wollongong and an Australian-Israeli Palestine activist. He is the author of several academic works on Israel-Palestine, activism and colonialism, and is an active member of the National Tertiary Education Union.

On September 23, he will begin his 10-day walk from the Sydney Opera House to the federal parliament in Canberra to raise awareness about BDS in Australia. The walk will culminate in the submission to the House of Representatives of a petition calling on federal parliament to endorse BDS.

“I’ve lived in Israel most of my life as a Jew,” Svirsky said, “and I’m certain that it’s a moral obligation to support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel until it abides by international law.”

“I’m walking to Canberra to make a simple statement: Israel must end the occupation, give full equality to its Arab citizens, and respect the right of return of Palestinian refugees. This isn’t just what’s right and decent: it’s what international law mandates.”

“Since I will be walking on Aboriginal land, I have asked for, and been granted permission to walk from the Local Aboriginal Land Councils of La Perouse, Tharawal, Illawarra, Pejar and Ngambri, as well as the Metropolitan Land Council. This consent inspires me to affirm the rights of the indigenous people of Palestine.”

Svirsky will arrive in Canberra on October 2, having passed through the Illawarra, the Southern Highlands, Goulburn and Bungendore. He will participate in public meetings at Wollongong, Mittagong and Goulburn.

“The shocking butchery in Gaza means that nations that support peace must act to end Israeli violence,” Svirsky said. “The international BDS campaign is a nonviolent mechanism to put pressure on Israel to halt its oppression of Palestine.”

BDS has been growing in prominence in Australia in recent months. University of Sydney academic Jake Lynch recently won a case brought against him by an Israeli law centre for spearheading the call for the academic boycott of Israeli institutions. In a major victory for the BDS movement in Australia, Lynch was awarded costs.

This victory materially boosted the prominence of BDS in Australia. In Sydney last month, calls to boycott the Israeli Film Festival led to the Supreme Court of NSW banning a protest outside the festival’s opening night.

Svirsky is one of 164 Jews who signed an open letter in August calling on Jewish people “to break their silence, to take a public stand … for an end to the underlying conditions of siege and occupation which defy elementary morality, decency and humanity”.

“Though I am accustomed to walk long distances”, Svirsky said, “this walk is different both because of the 10-day effort involved and the task I have undertaken to bring the Palestinian call for boycotts into Australian official politics.”

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