NTEU Uni of Sydney passes historic boycott motion for Palestine

May 10, 2024
NTEU members after the historic vote. Photo: @unions4palestin/X

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of Sydney voted on May 9 to support an institutional academic boycott of Israeli universities and to cut ties with the weapons industry and militaries in general.

The members’ meeting was attended by 346 people in person and online: 93% supported the motion.

It is the first successful boycott and divestment motion by the NTEU at any university, and sets a precedent for others to follow.

The motion noted the International Court of Justice’s preliminary ruling that Israel is “plausibly committing genocide in the Gaza Strip”. It said while the university maintains ties with weapons manufacturers and militaries that arm or support Israel, it is therefore implicated in the killing of Palestinians.

This is incompatible with the university’s stated commitments to “leading to improve the world around us” and “education for all, leadership for good”.

Further, it said staff and students “must not be exposed to the charge that either they or their own institution is aiding and abetting war crimes, crimes against humanity and/or plausible acts of genocide”.

In a well-organised campaign beforehand, union members, including Professor Sujatha Fernandes, sent in endorsements of the motion.

“In the last seven months I have witnessed the most terrible events of my lifetime — genocide, ecocide and scholasticide in Palestine,” Fernandes said.

“Our students have such moral clarity and courage in standing up right now, asking the university to divest from genocide. I have taken my son down to visit their Gaza solidarity encampment on the lawns and it was beautiful to be a part of. We must follow their lead and pass this motion.”

The motion noted the original call from Palestinian trade unions to oppose nations arming of Israel and the call from Palestinian universities and colleagues for university workers internationally “to implement an institutional academic boycott of Israel”.

It said “this does not prevent collaboration with individual academics, but only affects collaboration with, or officially mediated by, Israeli universities as institutions”.

The motion called on management to “replace the funding of all staff whose position at the university depends on arms companies, to enable them to undertake research for the public good.”

It called for the establishment of “dedicated international scholarships for Palestinian students” and to “welcome Palestinian academics through the Scholars at Risk program”.

Finally, the motion encouraged all NTEU members to implement the institutional boycott and for other NTEU branches and the national NTEU to pass similar motions.

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