A sign that universities are feeling the heat came as RMIT has just announced it “does not gave a partnership” with Israel’s largest weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems “or any of its subsidiaries, including Elbit Systems of Australia”.
Elbit Systems develops, tests and provides weapons and drones to the Israeli Defense Force.
Activists from Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Australia celebrated RMIT’s announcement on October 19.
“This is a significant victory for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in Australia,” said Hilmi Dabbagh, from BDS Australia, which partnered with Free Palestine Melbourne throughout the campaign.
“Australian universities have been put on notice that they will be targeted if they partner with any Israeli company or institution complicit in human rights abuses and attacks on Palestinians.”
The victory comes a year after BDS activists began a campaign to stop RMIT partnering with Elbit’s Centre of Excellence (CoE) to develop AI systems.
Last year, Palestine’s largest academic and tertiary union (PFUUPE), representing more than 6000 academics and staff, requested RMIT suspend all collaboration with Elbit Systems. Staff and students held on-campus protests and speak-outs.
RMIT did not respond to them or to an online petition calling for an end to any partnerships with Elbit Systems, with more than 2000 signatures.
This year, Shane McCartin and Mark Bradbeer have picketed each week outside RMIT and distributed information about Elbit technologies’ war crimes against Palestinian civilians and calling for an end to RMIT’s complicity.
They have been joined by Free Palestine Melbourne and Students for Palestine (Victoria).
Bradbeer said many students and staff knew nothing about Elbit Systems or its relationship with RMIT. “It was slow work but our support grew steadily as people learned of the partnership.”
Journalist and author Antony Loewenstein denounced the RMIT-Elbit partnership in July saying: “If you partner, as a state or a university, with a company like Elbit, you have blood on your hands because the record of Elbit in Israel-Palestine, on the US-Mexican border and elsewhere is so damned clear”.
On October 19, Students for Palestine (Victoria) marched on the RMIT campus, denouncing management for its complicity in Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip.
RMIT then released its “Israel-Gaza conflict” statement, in which it states its partnership with Elbit is over.