Uni of Melbourne Student Union passes pro-Palestine motion a second time

August 17, 2022
August 13 protest in solidarity with Palestine. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) passed a motion in May condemning Israeli apartheid and urging Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the “settler colonial apartheid state”.

Then, the University of Melbourne condemned the motion as “antisemitic” and later the UMSU rescinded it under threat of pro-Zionist legal action. However, a second motion, similar to the first, was passed overwhelmingly by the UMSU on August 15.

The second motion reiterated opposition to the “1948 ethnic cleansing of more than 350 Palestinian villages and towns”, Zionist apartheid which means that “Palestinians live on less than 16% of their historical land” and again called for support for the BDS movement “to pressure Israel into complying with international law”.

The UMSU had said in May that it would bring an amended version back to be discussed and voted on. The August motion was debated and passed 16 to three, with one abstention.

UMSU president Sophie Nguyen said the union did this after having “engaged an independent agency to facilitate consultation with relevant stakeholders”, including pro-Palestinian and Jewish bodies on campus.

Nguyen said this consultation was conducted “to help inform the Students’ Council about student perspectives” and that it was not done “for the purpose of preparing a motion”.

She said the UMSU was moving the motion to maintain “a 130-year tradition of students standing up for human rights issues, including those relating to international affairs”.

The motion said “Israel is one of the world’s major military powers with its large military industry funded in part by the United States of America”.

It condemned the state of Israel for using “advanced drones and artillery, backed by invasive surveillance, to carry out an offensive military operation against the civilians of Gaza, killing more than 47 Palestinians including 16 children as young as 5 years old”.

It said “as one of the biggest universities in Australia, the University of Melbourne’s monetary and academic connections to the State of Israel have helped legitimise the narrative created by the state of Israel”.

It said the UMSU stands against Israeli occupation of Palestine and condemns the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians; supports self-determination and Palestinian’s right to engage in self-defence and deems the use of Zionism to justify the illegal occupation of Palestine as racist and colonial.

It condemned the federal government’s support for Israel and its ongoing crimes of occupation; condemns “any and all forms” of anti-Semitism; and recognises that Israel’s actions are not representative of the Jewish community and that Israel’s crimes are its responsibility alone and “not that of the Jewish people worldwide”.

The UMSU said “supporting the Palestinian cause and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is not anti-Semitic” and it called on the university to participate in it.

It also calls on the university to “divest from corporations complicit in a profiting from Israeli apartheid and which operate on illegally-occupied Palestinian land”.

The motion also called for support for the Australian Centre of International Justice petition which last year condemned Israel’s attacks on Palestinian human rights institutions in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Commenting on the overall motion, the student union said: “This is a position that is shared by many organisations and commentators around the world, including the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Israeli human rights group B’Tselem”.

Anti-racist Jews who oppose Zionist and Israeli racism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing say anti-Zionism is not antisemitism.

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