University of Sydney students show solidarity with Gaza

May 12, 2024
University of Sydney protest on May 11. Photo: David Shoebridge/Facebook

A protest on May 11 in solidarity with the Palestinian people at the University of Sydney (USyd) drew dozens of students and activists from the Palestinian and Arab community.

Protest MC, Palestinian activist Dalia Qassem, said: “Despite the rain and the cold weather, Students for Palestine, a group of students against wars, and other student groups are still setting up their tents in front of the USyd administration building.

“They began this sit-in and encampment on the campus two weeks ago, and we highly appreciate their steadfastness in their tents.

“However, the university administration has not yet opened the door for a dialogue regarding their demands to cut academic ties with Israeli universities.

Greens NSW Senator David Shoebridge addressed the crowd saying he was “proud to be a graduate of a prestigious university” but now it is “disappointing to see its blatant bias towards the Israeli occupiers”.

He called on the university management to end its co-operation with military research “as weapons that kill civilians are being developed here” and “this must stop”.

Commenting on Australia’s vote in the United Nations General Assembly in favor of granting Palestine more rights as a UN observer, Shoebridge said foreign minister Penny Wong “did not make us proud”.

“She declared that [Australia] will not recognise the Palestinian state in the UN, but only recognise it if it came about through negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

He slammed Labor for sending Israel weapons and military equipment worth a billion dollars, during the first quarter of this year.

“The Australian government is participating in [Israel’s] war and contributing to the genocide of Palestinians.

“We must continue to pressure it to stop providing weapons to Israel and we must support the popular movement which rejects the war on Palestine.”

He said the student encampments, at USyd and elsewhere — now about 15 universities across Australia — must be supported because their demands are for justice for Palestine, and until the war is stopped and the Palestinian state is recognised.

Palestinian activist Assala Sayara told the rally that when she was a social science student at USyd, she requested permission to study a semester in Palestine to gain a different experience.

Her request was rejected on the basis that there was nothing to be learned and Palestinian universities are dangerous.

“But I visited Palestine and researched the development of education and the many creative ideas. I did not feel in danger, except from the Israeli occupation soldiers and the racist Zionist settlers,” she told the crowd.

“My research was not accepted by the University of Sydney, because it is not neutral. By confirming that the university participates in weapons research means it is participating in the genocide of Palestinians.”

She added: “Palestinians are a people who love life and whoever wants to learn the importance of life should look at our people in Palestine. Have they not risked their lives to save the lives of others?

“Look at the medical staff who are doing what they can to save the lives of the wounded. Look at the Palestinian media who are trying to convey the truth and are putting their lives in danger. Look at the mothers searching for food for their children amid the constant bombing.

“All of this is because we are a people who love life and are ready to sacrifice our lives so that other people may live.

“We want the University of Sydney and the Australian government to learn from the Palestinian people about the love of life, and even the world.”

Activist Dalia Qassem concluded the rally by calling on the protest to march to the Vice Chancellor Professor Mark Scott’s office to chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.

“He [Scott] does not know that the Palestinians, from the river to the sea, suffer from policies of racial discrimination and military occupation,” she said.

Following that everyone was invited to eat a Maqluba, a traditional Palestinian rice and lamb dish. “Just as we wear embroidered Palestinian dresses and the Palestinian keffiyeh to express our identity and heritage, you must know that … the Maqluba has special symbolism because the people of the city of Jerusalem cook it and serve it as a hospitality to visitors to the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

[Khaled Ghannam is a Palestinian-Australian activist.]

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