Australian university staff express solidarity with pro-Palestine student motion
Staff at universities across Australia have expressed their support for University of Melbourne students (UMSU) who passed a Palestine solidarity motion last week.
UMSU passed a resolution, 'UMSU Stands with Palestine - BDS and Solidarity Policy', on Friday that accused Israel of ongoing ethnic cleansing and apartheid. The motion described Zionism as a "racist, colonial ideology," and prompted smear campaigns from Jewish student groups who branded it "antisemitic".
Lecturers and staff from Melbourne University as well as from other Australian educational institutions released "an academic solidarity statement" on Monday supporting the UMSU and all students who "take a stance on Palestine".
UMSU Stands with #Palestine: AN ACADEMIC SOLIDARITY STATEMENT 🧵— Jeanine Hourani | جنين حوراني #FreePalestine (@jeaninehourani) May 2, 2022
We, the undersigned staff members at Universities across Australia, support the University of Melbourne students who passed the recent motion ‘UMSU Stands with Palestine – BDS and Solidarity Policy’.
"We understand the motion that was passed by the UMSU not to be anti-Jewish but rather pro-human rights and pro-human dignity," the statement said.
"Universities have a duty of care to protect the rights of their students who choose to take action and make political statements against colonialism, racism, and apartheid," it read.
The statement made clear that it agreed with the UMSU’s definition of Zionism and warned against the "conflation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism".
More than 30 staff signed the document as of Monday, including Dr Jordana Silverstein from the University of Melbourne and Professor Chelsea Watego from Queensland University.
The Australian academic statement was released just days after a powerful solidarity statement from the Harvard Crimson Editorial Board, which said they endorsed pro-Palestine Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movements.
The student-run newspaper from the Ivy-league university said "the weight of this moment…demands this step".
The Jewish Editorial Chair, Orlee Marini-Rapoport, later posted on Twitter that she was "proud to be part of [the] thoughtful group".
Israeli forces have systematically prosecuted and oppressed Palestinians for decades, committing violations that Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said amount to "the crimes of apartheid".
Palestinian activists and allies have called for institutions and individuals to put pressure on the Israeli government through boycotts, divestments and sanctions, mirroring the international campaigns against South African apartheid.