Jewish Leaders in Australia Furious Over anti-Israel Motion at Top University

BDS resolution at Melbourne University ‘is imbued with racism and its language drips with venomous hatred,’ Jewish organizations charge in joint statement

Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz
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University Square in The University of Melbourne, 2014.
University Square in The University of Melbourne, 2014.Credit: Polly clip/Wikimedia Commons
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

A vehemently anti-Israel resolution was passed on Monday by the student union of one of Australia’s top universities, sparking outrage among leaders of the local Jewish community.

The resolution, which accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing of Palestinians” and described it as an “apartheid colonialist state,” was passed by the student representative board of the University of Melbourne.

An earlier version of the resolution had been approved in May only to be rescinded a few weeks later after a non-Jewish law student at the university threatened to sue the student union for violating Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. The student union said it would bring an amended version of the resolution up for a vote.

The university administration had also denounced the original resolution, labeling it “antisemitic.” It said it had no intention whatsoever of supporting sanctions against Israel, as demanded by the student union.

Besides referring to Israel’s military operation in Gaza last week, the amended version is very similar to the original.

“The legitimization of the Israeli state is the legitimization of Palestinian oppression,” it says.

Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its blockade of Gaza, the resolution adds, “is built on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, intending to forcefully expel Palestinians and massacre those who remain, in order to grow the state of Israel.”

The resolution calls on the university administration to participate in an academic boycott of Israel and cut all ties with Israeli institutions, researchers and academics. It also urges the university to divest from corporations “complicit in and profiting from the Israeli apartheid.”

The growing anti-Israel sentiment on university campuses in Australia has been causing Jewish students considerable discomfort in recent years. Even Jewish students who are critical of Israeli government policies say they feel unwelcome and unwanted in progressive spaces on university campuses.

The resolution, however, does condemn “any and all forms of antisemitism” saying it “recognizes that Israel’s actions are not representative of the Jewish community” and that “Israel’s crimes are its responsibility alone and not that of Jewish people worldwide.”

In a joint statement, the leading Zionist and Jewish organizations in Australia condemned the resolution, saying it “is imbued with racism and its language drips with venomous hatred.”

“It is shocking to see such a worldview so openly displayed at one of the world’s best universities, a place where the drive to understand complexity is supposed to be celebrated,” the statement said.

The statement was signed by leaders of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the Zionist Federation of Australia, the Australasian Association of Jewish Students, the Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, and Zionism Victoria.

“It is disingenuous to suggest that this motion is simply about criticism of the Israeli government or support for the Palestinians,” the statement said. “It effectively advocates the eradication of Israel as a state and thus denies the basic right of national self-determination of the Jewish people.

It added that “motions like this do nothing for Palestinians, but they make life on campus more dangerous for Jews. “

The motion was passed in a 13-3 vote with one abstention.

Justin Riazaty, the law student who had threatened legal action against the student union over the previous motion, sent a letter on Friday to the student union urging its members not to put the new version up for a vote. Following the vote, he told NCA Newswire, an online Australian news site, that he planned to move forward with legal action against the union.

“The passing of this motion is a declaration of war against every Jewish student at the University of Melbourne and a blatant attempt to defame and delegitimize anyone who supports Israel and Zionism,” he said.

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