Melbourne University calls BDS resolution by Student Union 'antisemitic'

The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) welcomes the strongly-worded statement by Melbourne University that repudiated the antisemitic motion.

 Melbourne University  (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Melbourne University
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

After the Melbourne University Student Union passed a BDS resolution, the university issued a statement on Wednesday calling that motion "antisemitic."

The Student Union passed a resolution ten votes to six on Friday that accused Israel of ongoing ethnic cleansing, apartheid, attacks on innocent worshipers and described Zionism as a “racist, colonial ideology.” Melbourne University repudiated the motion’s call for a boycott of Israeli universities and academics by saying how proud the University is of its partnerships with Israeli universities and scholars.

The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) welcomes the strongly-worded statement by Melbourne University that repudiated the antisemitic motion passed by the student union and rejected its call to boycott Israeli universities. 

“The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) is a self-governing body and operates as a separate entity to the University," a spokesperson for the university told J-Wire. "This antisemitic motion, narrowly passed in a vote by 16 members of the UMSU Students’ Council, is not the position of the University of Melbourne; nor is it one that is endorsed or supported by the University." The representative told the Australian-Jewish news outlet that "any form of antisemitism is antithetical to who we are and what we stand for." 

ZFA President Jeremy Leibler reacted to the statement on Wednesday, saying that “we thank Melbourne University for its strong leadership on this matter. Given the antisemitic nature of the student union motion – which effectively denied the Jewish right to self-determination and redefined Judaism to suit its political purposes – this was the only responsible action the University could take. The statement sends an important message to Jewish students at Melbourne University that they are welcome and are free to express their Jewish identity without fear of intimidation.

A lone man wearing a protective face mask sits at an unusually quiet State Library on the first day of a lockdown as the state of Victoria looks to curb the spread of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Melbourne, Australia, July 16, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/SANDRA SANDERS/FILE PHOTO)A lone man wearing a protective face mask sits at an unusually quiet State Library on the first day of a lockdown as the state of Victoria looks to curb the spread of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Melbourne, Australia, July 16, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/SANDRA SANDERS/FILE PHOTO)

“We also urge the University to take the next step and adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, as the federal government and opposition have done," Leibler continued. "Doing so would empower university staff and students to call out antisemitic conduct when it occurs and send a strong message of support and inclusion to Jewish students.”

AIJAC Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein said: “We gratefully welcome the University’s principled statement on the motion and especially the fact that the University has correctly identified the appalling UMSU motion as antisemitic. AIJAC would also welcome any further steps the University could take to prevent a repeat of this travesty. Chief among these would be for the University to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism.

“We hope other universities have taken note of this matter, and will also speedily adopt the Working Definition to try to prevent similar events occurring on their campuses,” Dr. Rubenstein concluded. 

Zionism Victoria President Yossi Goldfarb said, “While the University of Melbourne cannot dictate policy to the Students Union, we welcome the leadership shown in its statement in which it is categorically stated, 'Any form of antisemitism is antithetical to who we are and what we stand for. Tackling it and its damaging effects is a responsibility of all members of our community.'

"We also welcome the support expressed for Jewish students and for academic partnerships with Israeli universities and scholars.

"Nonetheless, the passage of the resolution by the student union shows why there is an urgent need for the University of Melbourne and all universities to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism."