Melbourne University Student Union voted on a motion calling for the boycott of Israel

Melbourne University Student Union passed a BDS motion on Monday against Israel. Jewish organizations in Australia criticized the motion saying that the Jewish students there are being targeted.

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

The Melbourne University Student Union (UMSU) passed a motion on Monday regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, supporting Palestine and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel. The motion accused the Jewish state of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Jewish organizations have criticized the motion, revealing that Jewish students in Australia suffer from “death threats and a planned stabbing.”

“The UMSU has decided to adopt a number of stances and actions, condemning “the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians,” according to an official document released by the union. 

“UMSU supports the self-determination of the Palestinian people and their right to engage in self-defense against their occupiers,” it said in the decision, adding that it “deems the use of Zionism to justify the illegal occupation of Palestine as racist and colonial.”

Furthermore, the UMSU recognized Israel as an “apartheid state,” basing this on the allegations of “prominent human rights organizations” such as Amnesty International, B’Tselem and Humans Rights Watch. The union also criticized the Australian government for its “support for Israel and its ongoing crimes including occupation, settlement, expansion, and ethnic cleansing.”

Even though Jewish-Australian organizations see this decision as antisemitic, the union voted on a very short statement condemning “any and all forms of antisemitism,” and that “Israel’s actions are not representative of the Jewish community.” 

A view of the Melbourne Docklands and the city skyline from Waterfront City, looking across Victoria Harbour (credit: Wikimedia Commons)A view of the Melbourne Docklands and the city skyline from Waterfront City, looking across Victoria Harbour (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In addition, they stated that the union supports an academic boycott of Israel: “UMSU calls on the university to participate in an academic boycott and cut ties with Israeli institutions, researchers, and academics to be in harmony with the Palestinian call for boycott, as a contribution towards upholding international law and furthering the struggle for freedom, justice and equality Divestment Actions and support.”

Press release

In a press release, the union said that “as one of the biggest universities in Australia, the University of Melbourne’s monetary and academic connections to the State of Israel have helped legitimize the narrative created by the State of Israel.”

The Austalasian Union of Jewish Students vehemently opposes the new motion to boycott Israel that has been tabled for the UMSU student council,” AUJS wrote on social media, adding that “we also reject the utterly false and ludicrous version of history set out in the motion’s preamble.

“This motion strips away the pretense that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign is directed at Israeli policy regarding settlements, the West Bank and Gaza,” AUJS said. “The motion lays bare the real objective of this campaign, which is the disappearance of Israel as a Jewish state and the removal from the land of most of its Jewish population by one means or another. Jewish students are determined to fight against this insidious form of racism and fight back against anyone who is making Jewish students feel unsafe on Australian university campuses, with every legal means at our disposal.”

They “commend the University administration for having condemned a similar motion earlier this year,” they said, calling upon it to “take much more decisive action against this singling out of one nation and one people for vilification and abuse.”

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Zionist Federation of Australia, Jewish Community Council of Victoria and Zionism Victoria have released a statement condemning the UMSU motion.

“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. The motion is imbued with racism and its language drips with venomous hatred,” the Jewish organizations said.

“We reject the lies in this motion. We reject the denial of Jewish connection to Israel, and we stand by Jewish students who face constant antisemitism and unrelenting hatred on campus because of who they are, and their family, ethnic, cultural and religious connections to Israel.”

“We reject the lies in this motion. We reject the denial of Jewish connection to Israel, and we stand by Jewish students who face constant antisemitism and unrelenting hatred on campus because of who they are, and their family, ethnic, cultural and religious connections to Israel.”

Australian Jewish organizations

The statement of Jewish organizations in Australia claimed that “when student representatives falsely deny the Jewish connection to Israel, they deny to Jewish students the right to their own identity. When they promote hatred of Israel so unrelentingly, they are telling Jewish students and faculty that they don’t belong on campus unless they willingly forego their own identity. Only one country is singled out. Only one ethnicity is vilified. This has real-world implications.”

They dramatically revealed in the statement that Jewish students “are facing increasing intimidation, including death threats and a planned stabbing."

The Jewish organizations concluded by stating that “motions like this do nothing for Palestinians, but they make life on campus more dangerous for Jews.