Published 25 May 202227 May 2022 · Palestine / Unions Open letter: UMSU should not back down over Palestine Students for Palestine Three weeks ago, students at the University of Melbourne passed a motion in solidarity with Palestine and with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Since then, the student union (UMSU) and the students involved with drafting and passing the motion have come under sustained pressure from Zionist individuals and organisations, including a class action lawsuit threatening to take the union to court if it does not retract the motion. We are seriously concerned that UMSU will now rescind this motion. We strongly oppose retreating in this way. The arguments made in the lawsuit are cynical and dishonest, conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. This is an attempt to undermine solidarity with the Palestinians. The Israeli occupation of Palestine denies Palestinians basic civil and human rights. It is a militarised apartheid regime. Since the motion passed, the world witnessed the cold-blooded murder of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by an IDF sniper as she reported on Israeli violence in the Jenin refugee camp. Videos circulated of Israeli police assaulting casket-bearers at her funeral, denying Palestinians the basic dignity of mourning their dead. For a student union in Melbourne to walk back their commitment to Palestinian liberation at this moment spits in the face of both the suffering endured by Palestinians every day and their courage in continuing to resist. Every major institution in Australia backs Israel. Both major parties routinely express their commitment to diplomatic relations with the occupying power. Our university quickly moved to distance itself from the union and smear the motion as anti-Semitic. This makes it even more important that UMSU, one of the few organisations willing to criticise Israel, stands firm. Since the UMSU motion passed, student unions at the University of Sydney and the Australian National University have passed similar motions. This is a welcome development, and UMSU should be pushing for more organisations to express solidarity with Palestine, not withdrawing their own. If UMSU rescinds the motion, it will be a concession to all the cynical and right-wing arguments made in the lawsuit. It will be an admission that expressing solidarity with Palestine is somehow inherently oppressive of Jewish people. It will also establish the precedent that any right-wing individual or organisation with enough money and legal backing can strike down the democratically adopted positions of a student union. This would represent a major attack on the independence and progressive politics of student unionism. What is to prevent individuals or organisations using the threat of lawsuits to force student unions to back down on their support for other oppressed peoples or other progressive causes? An important part of student unionism is standing up for progressive causes even when it is difficult and you are met with threats and intimidation from universities, governments or powerful political organisations. University of Melbourne students resisting conscription during the Vietnam War had their union building smashed up by police trying to intimidate them into submission – but they put up a fight against this intimidation, because they stood up for what they believed in and knew they were on the right side of history. We, the undersigned, urge UMSU to take a stand against the Zionists’ intimidation by holding the line on its support for Palestinian resistance and BDS. To do otherwise would be a capitulation on basic student democracy and progressive politics. ***** Signatories Hiba Adam, People of Colour Officer, UMSU Shirley Killen, Student Councillor, UMSU Mohamed Hadi, Student Councillor (People of Colour), UMSU Jeanine Hourani, University of Melbourne staff member and alumni Alec Ferguson, Free Palestine Melbourne member and University of Melbourne student Bella Beiraghi, Free Palestine Melbourne member and University of Melbourne student Dana Alshaer, University of Melbourne student James Gallagher, University of Melbourne student Isi Ogwu, People of Colour Committee Member, UMSU Jordana Silverstein, Senior Research Fellow, University of Melbourne Dr. Randa Abdel-Fattah, DECRA Research Fellow, Macquarie University David Brophy, Senior Lecturer and NTEU delegate, University of Sydney Nick Riemer, Senior Lecturer, University of Sydney Tasnim Sammak, PhD candidate, University of Melbourne Brendan Laws, Education (Coursework) Officer at the Graduate Student Association Melbourne University Monica Sestito, Education (Research) Officer at the Graduate Student Association Melbourne University Wajeehah Aayeshah, Lecturer in Curriculum Design, University of Melbourne Kristin Diemer, Associate Professor, University of Melbourne Dave McDonald. Lecturer in Criminology, University of Melbourne Joshua Pocius, Senior Tutor in Gender Studies, University of Melbourne Ben Gilmour, Liaison Support Librarian, University of Melbourne Hamilton Kennedy, Academic, University of Melbourne Bina Fernandez, Associate Professor, University of Melbourne Graham Schaffer, Professor, University of Melbourne Marijke Davey, Sessional Tutor (School of Design), University of Melbourne Aleks Michalewicz, Staff, University of Melbourne Grace Torcasio, Subject Coordinator in Cultural Studies, University of Melbourne Nick Thieberger, Associate Professor, the University of Melbourne Tim Wright, Casual Academic, the University of Melbourne Nicholas Sgro-Traikovski, Teaching Associate, the University of Melbourne Jemima Amery-Gale, PhD candidate and NTEU delegate, University of Melbourne Keagan Ó Guaire, PhD candidate and tutor, University of Melbourne, and Cairde Sinn Féin Melbourne organiser Priya Kunjan, PhD candidate, University of Melbourne Elyssia Bugg, PhD candidate, University of Melbourne Farnaz Shahimi, PhD candidate, University of Melbourne Claire Zammit, PhD candidate, University of Melbourne Jack Melton, PhD candidate, University of Melbourne Juan Jose, PhD candidate, University of Melbourne Carol Que, Tutor, University of Melbourne Faith Oguzhan, Sessional Academic, University of Melbourne Moosa Raza, University of Melbourne student Maxwell Rea, University of Melbourne student Annie Toller, University of Melbourne student Janise Sam, University of Melbourne student Julian Petito, University of Melbourne student and staff member Rosanna Watts, University of Melbourne student Ben Fritch, University of Melbourne student Ada Pascoe, University of Melbourne student Liza Stephens, University of Melbourne student Sam Rathnaweera, University of Melbourne student Oskar Martin, University of Melbourne student Frankie Kennedy, University of Melbourne student Jaan Schild, University of Melbourne student Alex McKay-Trezise, University of Melbourne student Xavier Dupe, University of Melbourne student Raphael Duffy, University of Melbourne student Sam Karabogias, University of Melbourne student Claire Mckeown, University of Melbourne student Maryam Hessami, University of Melbourne student Caitlin Larcombe, University of Melbourne student Omar Yuusuf, University of Melbourne student Juliette McKeown, University of Melbourne student Daniel Weber, University of Melbourne student Edith Pope, University of Melbourne student Benjamin Jarick, University of Melbourne student Esra Benserai, University of Melbourne student Matthias Radja, University of Melbourne student Amos Gibson, University of Melbourne student Jacob Andrewartha, University of Melbourne student Julien Macandili, University of Melbourne alumni Daniel Bennett-Spark, University of Melbourne alumni Ken Blackman, University of Melbourne alumni Sophia Graley, University of Melbourne alumni Chloe Sinclair, University of Melbourne alumni Hakim Mume, University of Melbourne alumni Maeve Scannell, Library Assistant, Rowden White Library (UMSU) Alana Lentin, Professor, Western Sydney University Chelsea Watego, Professor of Indigenous Health, Bond University Dr. Stephen Pascoe, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Laureate Centre for History and Population, UNSW Liz Walsh, Assistant Secretary, Victorian Socialists Julia Dehm, Senior Lecturer, La Trobe University Naama Carlin, Lecturer, University of New South Wales Lorel Thomas, Free Palestine Melbourne member Erica Millar, Senior Research Fellow, La Trobe University Timothy Jones, Associate Professor of History, La Trobe University Daniel Lopez, Commissioning Editor, Jacobin Magazine Katie Wood, Former General Secretary, UMSU Adam Elyousef, Ethnocultural Co-Officer, University of Western Australia Samuel Adams, Councillor, University of Queensland Student Union Alicia Griffiths, councillor at the Latrobe Student Union Dr. Elliot Dolan-Evans, Assistant Lecturer, School of Medicine, Monash University Beth Jackson, Uni Students for Climate Justice Co-Convenor Deaglan Godwin, Education Officer, Student Representative Council, University of Sydney Dr. Liam Ward, Lecturer in Media and Communications, RMIT University Peter Slezak, Honorary Associate Professor, University of New South Wales Emma Dynes, Former Student Councillor, UMSU Andrew Brooks, Lecturer, University of New South Wales Zora Simic, Senior Lecturer, University of New South Wales Natalie Acreman, Former National LGBTI Officer, National Union of Students Dr. Catherine Orian Weiss, Tutor, RMIT University Dr. Crystal McKinnon, Indigenous Research Fellow, RMIT University Jake Lynch, Associate Professor, Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney Kelly Cvetkova, National Executive member, National Union of Students Ana Obradovic, Student Representative Council President, University of Adelaide Nix Herriot, Environmental Officer, Student Representative Council, University of Adelaide Cyma Hibri, PhD candidate, University of Sydney Stanley Zhang, PhD candidate, Griffith University Dr. Caitlin Biddolph, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Sydney Jamal Nabulsi, PhD candidate, University of Queensland Joshua Garfield, Research Fellow, Monash University Jarrod Hore, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of New South Wales Ella Marchionda, Student Councillor, RMIT Student Union Ben Milne, Student Councillor, RMIT Student Union Cormac Mills Ritchard, Former Student Councillor, RMIT Student Union Owen Marsden-Readford, Students for Palestine President, University of Sydney Mikaela Pappou, Vice-President at the Student Representative Council, University of Sydney Fahad Ali, Research and Teaching Assistant, University of Sydney Vinil Kumar, Former Ethnocultural Officer, National Union of Students Mutu Yolbulan, ASU delegate at Shine Lawyers Fletcher O’Leary, Former President of the Adelaide University Union Thomas Williams, Former Education Officer, University of Sydney Yasmine Johnson, Welfare Officer, Student Representative Council, University of Sydney Gina Elias, Councillor, Student Representative Council, University of New South Wales Simon Upitis, Social Justice Officer, Student Representative Council, University of Sydney Dashie Prasad, Women’s Officer, Student Representative Council, University of Sydney Joseph Pugliese, Professor, Macquarie University Van Rudd, Former Campus Coordinator, VCA Student Union Michelle Ryan, Free Palestine Melbourne member and NTEU member Melani De Alwis, Access Department Co-Officer, University of Western Australia Nachshon Amir, former Israeli IDF officer Rebecca Hynek, Jewish Anti-Zionist Nicole McEwen, Guild Councillor, University of Western Australia Phoebe Burrage, Climate Action Network Coordinator Damian Ridgwell, Palestine Action Group member Elliot Downes, staff member, Australian National University Helen Bayes, Quaker Peace and Social Justice Committee, Victoria Luka Kiernan, Committee Member, Monash Student Association Fleur Taylor, Former Education Vice-President, UMSU Zena Cumpston Alexander Bastiras Emily Hubbard Babs Rapeport Mazin Abogodah Nasser Mashni Nadav Franckovich Gideon Polya John Pike Danil Matthews Ella Haid Nic Anderson Michael Shaik Seyed Sadaghiyani Dale Sheehan Rob Narai Jumana Bayeh Jamie Tyers Tyler Hutchinson Jayesh Maharaj Greg Giannis Muzna Dakakni Priya Chacko Otto Grodach Phoebe Kelloway Benjamin Fok Carla Falvo Ruby Healer James McVicar Deitra Kanellos Muayad Ali Ban Hasanin Bayejeed Hasan Helen Bayes Lillian Kopschewa Lucas Brunning-Halsall Yasmin Jenkins Gunn Rory Gee Zoe Lyle Bronwyn Murphy Oscar Sterner Lucas Barakat Heather Maltby Maeve Riches Annabel Pettit Nevine Salama Brendan Tate Hamish Bruce Renuga Inpakumar Amiriya Dorian Sophia Munro Mary-Anne Gale Phoebe Autumn Jack Howard Madeleine Clark Benjamin Richmond Alice Cleveley Mark Berthold Daniel Dadich Samuel Forbes Lewis Moore Ellie Hall Kirill Smelov Emma Black Tully McEwen Laurence Lacoon Bill Swannie Brad Reich Dr. Tom Grace Patrick Dommisse George Quinlan Oliver Woodrow Kyle Thomas Knowles Raymond Sestito Ana Valentino David Ng Raghad Rihan Zinnia Bath Youssef Elsawi Briana Symonds-Manne Nicholas de Voil Sara Saleh Reham Elzeiny Amal Naser Lachlan Stewart Fiona Johnston Madeline Curkovic Alex Contos Hannah Purdue Isaac Stewarr Nikita Vanderbyl Johnny Gerdes Nish Morris Wen Zheng Matt Lazaridis Hajar Chlihi Rosie Joy Barron Sophie Rudolph Phil Allen Therese Shay Michael Clune David Williams Gillian Duncan Ava Jackson Sivan Barak Chloe Rafferty Ethan Gandler Fariha Zaima Bruce Francis James Pulbrook-Flynn Bakir Al-Fettawi Donna Lorenze Callum Stewart Amanda Lourie Channa Wickremesekera Jack Williams Dzenana Vulcic Daniel Wolfers Vanessa Born Ella Sjodin Akio Tamura-Ho Shimaa Nasr Atticus Banks Rowland Thomson Ashleigh Newnham Christine Lai Hala Khartabil Brooke Werleman Zeina Myles Paul Muscat Haleema Ismail Rachel Myles Tuesday Atzinger Dasha Tan Jos Downey Colin Myles Louise Hanna Ella O’Keefe Jacina Tyer Jesse Radovic Claire Machiri Melissa O’Donnell Michael Sigal Olivia Reynolds Daniel Werst Lina Koleilat Sign the letter here Students for Palestine More by Students for Palestine › Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 27 July 20238 August 2023 · War Why Australian unionists must build solidarity with Ukrainian workers Lisbeth Latham It is essential that Australian unions join global efforts to build material and political solidarity with Ukrainian workers. This is not just in keeping with our movement’s long history of struggle and solidarity with international struggles against imperialist oppression, but so we can maximise our ability to put pressure on the Australian government and its imperialist allies against their efforts to transform Ukraine into a neoliberal ‘paradise’. First published in Overland Issue 228 10 July 202318 July 2023 · Resistance Resistance literature, now Brigid Quirke Ultimately, reading in community opens up a new way of articulating the demand for Palestinian return. 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