On behalf of Sydney Staff for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, I want to thank you for lending your voice to those of us on campus who have been campaigning for the boycott of Israeli universities.
We’re here for a few very simple reasons. We’re here because we refuse to remain silent while Sydney University celebrates its ties with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, an institution deeply complicit the recent massacre in Gaza, or celebrates the Zelman Cowen fund that facilitates those ties.
We’re here because we believe that an institutional boycott is an effective means of putting pressure on Israel to treat the Palestinians with decency.
And we’re here because we believe that Sydney University has an obligation to act ethically in its connections with the rest of the world, as do all Australian universities. We reject the view, articulated by vice-chancellor Spence, that our university should not adopt a position on pressing global issues. I believe that view is incompatible with a university’s responsibility to uphold ethical standards in the work that it does.
But in this case we need not even take a position on Israel. All we need to do is ask a very simple question of our partner in the Zelman Cowen Fund, a question that we should surely ask of all of our partnerships. It’s a very simple question, to which many people in Maclaurin Hall tonight would no doubt assent. That question is this: Do you, as a university, from the top, consciously and deliberately lend support to the perpetration of human rights abuses? If the answer to that question is yes, then I believe grounds for a boycott exist.
Now some may say that this casts the net too widely, that this would lead to a boycott of a great many institutions in repressive regimes around the world. Sadly there is some truth in this. So I think there’s a second question that needs to be asked: Is there a credible campaign, on the part of those directly resisting these human rights abuses, that is calling for a boycott? That is to say, can our boycott here at Sydney realistically be seen as contributing to a growing campaign to end this conflict?
Here again the answer is yes. Palestinian civil society organisations have unanimously endorsed the BDS campaign, and we heed that call. Every single Palestinian trade union has endorsed BDS. As a member of the NTEU I’m proud to stand in solidarity with my comrades in Palestinian trade unions, particularly those working in Palestine’s besieged universities. So my final reason for us being here this evening is the simplest of all: we’re here because the Palestinians, suffering through bombardment, occupation and daily racism and discrimination, have asked us to be here. Continue reading