Open Letter 2023

End Sydney University Complicity with Apartheid Israel

In the face of Israel’s genocidal assault on Palestinians in Gaza, the ethnic cleansing, brutal violence and apartheid to which Palestinians are permanently subject, and the complete failure of the ‘rules-based international order’ to uphold international law in the Middle East, Palestinians, including our colleagues in Palestinian universities, have called for solidarity from academics and university staff around the world.

As University of Sydney staff, we the undersigned will not allow this call to go unheeded. Western governments’ support for Israel has given it a licence to slaughter with impunity and in sickening numbers. Since October 7, this has involved the destruction through aerial bombardment of the Islamic University of Gaza and Al-Azhar University. Fifty one percent of all schools in Gaza have so far been destroyed or damaged by Israel. 

As academics, administrators and support staff committed to the universal right to education, we will not remain silent. We cannot directly stop Israeli bombs. But we can challenge the soft power Israel wields including through institutions like universities. Israel’s international academic ties are a major source of legitimacy for its genocidal project in Palestine and must be challenged. RMIT has recently cut its links with the Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit. We should follow their lead. We therefore call on the Vice-Chancellor, the Provost, the University Executive, and the Senate to –

  • Commit the university to the institutional academic boycott of Israel, as Palestinians have been asking us to do for almost two decades.  The boycott is an expressly non-violent campaign. It affects Israeli academic institutions, not individual academics. Observing the academic boycott would involve cancelling the Experience Israel (OLES2155) course, which entails a boycott-violating partnership with an Israeli university, and ending staff involvement with the Zelman Cowen academic initiative, which also violates the boycott.
  • Divest from all financial interests in Israeli companies.
  • Lobby Universities Australia to withdraw from the 2013 memorandum of understanding between Israel and Australia on cooperation in higher education
  • Immediately take steps to offer support for Palestinian academics through the Scholars at Risk program, in line with steps already taken for Ukrainian academics.
  • Commit to establishing dedicated international scholarships for Palestinian students.

We also encourage our colleagues in other universities to call on their own managements to make similar commitments.