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May 4, 2022 1:00 pm
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University of Melbourne Rejects ‘Antisemitic’ BDS Motion Passed by Student Union

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Queens College, a residential building at Melbourne University in Australia. Photo: Rexness / Flickr

The University of Melbourne has denounced as “antisemitic” a recent endorsement of the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) campaign by the school’s student union, days after the measure prompted an outcry from Australian Jewish leaders.

The motion, “UMSU stands with Palestine — BDS and Solidarity Policy,” was passed by the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) on Friday, and was criticized for advocating an “armed struggle” against Israel amid a surge of terror attacks there.

On Tuesday, University of Melbourne told J-Wire, an Australian Jewish outlet, that the measure is not “endorsed or supported by the university.”

“The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) is a self-governing body and operates as a separate entity to the university,” the administration said. “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.”

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“Any form of antisemitism is antithetical to who we are and what we stand for,” it continued. “Tackling it and its damaging effects is a responsibility of all members of our community.”

“We are proud of our relationships with the Jewish community in Australia and across the world, and our academic partnerships with Israeli universities and scholars,” the university added.

The BDS campaign rejects Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and seeks to isolate the country with academic, economic, political and cultural boycotts.

The University of Melbourne’s statement was cheered by Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) President Jeremy Leibler, who called it an “important message to Jewish students that they are welcome and are free to express their Jewish identity without fear or intimidation.”

“We thank Melbourne University for its strong leadership on this matter,” Leibler said. “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 Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) praised 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,” said AIJAC Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein. “Chief among these would be for the University to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism.”

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