IN THE MEDIA

University of Melbourne exposes BDS’s lies and extremism

May 18, 2022 | Allon Lee

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Mercury – 18 May 2022

 

Greg Barns’ support for Melbourne University’s Student Union’s (UMSU) inflammatory April 29 resolution that the University subsequently condemned as antisemitic is concerning.

His accusation that the University impinged on students’ freedom of speech is absurd given the motion’s extreme language.

He incorrectly insists UMSU simply asked the University to “divest from corporations complicit in and profit from the Israel apartheid in line with… BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions movement].”

The apartheid slur is easily disproven. Israeli Arabs have full political and legal rights and are represented in every strata of Israeli society. Palestinians in Gaza have run their own affairs without any Israeli presence since 2005 and the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank has self-rule over more than 95% of Palestinians living there.

Moreover, the fine print in many of the reports Barns claims justify labelling Israel an apartheid state actually acknowledges there is no real similarity between Israel and apartheid South Africa. Instead, apartheid is redefined to essentially include any discrimination or inequality between ethnic groups. Under this definition, invented specifically to label Israel an apartheid state –  an old lie concocted by the Soviet bloc in the 1970s –  most countries could be called apartheid.

Barns says labelling the motion antisemitic is a nasty tactic used to silence advocates of a Palestinian “homeland”. Yet if the Palestinians want a “homeland” they need only negotiate with Israel, something they have refused to do since 2014, after refusing to consider three serious Israeli offers to create a Palestinian state – in 2000, 2001, and 2008.

Yet the University’s justified comments reflect the fact UMSU did far more than advocate for BDS – problematic as that was.

UMSU asserted that Zionism – the political movement established to fulfil the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in the land where they became a people – is “a racist colonial ideology”; Israel is a “settler colonial apartheid state”; and only the “native” Palestinians have a right to self-determination.

UMSU basically said the State of Israel has no right to exist and seeking Jewish national rights amounts to “racism”. Singling out Jews alone, of all the world’s people, as having no national right to self-determination in their homeland is obviously discriminatory – and yes, antisemitic.

Furthermore, the motion says, “Judaism and Zionism are not to be conflated as one.”  This is non-Jews deciding what true Judaism is – an obviously illegitimate exercise – and cancels the inextricable role the Land of Israel has always had in Jewish religious and cultural life.

The effect of this for Jews on campus who support Israel’s right to exist – which is the overwhelming majority – will be both chilling and frightening.

Moreover, UMSU also implicitly endorsed Palestinian terrorism against Israelis by supporting a Palestinian right to “self-defence” against “occupation.” Given that Israel’s existence as a “settler colonial apartheid state” is itself treated as occupation, this effectively amounts to support for Hamas firing rockets indiscriminately from Gaza at Israel’s civilian population, and for terrorists like those who last week murdered three random civilians with axes in the Israeli town of Elad.

Yet, ignoring the motion’s ugly antisemitic implications, Barns insists imposing “sanctions” and “economic punishments against Israel” is the way forward.

But how can BDS solve the conflict?

Most people presume that BDS’s goals include ending the occupation and implementing a two-state formula for peace.

In fact, BDS movement documents don’t mention a two-state resolution, or call for a resumption of peace talks.

Instead, BDS demands a legally baseless “right of return” to Israel proper for millions of Palestinians descended from refugees from the 1948 war – a demand completely inconsistent with Israel’s continued existence as a homeland for Jews.

BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti has been unequivocally clear the goal is Israel’s elimination.

In 2009, he said, “I clearly do not buy into the two-state solution.”

Barghouti also said, “definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”

Even a single state with Jews and Arab living together as equals is unacceptable. He explains, “I am completely and categorically against bi-nationalism because it assumes that there are two nations with equal moral claims to the land.” He says the new state must be “Arab”.

If BDS does not call for a two-state resolution and its co-founder and major spokesperson refuses to accept Jews have any rights to self-determination individually or collectively, is it any wonder BDS is often associated with antisemitism?

If anything positive can come out of UMSU’s extremist motion, perhaps it is exposing how easily BDS rhetoric can shade into antisemitism, treating Jews as not worthy of rights all other humans are entitled to.  The University of Melbourne did everyone a service by helping make this reality clear.

Allon Lee is a senior policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

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