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University of Melbourne Student Union motion

On Friday 29 April, Melbourne University Student Union passed 10-6 a resolution that falsely accused Israel of “ongoing ethnic cleansing”, “apartheid”, attacks on innocent worshipers and described Zionism as a “racist, colonial ideology”. It didn’t mention the decades of war, terrorism and rejectionism that are the main reasons for the current impasse in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Zionist Federation of Australia President Jeremy Leibler said, “The student union has shamed itself with this motion. Zionism is Jewish self-determination and it is a central component of modern Jewish identity. This motion denies to Jews – and only to Jews – the right to self-determination. It is intrinsically antisemitic. The motion is also replete with easily disproven lies, and goes out of its way to avoid mentioning the decades of Palestinian violence and terrorism, which are the primary reasons Palestinians remain stateless.”

Mr. Leibler continued, “It is difficult to imagine the impact that this antisemitic resolution will have on the wellbeing and safety of Jewish students on campus at Melbourne University. It seems that the student union has great regard for all minorities on campus other than the Jewish students. I commend the Australian Union of Jewish Students for their advocacy in relation to this issue.”

The IHRA working definition of antisemitism, which Australia adopted last year, specifies that criticism of Israel is not in and of itself antisemitic, but denying Jews the right to self-determination is.

Following the federal government – and opposition’s – endorsement of the IHRA working definition, the federal education minister last year called on all universities to adopt it. This Melbourne University student union resolution is another example of why it’s critical that universities do so.

Antisemitism is increasing in Australia and around the world. Jewish students are facing increased levels of verbal and physical intimidation on campus, including death threats. This motion risks making things more difficult for Jewish students on campus.