Asia - Pacific

Pro-Palestine campus demonstrations spread to Australia amid crackdown in US

Claims galore that Zionists seek to eliminate Palestinian voices from academia, knowledge production

Riyaz ul Khaliq  | 03.05.2024 - Update : 03.05.2024
Pro-Palestine campus demonstrations spread to Australia amid crackdown in US Credit: @SFP_USyd, X


Pro-Palestine student demonstrations at universities have spread to Australia amid police raids on campuses in the US.

Students and activists are camping at major universities, including in Sydney, as demands for divestment from Israel grow louder.

Solidarity camp at the University of Sydney said students and Palestine activists across Sydney on Friday “successfully" defended "Gaza Solidarity Encampment from a Zionists demonstration.”

A huge number of pro-Palestine demonstrators gathered on Friday but the situation across the campuses is said to be peaceful unlike the US, where pro-Israel groups, as well as police, launched raids on pro-Palestine encampment sites and the demonstrations turned violent.

“We stand on the side of the Palestinians, and we will not be intimidated,” said the University of Sydney Gaza Solidarity Camp on X.

The students and activists on the encampment sites are seen engaged in different activities, including songs and teach-in programs during which they are informing visitors about the struggle of Palestinians.

“The Palestine movement is a fight for peace for humanity,” said the camp, sharing hashtags of #freegaza #freepalestine #stopfundinggenocide.

Pro-Palestine student university demonstrations in Australia prop up as the US saw more than 150 Gaza solidarity encampments popping up throughout the country.

More than 2,000 people, including students, have been arrested by the US authorities during the pro-Palestine demonstrations.

There have been student protests in Canada and France as well.

“An excellent turnout at the Sydney University encampment, resisting intimidation and demanding the university end its complicity with Israel’s genocide,” said Jessica Whyte, about demonstrations held at the University of Sydney.

Whyte, a philosophy professor at the University of New South Wales, also shared photos of pro-Palestine demonstrations at the encampment site on her X account.

Nick Riemer, a linguistics professor at the University of Sydney, said the varsity vice-chancellor Mark Scott has given a “public commitment” to allow the pro-Palestine encampment to stay on the campus.

“Make no mistake: we will hold him to it. It is the absolute, bare minimum that he should be doing,” said Riemer, a leader of Australia’s National Tertiary Education Union.

Unionists for Palestine, another group based in Australia, extended support to the pro-Palestine encampment at the University of Sydney, calling for divestments from academic as well as military ties with Israel and helping “build the resistance against Australian institutional complicity with the Gazan genocide.”

​​​​​​​Amid allegations of a witch hunt for siding with Palestinians, with the ongoing Israeli bombardment since Oct. 7 last year, Sydney-based academic and author Randa Abdel-Fattah said there were “Zionist attempts” to pressure the Australian government to “revoke my Future Fellowship and for Macquarie University to dismiss me.”

However, Abdel-Fattah said such a step would affect more than herself.

“Zionists are not just about trying to remove me from academia and destroy my academic career. The funding I received was not just for me. As a Future Fellow I am engaged in my own research as well as leadership and mentoring,” she said on X.

“The fellowship funds awarded to me also cover the costs of building an online and physical exhibition tracing anti-colonial, intersectional, transnational Arab and Muslim activism in Australia from the 1970s to date. I have employed and involved young students of color to assist in building this archive of resistance,” she said.

Abdel-Fattah said: “(Zionists are) purposefully targeting me and the next generation of Arab and Muslim women academics.”

“They seek to eliminate us from the academy because our voices, knowledge production and impact threaten the White supremacist status quo they so desperately seek to maintain,” the academic added.

“It is about removing Palestine from the Australian academy.”​​​​​​​

Israel has waged a deadly military offensive on Gaza since the Oct. 7 Hamas incursion, which killed around 1,200 people.

Tel Aviv, in comparison, has killed nearly 34,600 Palestinians and wounded over 77,800 others amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities in the Palestinian territory.

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