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SRC backs Israel boycott

An SRC meeting failed to bring about world peace but succeeded in upsetting everybody in the room, writes Max Chalmers.

President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbass reacts to Patrick Massarani. President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbass reacts to Patrick Massarani.

The Students’ Representative Council (SRC) has approved a motion to support the boycott of an Israeli University. Inspiring heated and at times deeply personal debate, the motion proposed that the SRC support Associate Professor Jake Lynch, an academic who refused to provide himself as a personal contact for the fellowship application of an Israeli academic from The Hebrew University. Lynch’s actions are part of the global ‘Boycott Divestment and Sanctions’ campaign (BDS), which aims to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and prevent Palestinians and Arabs within Israel facing persecution.

President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbass reacts to Patrick Massarani.
President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbass reacts to Patrick Massarani.

Those in favour argued that The Hebrew University and Technion University aided weapons manufacturers in Israel and that a general boycott of the nation, as part of a global movement, would help resist the “apartheid” tendencies of the Israeli state. Those against countered that BDS was anti-Semitic and that relationships between universities fostered understanding – severing them would be counter-productive. They argued institutions such as Hebrew University and Technion in fact produce many of the Israeli academics who agitate within the country for the rights of Palestinians.

Both Palestinian and Jewish Councillors weighed-in on a debate that looked like it would devolve into an all-in shouting match. Chairing the meeting, SRC President David Pink was continually forced to discipline Councillors for interrupting the speech of others. Unity (the Labor Right faction) member Patrick Massarani was twice cautioned and asked to leave the room by the President. “Call security, David,” he responded, before reclaiming his seat.

The issue split Council down ideological lines and before long, each side was accusing the other of racism. With the left and the right sitting on opposite sides of the room and facing each other, the Professorial Board Room could have been confused with the angry cross benches of the Westminster Abbey, Capitol Hill, or even our own beloved Parliament House.

At the end of the debate Jewish Councillor Joel Einstein was seen embracing Palestinian proxy-Councillor Fahad Ali. No peace in the Middle East, but at least no civil-war at USYD.

@maxchalmers90