Why our SRC should support BDS

Tom Raue voices his support for the SRC’s decision to stand up for human rights.

I want to congratulate the SRC for voting to support elements of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign which aims to halt the Israeli oppression of Palestinians, and voted to support Professor Jake Lynch in his refusal to work with an academic from Hebrew University.

Israel is an apartheid state. Palestinians are crammed into inadequate territories and forced to live in squalor. They are divided from wealthy Israelis by giant concrete walls and soldiers. Palestinian territory rapidly shrinks. Palestinians resist, often violently, but the Israeli response to violence is inevitably an overreaction, with far more Palestinian civilians dying than Israelis.

BDS is a global movement that puts pressure on Israel to treat Palestinians humanely by cutting off economic and social ties with the Israeli government, and corporations that support the Israeli military. It is similar to the campaign to boycott South Africa, which helped bring an end to apartheid in that country.

I often hear students mock the SRC for taking stances on broad political issues. The idea is that a student organization should only concern itself with matters it can directly control, rather than fight for social change. I have been told countless times that nobody important cares about motions passed at the SRC.

To criticise local organisations for taking a stance on global affairs is to disempower everyday students and citizens, to further alienate them from the governments and corporations that run the world. There are precious few ways that students can have their voices heard, and to mocking one of the few avenues for dissent is really an attack on participatory democracy.

The SRC’s motion made national news with an article in The Australian. Far from being irrelevant, the SRC has become part of the global conversation around Israel’s policies. The SRC is one voice in a chorus of thousands calling for an end to the oppression of the Palestinian people. A simple motion costs the SRC nothing, and does not infringe upon the other services that the SRC provides.

At every SRC election there are students who run on the SRC being about students, not politics. This implies that there is some sort of contradiction between the two priorities, when in reality they sit comfortably together. The calls for an apolitical SRC are in fact calls for a conservative SRC, one that does nothing to engage with the issues that matter or challenge orthodoxies and authority. I am proud that our SRC stands up for human rights instead of giving in to small minded reactionary critics.