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BDS supporters protests USyd fundraising dinner

Staff and students protested an on-campus dinner for the Zelman Cowen Universities Fund, reports Georgia Behrens. With additional reporting from Michael Rees.

USyd staff and students were among dozens protesting an on-campus fundraising dinner for the Zelman Cowen Universities Fund on Tuesday evening.

Protestors were objecting to the University’s links with the Fund, which organises and funds exchange scholarships and research partnerships between the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJ) and the University of Sydney. The event was the latest in a broad campaign by supporters of the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against USyd’s ties with Israeli academic institutions.

USyd History lecturer Dr David Brophy said that HUJ’s support of the Israeli Defence Force and Operation Protective Edge, as well as its suppression of anti-war demonstrations on campus, warranted the protest.

“Far from being a politically neutral institution, HUJ is enthusiastically complicit with the war-crimes that flow from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory,” Brophy said.

“We’re here because we refuse to remain silent while our university celebrates ties with [HUJ].”

The protestors held signs, distributed leaflets, and chanted as dinner guests entered the event, but did not seek to disrupt it any further.

USyd has been a national hub of BDS-related activity over the past few years, with academic Jake Lynch making headlines around the country for his campaign against USyd’s ties with Israeli academics and universities.

USyd students shut down a Newtown Max Brenner store in August in protest against the company’s ongoing support of the Israeli Defence Force.  Several weeks ago, the USyd SRC passed a motion condemning the “What would you do?” campaign organised by the Australian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS), after passing a resolution supporting BDS last year.

The BDS movement has been criticised by mainstream media and politicians in Australia, many of whom believe that boycotting of Israeli-owned businesses and organisations is inherently anti-Semitic.

The University of Sydney has previously stated that while they do not agree with the motivations of the BDS movement, they defend the rights of USyd academics to write and speak on the subject as they wish.