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Students speak out at Fisher Library for Israeli Apartheid Week

Organised by the SRC’s Autonomous Collective Against Racism, Students for Palestine and Students for BDS, the event opposed the Israeli occupation of Palestine and expressed global solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

CW: Honi Soit wishes to advise its readers, particularly those belonging to First Nations, Palestinian and Jewish communities, that the following article contains discussions of colonial violence and antisemitism.

On 30 March, the USyd SRC’s Autonomous Collective Against Racism (ACAR) held a rally and speak-out to stand in solidarity with Palestine and protest against the Israeli occupation. It was the 47th anniversary of Land Day, a commemoration of the Palestinian resistance fighting against the apartheid regime. 

Land Day began on March 30th 1976, when Israeli police shot and killed six Palestinian civilians who were part of a protest against the Israeli government’s expropriation of Palestinian land. Since then, March 30th has been commemorated by Palestinians as Land Day.

The protest was chaired by Jasmine Al-Rawi, USyd SRC Global Solidarity Officer, and Wiradjuri student activist Ethan Lyons. Attendees rallied outside Fisher Library to call for an end to Israel’s settler-colonialism in historic Palestine.

Ethan Floyd, Wiradjuri Wailwan activist, spoke on the solidarity between Indigenous Australians and Palestinians who were both subject to the brutalities of colonialism.

“I believe that Indigenous sovereignty is the future. I believe that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander laws and lore can and must provide a pathway forward,” said Floyd.

“Palestinians living within diaspora communities in Australia, — more so than Palestinians in Palestinian — must help envision and support our future of a decolonised Australia, moving beyond the notion of reciprocal solidarity.”

Yasmine Johnson, USyd SRC Education Officer, criticised the Australian government’s complicity in the ongoing oppression of Palestinian people. Johnson also noted the University’s active role in perpetuating this violence.

“It’s not just politicians, Liberal and Labor I might note, who declare their support for Israel,” Johnson said, “Even on this very campus, those who sit on heads of boards with ties to weapons manufacturers directly linked to Israeli violence become spokespeople for the University.”

The rally also displayed solidarity from staff, as NTEU member Ella Haber emphasised the distinction between true antisemitism and legitimate criticism of Israel. They noted how — in their upbringing as a Jewish person — they celebrated Israel, later realising that it is “not a project of Jewish liberation. It is in fact a vicious occupation.”

Haber was critical of the newly introduced definition of anti-semitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) which has been adopted by Monash University, the University of Melbourne, and the University of the Sunshine Coast. The IHRA’s working definition has drawn criticism for its designation of “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour” as antisemitic.

“This is a serious setback for anti-racists and supporters of Palestinian rights, and it’s also an insult to the genuine threat of anti-semitism,” said Haber. They emphasised the need to be able to criticise the Israeli government without being labelled anti-semitic and, “oppose this definition coming anywhere near Sydney University.”

Protestors then marched to the United States Studies Centre (USSC), proceeding down Eastern Avenue amidst chants of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” and “Always was, always will be Aboriginal land”. 

USyd SRC Ethnocultural Officer spoke to their Palestinian heritage and their family’s experience of Israeli violence. “International law is something Israel often violates, from preventing medical equipment from the Gaza strip, to preventing ambulances pass through checkpoints which I’ve seen with my own eyes,” they said. 

“It’s not enough that Palestinians fight this fight, we must all fight this fight together against land theft, against oppression of the Palestinians, and for the liberation of all Indigenous peoples.”

Protestors will gather at 5.00pm this evening to commemorate Land Day outside Sydney Town Hall. Find event information here:

Disclaimer: Ethan Floyd is an editor of Honi Soit, and as such was not involved in the coverage of this event.