Israel has made Gaza a living hell. Palestinians are enduring a non-stop bombardment — Israel is using white phosphorus on civilians, starving children, and blocking delivery of fuel needed to run hospitals. On 1 November, the whole Jabalia refugee camp was destroyed and the list of atrocities and war crimes continues to grow.
As of 8 November, over 10,000 Palestinians have been killed, and Israel has promised to kill more. According to the Save the Children charity, Israeli forces are killing one child every ten minutes. What we are seeing is a savage, genocidal massacre of some of the most impoverished and oppressed people on the face of the planet by the most powerful military machine in the region. And what is the response from our University to this carnage? To attack students who want to speak out and stand with the Palestinian resistance.
Students have faced constant intimidation and harassment from University security when trying to hold pro-Palestine events. Meetings are interrupted, security guards patrol, cops are called to intimidate and monitor campus stalls and protests, posters are ripped down by security guards, and the names of Palestinian activists taken by police. The latest, and most blatant intervention came from the Vice Chancellor Mark Scott himself, who used his position on Wednesday 1 November to personally declare that the Solidarity Student club meeting, ‘Palestine: The Case for a Global Intifada,’ was banned.
The meeting was banned on the grounds that “it may be linked to support for terrorist activities,” because “Global Intifada” was in the title and the poster had an image of a bulldozer breaking down one of the Israeli walls that has trapped 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza.
Intifada means uprising. The First Intifada in 1987 began when an Israeli tank transporter crushed four Palestinians to death, where tens of thousands of furious Palestinians gathered to mourn their dead, deciding to demonstrate. Israeli soldiers shot protesters in cold blood leading to more demonstrations. Soon Gaza and the West Bank, was convulsed by the anger of tens of thousands of ordinary Palestinians who fought back with nothing but rocks against the might of the Israeli military. On the basis of the Intifada, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) declared a Palestinian state in territory still occupied by Israel. Their resistance inspired oppressed people across the world — You’re damn right we stand with the intifada.
The Second Intifada also began as a series of protests that were fired on by Israeli soldiers. The increasingly desperate tactics — suicide bombing, rocket attacks, and sniper fire — came as a response to the stubbornness of Israel’s regime of terror in the face of this protest. Hamas led this resistance and rose to prominence because they were the only force willing to continue to oppose the Israeli state.
It is not up to us to lecture the Palestinian people on the methods of resistance they use. It is Israel which has demonstrated that a “peace process” means only peace for the oppressor, and that even the most peaceful forms of resistance will be met with the most murderous repression.
It is up to the Palestinian people to determine how they resist.
If you want to understand Hamas and the resistance to Israel, think about why Frantz Fanon argued that “colonialism…is violence in its natural state, and it will only yield when confronted with greater violence”. The University tolerates us studying people like Fanon, just as long as students don’t apply his observations to the colonial oppression unfolding before our eyes.This is why we reject the relentless calls to “condemn Hamas” which saturates mainstream politics. These calls are aimed at legitimising Israel’s occupation.
The resistance of the oppressed cannot be equated to the violence of the oppressor. The oppressed have a right to fight back. We celebrate the Haitian revolution, when slaves overthrew their slaveholders. It took armed resistance to defeat the US and Australia in Vietnam. When the National Liberation Front in Algeria fought the French occupation, they killed civilians. All of these people were right to resist. We are always unequivocally on the side of the oppressed against the oppressor.
Mark Scott and USyd management, on the other hand, have chosen to side with apartheid and genocide.
It is no wonder considering their ties to Israel. Sydney University runs a medical exchange program with The Technion, an Israeli university that has helped develop bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian homes, and produces research for a company helping to build the apartheid wall. They run a unit, “OLES2155: Experience Israel” which is an in-country study unit at a university partnered with the Israeli Defense Forces. The University Chancellor, Belinda Hutchinson, sits on the board of Thales, an arms manufacturing company that collaborated with the Israeli weapons company, Elbit, to make the Watchkeeper drones being used to carry out attacks in Gaza. The University must cut all ties with Israeli apartheid.
Banning a meeting because “Intifada” is part of the title is management’s attempt to say Palestinian resistance is illegitimate, placing Mark Scott as part of the establishment lining up to back Israeli terror.
Any attacks that we let University management get away with are a barrier to the essential work that must be done to stand in solidarity with Palestine. We must not concede to these attacks, but actively resist them. The response has been too often to retreat. For instance Socialist Alternative at the Students for Palestine rally refused to chant “Israel out of West Bank, Israel out of Gaza, Israel out of Palestine, long live the Intifada.” Instead of standing up to Mark’s Scott’s threats they said they wouldn’t chant because their club “might get deregistered’.
The attacks on pro-Palestine activism at Sydney University are much like the NSW government’s attempt to ban rallies, are part of much broader moves to suppress Palestinian solidarity. In France, demonstrations in solidarity with Palestine are banned, and in the UK, Palestinians have been arrested for waving their own flags.
All over the world, there is a relentless attempt to equate support for Palestinian liberation with anti-Semitism and terror. This is a lie that only increases the already appalling levels of Islamophobia directed at Muslim and Arab people.
To build a movement in Australia that is powerful enough to create a political crisis Labor cannot ignore, we have to expose these lies for what they are – cover for the genocide Western government are backing and funding.
We cannot give in to Mark Scott criminalising words that mean to resist or rise up against colonial rule. We must resist such attacks. How we fight back against our management will determine the strength of the movement for Palestine on campus.
We won’t stop discussing, organising or standing in solidarity with Palestine. We take great inspiration from the Intifadas and the ongoing resistance of Palestinians to the longest occupation in modern history, as do the millions on the streets around the world chanting “Long live the Intifada.”
— Solidarity Students Sydney Uni