UNSW Student Representative Council’s inaction on Gaza

11 Feb

According to notices being plastered all over University of New South Wales, a group of students have expressed outrage over the UNSW Student Representative Council (SRC) vote against a motion condemning Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

The students which issued this statement denounced the ‘three week bombardment of the Gaza Strip’. At least 77 signatures were collected for this poster, indicating considerable interest in this matter.

The students specifically pointed out that the President of the SRC, Charishma Kaliyanda, ‘shamefully tried to prevent the UNSW Muslim students from entering the room for the purpose of observing the meeting’.

The group also demanded UNSW show support for their cause by organising a Palestinian Solidarity Week (30 March to 3 April).

While the SRC has voted down the motion, I believe much more can still be done. Here is a list of ideas on the top of my head:

1. The SRC Councillors who voted against the motion could be publicly named and forced to defend their positions

2. Invite these councillors and students who voted gainst or are undecided about this issue to forums organised by those which supports the Palestinian cause. E.g. Sydney Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine.

3. Highlight this issue by writing to Tharunka (which is the student publication), other student and trade unions and even the mainstream media.

4. Form an ad-hoc group and organised a Palestinian Solidarity Week in campus even if the SRC is not going to.

The SRC has shown that it has taken sides by refusing to condemn the military campaign. Even the UN Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution on this matter. It is peculiar that the student representative body has adopted such a stance given it appears to be progressive- minded in other areas. According to wikipedia, the SRC ‘is opposed to recent workplace relations reforms, supports Australian ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, seeks to increase the amount paid to students through Youth Allowance, and seeks to prevent the construction of nuclear power stations’.

As for me, I would be writing to Charishma Kaliyanda on this matter as a concerned student. I would request her to reveal the going-ons of the meeting and the original draft of the motion. Other suggestions in my letter would include getting the student body to hold an ad-hoc and open meeting for students to debate on the seriousness of this matter.

UNSW Students Condemn Israeli Attacks in Gaza

Statement by ‘UNSW Students Condemn Israel’s War Crimes in Gaza’:

We the undersigned condemn Israel’s three-week bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which has resulted in over 1400 deaths and thousands of injuries. Schools and hospitals were bombed; the horrific, illegal weapon white phosphorus was used against civilians; medical services were prevented from getting to the wounded; and the whole population was terrorised. Much of Gaza has been destroyed by Israel’s attack compounding the suffering of an 18- month siege that has prevented the supply of essential services to the territory.

On 20 January, the UNSW Student Representative Council (SRC) disgracefully voted down a motion condemning Israel’s war crimes in Gaza moved by Postgraduate Councillors Anh Pham and Craig Johnson.

The President of the SRC, member of the Labor students Charishma Kaliyanda, shamefully tried to prevent UNSW Muslim students from entering the room for the purpose of observing the meeting.

When the Muslim students were allowed inside the meeting, students representing the Australasian Union of Jewish Students and a few SRC members spoke against the motion, attempting to intimidate the SRC by arguing that if a vote was cast in favour of supporting the people of Gaza, it would be tantamount to anti-Semitism and advocating the bashing of Jewish students.

This was nothing more than fear-mongering and manipulation of genuine anti-racist sentiment to stop any effort to condemn Israel’s war crimes in Gaza.

In the spirit of the ALP’s disgraceful betrayal of the Palestinians, the Labor students watered down the motion by tacking on several amendments to blame the Palestinians for Israel’s massacre. The Labor students then struck out portions of the motion that supported taking immediate cross-campus action, building a citywide student campaign to call for an end to the invasion and blockade of Gaza.  Even the watered down, amended motion was finally voted down!

We condemn the SRC councillors who voted against the motion.

We demand that the UNSW SRC show its support for the Palestinian people and Arab and Muslim students at UNSW by organizing and funding a Palestinian Solidarity week, which will start from 30 March (Palestinian Land Day) to 3 April

(signatures of students)

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