Sydney University Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott has denounced the university student council’s anti-Israel stance. Picture: Nikki Short / NCA Newswire

Noah Yim
The Australian
June 27, 2022

The University of Sydney has condemned its student council’s anti-Israel stance, saying it does not tolerate “anti-Semitic language or behaviour on campus”.

University of Sydney vice-chancellor Mark Scott rebuked the student representative council in a letter to NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief Darren Bark.

“The SRC’s motion does not represent the position of the University of Sydney,” read Mr Scott’s letter, dated June 23.

“We are reminding the SRC we believe they share a duty of care to their fellow students to ensure our campus remains one where racist, intimidating, abusive or threatening behaviours are not tolerated.

“Respect, inclusion and diversity are among our core values … including the need to avoid ­engaging in any bullying or discriminatory behaviour.”

The SRC on June 1 passed a motion endorsing the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and denouncing the “Israeli occupation of Palestine and its system of militarised apartheid and ethnic cleansing”.

“To champion the cause of Palestine is a basic anti-imperialist and anti-racist act,” the preamble read. “Such solidarity is vital in a country like Australia, which stridently supports Israel and is built on the oppression of First Nations communities.”

SRC president Lauren Lancaster said she had not been aware of the letter. She said Sydney University had “made it clear they have no issue with pro-Israel ­Zionists. We will continue advocating against anti-Semitism and against racism, because neither are welcome at our universities or indeed anywhere.

“The SRC is a space for anti-racist organising, which coexists comfortably with the condemnation of the Israeli military regime to ethnically cleanse Palestinian people.”

The BDS movement, centred in Palestine, calls for inter­national economic pressure on ­Israel “through diverse forms of boycott, divestment and sanctions”.

Mr Bark welcomed Mr Scott’s criticism. “The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies welcomes vice-chancellor Scott’s letter and looks forward to meeting with him, together with the Australasian Union of Jewish Students,” he said. “This rhetoric has no place in our tolerant, multicultural society; every student has the right to feel safe and included on campus.

“We remain deeply concerned by the University of Sydney SRC’s history of divisive, hateful and one-sided motions against Israel.”

This comes after the Univer­sity of Melbourne’s student union was in May forced to rescind a “blatantly anti-Semitic” motion that supported BDS after student Justin Riazaty threatened legal action.

The University of Sydney SRC said the rescission of the UMSU motion set “a bad precedent”.

The SRC has previously found itself in hot water over this issue.