BDS Roundup: University of Sydney student council passes academic boycott resolution

In this latest roundup of news from the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement:

  • University of Sydney’s student representative council passes academic boycott resolution to cut ties with Israel’s Technion, citing complicity in violations against Palestinian rights
  • US Mennonite church passes motion to not invest in companies which profit from Israel’s occupation
  • BDS activists protest Jewish National Fund in Philadelphia
  • Appeals to actor Morgan Freeman to not accept award from Hebrew University
  • Barbra Streisand urged not to perform for Shimon Peres

University of Sydney urged to cut ties with Israel’s Technion in academic boycott motion

Sydney, Australia: On 10 April, the Student Representative Council at the University of Sydney voted to pass a resolution calling on the university administration to cut ties with Israel’s Technion. Technion is an educational institution that has close ties to the Israeli government and its military, and with weapons manufacturing companies whose weaponry is used against Palestinians under military occupation.

The Australian reported that the passage of the resolution by the Student Representative Council was hailed by Professor Jake Lynch, who is the director of the university’s Peace and Conflict Studies Center. He is a proponent of the BDS movemement.

The article added:

Professor Lynch … hailed the move by the SRC, claiming that Technion University, apart from assisting Israeli weapons production, had done work for the Israeli department of foreign affairs on public diplomacy to develop strategies to deflect attention from Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Professor Lynch said that if Sydney University academics co-operated with Technion, “they risk condoning and in a sense internalising” such alleged anti-Palestinian practices.

Students for Justice in Palestine - Australia tweeted:

Mennonite Central Committee in the US votes to refuse investments in companies profiting from Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights

Akron, Pennsylvania: The board of the Mennonite Central Committee in Akron resolved on 16 March that it “will not knowingly invest in companies that benefit from products or services used to perpetrate acts of violence against Palestinians, Israelis and other people groups.”

In an article on the website for the Mennonite Central Committee, the board added that the motion “grew from a call from partners in Palestine and Israel, including churches there, and follows a discernment process with leaders of the denominations that sponsor MCC US.”

The board agreed:

that “all reasonable measures” are to be applied immediately to not support violence in the Palestine and Israel conflict, and also that staff should explore “similar actions in support of partners in other parts of the world.”

The action means that MCC US will not invest direct holdings in companies on the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) “Israel/Palestine Investment Screen” list, will choose to invest in mutual funds that limit exposure to companies on the list and will join efforts to encourage the mutual funds that it holds to adopt similar screens. Staff also will aim to align MCC U.S.’ purchasing patterns with these investment principles.

MCC US Executive Director J Ron Byler explained that while the list names only companies that support Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, perpetrating acts of violence against Israelis is already illegal for Europe- and U.S.-based companies. “We will take action if we become aware of offenders against Israel, but our government ensures we do no harm to Israel, while there is no such care for Palestinians. With our partners, we desire peace, justice and reconciliation for all.”

BDS activists in Philadephia protest Jewish National Fund

Boycott activists protest the JNF fundraiser in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Palestine solidarity activists in Philadelphia demonstrated on 21 March outside the local fundraising gala for the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

The JNF is a Zionist entity that predates the establishment of Israel and remains one of Israel’s main tools for colonizing and “judaizing” Palestinian land. The JNF currently uses “tree planting” initiatives as a cover for uprooting Palestinians from their land.

Activists with Philly BDS and other Palestine solidarity groups emailed The Electronic Intifada a press release about their action which stated, in part:

Under the banner “STOP THE JNF’s APARTHEID ROYALE,” members of Philly BDS and allies costumed themselves as playing cards bearing the words “Stop the JNF!” Carrying signs reinforcing their message “Land Theft is not Charity,” protesters positioned themselves strategically on both sides of the driveway entrance to the event. Informational postcards and conversation were available to attendees and passers-by.

… The protest by Philly BDS and its allies contributes to the international “Stop the JNF” campaign that has been gaining ground in the UK, Europe and elsewhere. It also connects directly to Philly BDS’s campaign to boycott Tribe Hummus, which is owned by Osem, a company whose profits contribute to the JNF.

Cultural boycott appeals to Morgan Freeman, Barbra Streisand

Worldwide: Boycott activists are urging actor Morgan Freeman to refuse the “Key of Knowledge” award from Hebrew University in Jerusalem next month. In a statement, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) urged Freeman to not cross the international picket line.

PACBI stated, in part:

The intension of the award is to honor your work in “combating racism and promoting knowledge and education worldwide.” Given that Israel practices forms of racism through its system of colonialism, occupation and apartheid, and violates the rights of Palestinians to education and life, it is cynical, and nothing short of a dishonor to your lifelong achievements to be accepting an award from a group that is in deep support of an Israeli University complicit in Israel’s systematic violations of human rights and international law.

… Prominent actors who accept awards from the friends of Israel around the world, in fact, unwittingly lend their names to the state’s propaganda effort, which is part and parcel of the “Brand Israel” campaign. Brand Israel initiatives, partially plagiarized from apartheid South Africa, are designed to whitewash Israel’s multi-tiered system of oppression against the Palestinian people.

… In addition, Israel has enacted over 20 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel and enshrines their status as second-class citizens based on their identity.

… Just as in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, where international solidarity played a central role in bringing down apartheid, we believe that the global BDS movement is the most effective, non-violent and morally consistent way to pressure Israel to comply with international law and recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights.

For this reason we hope you will decline to be honored by supporters of the Hebrew University, a complicit Israeli institution. We urge you not to cross our picket line, to honor the fight against racism, to promote knowledge and education worldwide by standing in support of the struggle for freedom, justice and equality through declining this award until such time that Israel respects these principles.

Israeli boycott activists with Boycott from Within! have also drafted an appeal to Freeman, encouraging him to respect the boycott call and decline the award. A petition has been circulating urging Freeman to decline the award, and a Facebook group has also been launched.

Entertainment icon Barbra Streisand is also scheduled to perform in Jerusalem in mid-June for Israeli President Shimon Peres’ 90th birthday. Boycott from Within! drafted a letter to Streisand urging her not to sing for Peres. The letter stated, in part:

We are citizens of Israel who oppose Israel’s continuing displacement of the Palestinian people via military occupation and apartheid policies. It’s important that you be fully aware of the political role you take, when you choose to participate in official state events such as Shimon Peres’ birthday. The national celebrations of the president’s birthday are essentially a celebration of decades of oppression, racism and discrimination, in which Mr. Peres has played a leading role. Mr. Peres is not a man of peace, and he does not speak in our names!

According to international law, Palestinians under Israel’s military occupation are protected persons, which means that Israel’s government is accountable for their lives and safety. Shimon Peres has been a member of, and a senior propagandist for, successive Israeli governments which have used [cluster munitions][17], flechette artillery shells, and white phosphorus bombs against civilians in densely populated areas in Gaza (or Lebanon). As Prime Minister, in April 1996, and as part of Israel’s “Operation Grapes of Wrath,” Mr. Peres authorized the mass bombing of villages in Southern Lebanon, aimed at creating a wave of refugees flooding Beirut.

[17]: … Shimon Peres is not a man of peace, and his political life is not to be celebrated. He is directly responsible for war crimes, which have cost the lives of thousands and have inflicted misery on millions on others.

Ms. Streisand, Please do not legitimize Israel’s architect of militarism, occupation and apartheid and. Please cancel your performance in Israel.

More recent BDS news from our Activism and BDS Beat blog:




The blurb at the top reads incorrectly. The church decided to divest. Strike "not" before divest.

US Mennonite church passes motion to not divest in companies which profit from Israel’s occupation

Keep up the good work.

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Thanks for the typo catch!

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).