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A motion in support of BDS passed by the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) on Friday was slammed as “blatantly antisemitic” by the Australian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS).

“We condemn the motion titled ‘UMSU stands with Palestine - BDS and Student Policy’’ which was passed today by [UMSU],” AUJS said. “This motion attempts to speak on behalf of Jewish Students, and define what does or doesn’t constitute Judaism.”

The motion, which was put forward by the People of Colour Committee and passed 10-6, was described by AUJS as “outrageous as it misrepresents Jewish students’ beliefs, misconstrues Zionism and incites hate. It is blatantly antisemitic.”

In a joint statement AUJS and the Melbourne University Jewish Students Society (MUJSS) said they were particularly outraged by a line in the resolution that said “Judaism or Zionism are not to be conflated.”

“The UMSU has no mandate to speak for the Jewish community or what constitutes Judaism,” they said. “The movers of the motion did not reach out to MUJSS or consult the Jewish community about the views and beliefs of the large Jewish students population at the University of Melbourne. Similarly, the throwaway line about standing in solidarity with Jewish students is hypocritical and tokenistic, given there was no attempt to hear the experiences and opinions of Jewish students.”

They specifically took issue with the fact that the motion was passed by the People of Colour Committee, which they pointed out in 2021 “pledged to promote welfare, provide a safe space and fight against racism for the Jewish student population by including us in their definition.”

The groups praised those who spoke out against the motion and voted against it.

“We look forward to working closely with these councillors to ensure the UMSU upholds its values and ensure the council is reflective of all minority and diverse students,” they said.

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) blasted the resolution, which it described as “extreme anti-Israel and antisemitic motion.”

“This deplorable motion uses language we would have expected to have come from Hamas or Hezbollah, as terrorist groups committed to the destruction of Israel, not from the student union of an esteemed centre of learning here in Australia,” AIJAC Executive Director Dr Colin Rubenstein said.

“This is a shameful motion that encourages extremism and terrorism, and has antisemitic overtones despite its hypocritical denials and disclaimers. It should have no place at all in this country, let alone in an institution of higher learning,” he added. “The vast majority of Jewish students will no doubt feel deeply betrayed that the student union that is meant to represent them could pass a motion that is so appalling and so antithetical to their core values.”

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