Use of ‘Lawfare’ against Melbourne University students ‘horrifying’

May 31, 2022

The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network strongly condemns the groups and individuals who threatened the University of Melbourne Student Council through ‘lawfare’ regarding a motion in solidarity with Palestinians.

Using external legal threats to silence student activism undermines the bedrock of Australia’s tertiary sector in teaching students to be critical thinkers, and support international human rights.

“To think that in Australia, a student would engage an external law firm to threaten a university student council over a motion supporting Palestinians is mind-boggling,” APAN Vice-President, Mr Nasser Mashni said.

“Israel is a country that has repeatedly been found to be practising the crime against humanity of apartheid against Palestinians.

“Yet when a student council passes a motion supporting Palestinians in their struggle for self-determination, the university and our institutions condemn and threaten them.

“This shows the lengths some are willing to go to stop advocacy for Palestine, and we should all be horrified that this is how some in our society treat students who take an interest in justice.”

Lawfare is a tool used to silence individuals due to fear of financial and reputational repercussions. The threat also aims to exploit an individual’s desire not to have to deal with stress involved in lengthy and prolonged litigation.

While APAN acknowledges the difficult situation the University of Melbourne Student Council was forced into, it does not support the decision to rescind the motion in face of legal threats.

Rescinding the motion only empowers Israeli lobby groups further, and actively harms Palestinian students on campus.

Palestinian students are members of the University of Melbourne Student Union and play an active role in campus life. Many Palestinian students either are, or have family that are, still currently being persecuted by Israel, and it is the responsibility of UMSU to support them in their efforts in working towards justice.

APAN supported the student council when they first passed the motion in solidarity with Palestine, and we continue to support those members who want to see policies supportive of Palestinians.

A working group within the council has been formed to draft a new motion, and we encourage UMSU to consult Palestinian academics, students, and advocacy groups in the drafting of the new motion. We also encourage consultation with First Nations academics and anti-Zionist Jewish groups. We encourage a nuanced discussion which centres the human rights, dignity, and self-determination of the Palestinian people.

For more information, contact Jarred – [email protected] – 0434 869 088