Words by Stasi Kapetanos, Tom Wood and Habibah Jaghoori respectively. Illustration by Dean Plesa.
Issue 4 Editorial Extract
As you may have noticed, we make sure to start every edition of On Dit this year with an acknowledgement of country to the Kaurna people, just like student magazines across the country do for their respective Indigenous peoples. Australia’s native population have subject to brutal violence, racial discrimination, genocide and ethnic cleansing that continues to threaten not only their way of life but also their very existence. Today the people of Palestine face these exact same problems due to the same forces of settler-colonialism in their own country and homeland at the hands of the State of Israel.
Outside of the violence directly inflicted on the Palestinian people, Israel and some of its supporters have orchestrated attacks on journalists, media and the free press at large. We have seen the bombing of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera Offices in the Gaza Strip, the firing of Emily Wilder for daring to be a bold Jewish-American critic of Israel and the reports of SBS journalists being pressured into withdrawing their signatures from petitions asking for more balanced and fair coverage of the Israel-Palestine crisis. For the sake of humanity journalists and media must not remain silent or be muzzled on this topic.
In 2021, your student representatives represent nothing
Many are rightfully appalled by the news coming out of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Palestinians are being forcibly expelled from their homes. Israel is using violence to enforce their annexation of Palestine, which began with the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland in the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe). Israeli rocket attacks have killed at least 254 Palestinians, including 66 children. And for what? So that Israel can illegally snatch even more land from the Palestinians?
This is shameful, yet sadly unsurprising, behaviour from a violent apartheid state carrying out a slow genocide of the Palestinian people. Yet Israel has the full support of its many allies, including the United States and Australia. The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a total puppet of America, even had the audacity to recognise the city of Jerusalem, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, as the capital of Israel, in effect legitimising the illegal Israeli annexation of eastern half of the city — the rightful capital of Palestine.
Any fair and reasonable person would think that this situation is utterly shameful. Well, not our Student Representative Council and the student union Board, it seems. Or if they do, we have no way of knowing this because they are totally silent on the matter. The Progress faction and Liberal students on the SRC voted down a motion by Social Justice Officer Bisma Changez to stand in solidarity with Palestine and Palestinian students at Adelaide University. Students are rightfully appalled by the atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians. Many have even attended protests in Adelaide highlighting Israel’s egregious crimes. After all, elected student representatives are supposed to give a voice to students’ concerns.
Progress would respond to this by claiming that they are “apolitical”. Even though they are in an alliance with Connect, the right-wing Liberal student faction. Funny that. The only things that students care about, according to them, are free barbeques and stupid stress balls and pens. However, I think that their claim to be apolitical is an intentionally deceptive misnomer. What they really are is anti-political.
Under their control, any efforts by elected student representatives to support positive social change or vocalise about these important issues that students care about are inevitably shut down. Evidently, they have dismissed motions to condemn the Federal Government’s recent attacks on higher education, the ongoing military coup in Myanmar, and Australia’s illegal and inhumane indefinite imprisonment of refugees and asylum seekers, just to name a few examples. In doing this, they present an uncritical defence of the status quo. And they silence those of us who actually care about making a better world. This is an inherently conservative stance and it is out of touch with the progressive sentiments of most students.
Some would respond that motions by student representatives won’t do anything anyway. They are just cynical political moves or tokenistic virtue-signalling. I think that this view is unfair to many of our student representatives. Their voices are just a start, after all. They are meant to encourage further discussion and activity. And they let students know, whether they are Uyghur, Burmese, or Palestinian, that the student community supports them. Many student representatives themselves are involved in activism outside of their roles. They do genuinely care about the problems at hand.
And the sense that students can’t do anything is only enabled by the “apolitical” stance of current student political leadership. They have disaffiliated Adelaide University from the National Union of Students (NUS), the elected national representative body for students. The NUS is not a perfect organisation, sure. Anyone who has been to a NUS conference would know this. Even so, it is still a highly important forum where students can discuss the issues that matter to them. And if there are problems with the NUS, why not stay involved and work to resolve them? Don’t just leave them unaddressed. To respond by quitting altogether is a total cop out. A “too hard” response. Unsurprising, though, for a student leadership that is totally authoritarian, highly undemocratic, cowardly and completely spineless.
There was, however, a time where student organisations thrived and succeeded in fighting for social justice. Many of them actively fought to end Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War movement, boycotted the apartheid regime of South Africa, and pushed for Aboriginal voting rights, just to name a few examples. Much of this activism occurred on university campuses, including here at Adelaide University, and within the NUS and its predecessor, the Australian Union of Students (AUS). Tell me again how powerless student organisations are to make meaningful change in our lives and I’ll show you a mountain of evidence proving the opposite.
If we are to ever have bargaining power as students, we need to elect student representatives that aren’t afraid to fight against injustices, whether at home or abroad. And we need to take these causes to the national level by staying engaged in the NUS.
We should stand in solidarity with the Palestinians fighting to defend their homeland from the murderous Israeli state. Shame on Israel and those who support them and these student representatives who are silent about their crimes — in practice, there is no difference between the two when the outcomes are identical.
When they try to set the holy land on fire that is when you know
Dirty hands want to stain
When they try to silence you by violence that is when you know
Bloody apaches, drones and helicopters
When they only attack you from behind walls and fortified towers that is when you know
Constant raids, arrests and expulsions
When they try to invade Al-Aqsa that is when you know
That is when you know the wretched cower in their echo chambers
That is when you know the courageous spirit of resistance is building the road to liberation brick by brick
That is when you know the banner of freedom will soon be raised high in the rubble of apartheid
With your men imprisoned
With your children killed
With your women disrespected
With your homes demolished
Palestine, from the river to the sea
Palestine, from it’s olive trees to Al-Quds
Palestine, from it’s Dabke to its Maqluba
Freedom will become you