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Macquarie Students for Palestine’s “Stop the Genocide” Protest

This article does not reflect the views of the Publisher or Macquarie University


On the 22nd of May 2024, Macquarie University students and staff, led by organisation Macquarie Students for Palestine, held a “Stop the Genocide” protest at the Central Courtyard. The protest follows a recent spike in student-led pro-Palestine protests held on campuses, including the encampments held across The University of Sydney [1], Australian National University [2], and Monash [3]. 


Macquarie confirmed their “neutral” stance in an email signed by Vice Chancellor Bruce Dowton, sent to all staff and students. It is important to note that this email was sent the day before the protest:


“As an institution, Macquarie has a commitment to viewpoint neutrality and holding space within our community for differing opinions on contentious societal or political issues. Macquarie is a place of intellectual vitality, where we can each draw strength from being part of an institution that respects the richness of cultures, histories and religious beliefs of all in our community. I believe we generally strive to conduct ourselves in accordance with that respect.”


Grapeshot spoke with Eddie Stephenson, co-convenor of Macquarie Students for Palestine and member of Socialists Alternative (SAlt) before the protest. Stephenson condemned Macquarie’s stance of neutrality:


“I think it’s a largely illusory neutrality that [Macquarie University] maintains [...] as long as you’re maintaining those connections that support and normalise Israeli apartheid, you can’t say that you’re taking a neutral stance on what’s going on in Gaza right now.”


These connections refer to the university’s ties with weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin, as well as Israel’s leading university Tel Aviv University (TAU) that have a direct relationship with the Israeli military [4]. This demonstration was primarily called to cut these ties with Lockheed Martin, who Macquarie Students for Palestine deem “a company responsible for death and destruction” [5], and the university to cut ties to the state of Israel in general.


Protestors lifted banners and posters reading “Free Palestine” and “Hands Off Rafah”, and were heard chanting “Brick by brick, wall by wall / The occupation has to fall”.


Speakers


Among the many speakers was prominent voice Dr Randa Abdel-Fattah, an Australian-Palestinian woman, humanitarian advocate, and award-winning author, who stated:


“When we recite numbers, there is in that very process something so grotesque and dehumanising, about counting in a time of genocide. Sometimes we hear “over 39,000 - approximately 40,000 - just under 40,000”, and one wonders, who becomes counted and who becomes lost in the dehumanisation of approximation? Who becomes the carrier one? A remainder in the maths of genocide? Which drops bombs so that a whole body cannot be counted, so that an arm with a name written on it is pulled into one metric, and an unidentified torso into another?”


Nick Harrigan, president of the Macquarie University branch of the National Tertiary Education Union and senior sociology lecturer, also appeared as “one of 1.8 million union members, who call for a peaceful and just resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.”


MQ Students for Palestine speakers included Yasmeen Shadid, Malak Aldabbas, and Isaac Robbins. Shadid stated:


“15,000 children killed, murdered by the Israeli forces. Shame on you! That 15,000 represents innocence betrayed, and dreams shattered before they could even become true.”


Protestors also heard from Dublin Trinity College student Pedro Bans, who shed light on how student protests have proven to be effective, as Trinity withdrew their investments from Israel [6]. 


After speakers had concluded, protestors marched down through Central Courtyard and straight for The Chancellery, where Dowton’s office is based. Police officers and campus security were positioned at the doors of The Chancellery, but did not interfere with demonstrators.


Students


Some rally attendees, who will all remain anonymous, were asked two questions: “What are you protesting today?”, and “Do you have anything else to say?”


Student 1: 

“I think there should be an end to the genocide in Gaza, and I want to see the ties that our University has to weapons manufacturers that, you know, are directly involved in the actual slaughter of Palestinians, to be cut. I think universities should be, you know, for the public, for the good of society and humanity, not waging war and comitting murder.


“Any action counts.”


Student 2:

“I was on campus and I wanted to show my support. I wear my keffiyeh all the time [...] I saw and I was like, let me, you know, pop down and say hi.


“Free free Palestine!”


Student 3:

“It is completely unjustified, the fact that they’re [Downton and the staff of Macquarie University] older and much more experienced, and they have education, and they have knowledge, and they're running an educational institution and still not aware of their atrocious behaviour is absolutely ridiculous.


“Even though we as students are less educated and less experienced, we still have the common sense and still have the ability to understand what’s going on in the world. It’s completely wrong, and needs to be put through for justice.”


What’s Next?


After the protest concluded, Grapeshot briefly spoke with Amy Lamont, co-convenor of MQ Students for Palestine and key organiser of this protest. Lamont spoke optimistically about the turnout of this protest, and promoted a follow-up student and staff panel taking place on Wednesday the 29th of May at 11 Wally’s Walk, discussing the role of Australian universities and their continued involvement with this conflict. 


“The thing that makes a protest successful is not just individuals like myself organising them; it’s ordinary people coming along to them, putting up posters, leafleting.” 


See Grapeshot’s full interviews with Eddie and Amy on our Instagram:







ENDNOTES:


[1] Kallarakkal, S. (2024, May 1). What is the University of Sydney encampment?, Honi Soit. https://honisoit.com/2024/05/what-is-the-university-of-sydney-encampment/ 

[2] Woroni Editor. (2024, May 19). THE THIRD WEEK OF GAZA SOLIDARITY ENCAMPMENT: “GET OFF MY LAWN”, Woroni. https://www.woroni.com.au/news/the-third-week-of-gaza-solidarity-encampment-get-off-my-lawn/ 

[3] Monash University (n.d.). Encampment on Clayton campus, Monash University. https://www.monash.edu/news/community-update/fact-sheet-content/campus-operations 

[4] Hudson, Scott (2024, Mar. 21). Students Speak out against Tel Aviv University to Campus. Honi Soit. honisoit.com/2024/03/usyd-management-invited-tel-aviv-university-to-campus-students-speak-out-representatives-leave/ 

[5] Students for Palestine Macquarie. Free Palestine. Instagram, 21 May, 2024. https://www.instagram.com/reel/C7OoXhJOuHB/?hl=en 

[6] Carroll, R. (2024, May 9). Trinity College Dublin agrees to divest from Israeli firms after student protest. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/article/2024/may/08/trinity-college-dublin-agrees-to-divest-from-israeli-firms-after-student-protest 


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