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The world is witnessing the worst crime against humanity in a generation. In the 7 months and counting since Israel began its genocidal campaign in Gaza, an estimated 34,000 Palestinian civilians have been murdered, including 10,000 children. Thousands more are likely trapped under the mounds of rubble amassed from Israel’s relentless bombing. Only a small fraction of Gaza’s hospitals remain standing, and those that do are barely able to operate. Every university in the strip has been obliterated or damaged beyond repair, all schools have been closed. Three quarters of all homes have been destroyed in what has been described as ‘domicide’. And that is not to mention centuries of cultural memory – art, history, food, music, tradition – being erased in a totalising process of ethic cleansing.

In response, we have witnessed the most sustained anti-war movements in modern history. Millions of people across the globe have marched week after week, in solidarity with the Palestinians, and to protest their own governments complicity and active support of these atrocities. Now, months in, we are entering a new phase in the struggle with a renewed surge in protest. What started with students establishing the first Palestine solidarity encampment on the lawns of Columbia University, has now spread across the United States, and then the world. There are now solidarity encampments on every continent on the planet, from Los Angeles to Tokyo, from Paris to Sydney. 

On the 29th of April, students at the University of Queensland entered this global solidarity movement by establishing the UQ Gaza Solidarity Encampment. We join student activists around the country in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth. The same day, the university’s Vice-Chancellor Deborah Terry emailed staff and students saying the camp was “protesting the conflict in the middle east”. This is a shameful attempt to muddy the reason behind our campaign, and deflect from UQs own complicity in the genocide of Gazans. Our demands are crystal clear; firstly, we want all weapons companies off UQ campus. This includes Boeing, the company that manufactures the warplanes and attack helicopters Israel uses to murder Palestinians, which has its own centre in the engineering faculty. Second, we demand UQ disclose all ties with Israeli companies and universities. Finally, that UQ divest from all companies complicit in the genocide. We are still waiting for the university to acknowledge these demands.

If you go to any Palestine rally, you will find the Palestinian flag flying side by side with the Indigenous flag. There is widespread awareness that the movement for Palestine represents a struggle against all forms of oppression everywhere and welcomes everyone who seeks to fight injustice. Our current Labor government – which declares undying friendship to Israel – is the same one that is perpetuates the continued oppression of indigenous people in this country; opening new youth detention centres, boosting police budgets, and giving mining companies the greenlight to pillage Aboriginal land in pursuit of profit. It’s the same government that tortures refugees in offshore detention facilities, and is currently trying to pass draconian laws enabling the state to imprison asylum seekers who do not cooperate in their own deportation. And as students are being squeezed with sky-high rent prices and cost of living pressures, it is our government that cries poor, but gloats of the 750 billion dollars it plans to spend on the military in the next decade.

The fight for Palestine challenges all the structures of imperialism at once. But  daring to do so has exposed the deep hypocrisy at the heart of our supposedly free, democratic societies. It has shone a harsh light on the preparedness of our rulers to put down peaceful anti-war movements in defence of a horrific status quo. Campus occupations in the United States have been met with fierce repression. This has been carried out by the state itself; as in Columbia University, where the administration invited militarized police onto campus to smash up the encampment. In other places, the police have worked in cruel symphony with far-right counter-protestors; as with UCLA, where the cops turned a blind eye to raids on the encampment there by Zionist mobs, only to join the action themselves, breaking up the camp using rubber bullets and tear gas.  

While we have not faced such heavy-handed repression from the authorities here in Australia, the right have still taken inspiration. Only a day after the UCLA attacks, a Zionist mob harassed the encampment at Monash University in Melbourne. A similar attempt was made at Sydney University but was prevented by the mobilization of hundreds of pro-Palestine members of the community to defend the camp. In an inspiring scene, a human chain was formed around the encampment to protect it from the counter-protestors. We will not be intimated or deterred by these right-wing threats. Student activists in Melbourne and Sydney have only been energized to keep fighting for Palestine; all the encampments remain up and are growing. The scenes of solidarity and determination to fight for Palestinian liberation, only motivates us here in Brisbane to continue to build the movement, and put more pressure on the university bosses.

To stand in opposition to this genocide is the political question of our time. As this article is written, Israel has begun its invasion of Rafah city in the south, where over a million and a half Palestinians are trapped.  This moment demands of us to everything we can to fight, right here, right now.

If you agree, then you need to be a part of building the movement. Come by the encampment; we are organising multiple rallies each week, but need more help to build and promote them. Every day we are leafletting for the next action, promoting on social media and painting banners. If you are a student, stay overnight at the encampment – we are running teach-ins in the evenings to learn about the radical student movements of the past and the lessons we can draw, the history of Palestinian resistance, as well as activist and campaign strategy. When we look back on our time at university, we should want to say that we stood on the right side of history. We should want to say we did more than just go to our classes and focus on our studies, that we didn’t turn a blind eye to a real genocide unfolding. We will say we did everything in our power to fight for a free Palestine and a liberated world beyond. No one else is going to do it for us.

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