ANU Students join National Student Strike for Palestine

Image from Students for Palestine.

Content Warning: Discussions of war, genocide, apartheid, Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and institutional betrayal.

Yesterday on February 29th, University and high school students across Australia left classes to strike in response to Israel’s escalating siege in Gaza. Major rallies were held in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. 

At the ANU, the Canberra protest was organised by Students for Palestine Canberra, formed in the wake of Israel’s ongoing military campaign in Gaza. 

 Joined by teaching staff and the local community, the protestors met at Kambri and called for the ANU to change its approach to the conflict. Their key demands being the University cease cooperation with Israeli firms, end partnerships with weapons manufacturers and sever ties with its exchange partner the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

Among the speakers was ANUSA President, Phi O’Neill (they/them). Their speech focused on the student union’s  history of activism, in particular ANUSA’s long standing opposition to war and apartheid. O’Neill stressed that the protest must be “discriminatory free.”

ANUSA speakers also objected to Australian engagement with Israeli arms companies. “You can’t give $12 million to UNRWA, but you can give $970 million to [Elbit Systems]”, O’Neill pointed out.

Other speakers included Palestinian student Miriam El-Behesy, BIPOC’s Publicity Officer, Aleesya Amirizal, ACT Greens member for Yerrabi, Andrew Braddock, as well as other Palestinian activists. 

In her speech, El-Behesy expressed that ANU is “grooming the next generation of students to be directly complicit in genocide” and criticised the University for failing to support Palestinian students on campus. 

Among other key concerns for student protestors included ANU’s ongoing involvement with key weapons manufacturers, including the university’s internship with Lockheed Martin. A student protestor expressed that it felt “a little left of field” for an education institution to be engaged in such a partnership. 

Another student likened this partnership to a “tacit endorsement of the ongoing conflict that [Lockheed Martin] is enabling and actively profiting from.”

Protesters then marched along University Avenue, calling out the complicity of the Australian government and the urgent need for a ceasefire. A number of students held a large Palestinian flag provided by the Palestinian Action Group Canberra. 

During the march, protesters stopped to gather at the entrance of the BAE Systems Australia Office, located at the end of University Avenue. ANUSA’s Education Officer, Luke Harrison, condemned the weapon’s manufacturer for its role in supplying the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), and the importance of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. 

Police followed along throughout the march and blockaded a number of streets as students marched down London Circuit towards the ACT Legislative Assembly. Following which, protestors gathered outside MP Alicia Payne’s office, demanding the Federal politician take action.

Of concern to some protestors was the involvement of the Socialist Alternative (SAlt) in leading protests. El-Behesey noted that “[SAlt] doesn’t donate a single cent to Palestine”. She further criticised the group for “[trying] to change this into some sort of issue about socialism, when it’s about genocide.”

Organisers called on students to take part in a protest action next week, during which Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong will be on ANU campus. 

More than three months since the war in Gaza began, organisers are determined not to let up the pressure.

If you or anyone you know is affected by the content of this piece, please contact one of the support services below:

ANU BIPOC Department

ANU Indigenous Department

ANU Counselling
(02) 6125 2442

1800 737 732

ANU Women’s Department

ANU Queer* Department

ANU Respectful Relationships Unit


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