The longest running university students’ encampment lasting 55 days, in protest against Israeli genocide of Palestinians in Gaza, finally ended by the end of June at the University of Sydney with claims by the protest movement of achieving its objective securing an independently-reviewed disclosure, a path to divestment, a call for a ceasefire, and commitments from the University for exchange programs with Palestine.

The USyd Gaza encampment  followed widespread university student protests in April in the United States first starting at New York’s Columbia University and later spreading to university campuses in many other countries as well as major university campuses in various cities of Australia.

The global university students’ protest movement was galvanised in light of images shared of Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza and killing of tens of thousands Palestinians mainly women and children, where the universities were called upon to disclose and cut ties with Israeli occupation authorities and weapons manufacturers that were supplying arms to Israel.

The grassroots groups spearheading the USyd Gaza encampment included Sydney University Muslim Students Association (SUMSA), Students4Palestine, Students Against War and the Student Representative Council (SRC) with hundreds of students from diverse background and of different faith including Jewish students.

For almost two months  the front lawn of the sandstone Quadrangle was alive with marquees, colourful tents and makeshift kitchens with protesters sharing meals, rallying, listening to speakers, praying, teaching and learning, singing, and sharing news and views of war on Gaza.

In a ‘United Community Statement’ released on Friday 26 June signed in solidarity by hundreds of Muslim community organisations, institutions and leaders, the students’ courage, resistance and activism in support of Palestine was highly appreciated and well supported.

“We extend our congratulations to these students, and note the efforts of the Sydney University Muslim Students’ Association (SUMSA) in being an important part of this encampment. We applaud Muslim students on their patience, perseverance and determination. We look forward with anticipation to the University of Sydney fulfilling its agreed commitments,” the statement reads.

The students remained steadfast and peaceful throughout the length of the campaign in spite of intimidation by the Zionist lobby, accusation of anti-Semitism, Islamophobic media campaigns and defamation that the encampment was infiltrated by Islamists, extremists and even terrorists.

The Statement further reads, “We strongly object to characterisations by segments of the right-wing media that attempt to taint the achievements of SUMSA and other allies on campus with reference to “extremism”. These are cheap attempts to divide and distract from what is a substantial achievement. The SUMSA segment of the encampment has been supported by diverse and broad swathes of the Muslim community.”

In a concerted campaign towards the middle of June, in order to discredit the USyd Gaza encampment, Channel Nine 60 minutes together with three articles within a few days published by the Sydney Morning Herald, spearheaded by ‘investigative journalist’ Nick McKenzie, sought to convey that the encampment movement in support of Palestine was infiltrated by ‘Islamist’ group Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

At the same time Australian Jewish News (AJN) published a number of articles accusing the Palestine supporters and Hizb-ut-Tahrir of extremism and violence saying,” Hizb ut-Tahrir and the crowds that have sullied our streets and universities, terrorising members of our community over the past eight months make perfect bedfellows. Both are against mainstream Australian values, they have little interest in actual peace; they seek the annihilation of a democratic state and the ostracism of those who support that state.”

USyd Vice-Chancellor, Mark Scott allowed the campaign to take its course in spite of pressure from the Zionist lobby to close it stating, “Since 24 April when the encampment began, we’ve repeatedly stated that we support the right to peaceful protest, provided it doesn’t cause significant disruption to core university operations.”

While the Zionist lobby put pressure on the University to take action against the encampment accusing it of creating fear amongst Jewish students, no go areas for Jews and of anti-Semitism, a USyd spokesperson said that there was no evidence of that and the police had not received any such reports.

Previously AJN articles have been quoting Jewish leaders of their criticism of the University and its Vice Chancellor Mark Scott for negotiating a peaceful end to the USyd Gaza encampment and for considering their demands.

“By making an offer to the encampment, the University of Sydney has created a dangerous precedent and emboldened extremists who will never be appeased,” David Ossip, President of Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD) claimed.

He further added, “The university needs to stop capitulating to unrepresentative swill, remove the encampment and finally crack down on the anti-Semitism which abounds on campus.”

USyd has offered SUMSA representative a chance to participate in a working group to review its investment portfolio related to defence and security, and a Senate divestment discussion which had previously led to the university’s decision to divest from investment interests in modern slavery, cluster munitions, fossil fuels and tobacco in a similar way.

The University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland and Curtin University also agreed to disclosed their research ties in order to successfully negotiate for their student encampments to end  peacefully.