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23 February 2024  •  Student News

How your daily coffee can do good: Cornerstone Cafe and standing with Palestine

“Anyone that is being oppressed or being subjected to injustice, I find myself obligated to stand with that person. What is happening right now, overseas, is against everything that I stand for”

By Bianca Drummond Costa (she/her)
How your daily coffee can do good: Cornerstone Cafe and standing with Palestine

If you go to UTS, you’ve probably dropped by Cornerstone Cafe to grab a $2 coffee between 2 and 3 in the afternoon. Upon paying for your drink, it’s hard to miss the pole beside the cash register decorated with stickers. If you’re a true Cornerstone regular, you will know that these stickers change seasonally to reflect current social and cultural activism campaigns. 

Perhaps, you noticed the Aboriginal flags and ‘Yes!’ stickers that were pinned up during the referendum. Perhaps, you were there when it was drowning in hearts and pride flags during Mardi Gras. 

Currently, it is screaming in solidarity with Palestine, by donning a plethora of Palestinian flags and “Free Palestine” stickers.

Since November of last year, Cornerstone Cafe has started following the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) List, which is targeted towards companies that are proven to be involved in apartheid and are complicit in Israel’s violation of human rights against Palestinians. Cornerstone’s decision to do so is fronted by the cafe's owner and manager, Nidal Abo Roza, who has since removed products owned by Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co. from the cafe. Both companies are currently on the BDS list, which Nidal makes sure to monitor regularly to ensure he is as updated as he can be.

“I’d like to preface that yes, I am Palestinian and I am a Muslim, but I am not joining this boycott because of these two reasons. I’m doing this because I stand against injustice in principle,” Nidal asserts.

Cornerstone Cafe has never shied away from making political statements. Having been owned by Nidal virtually since its inception some seven years ago, he has always made sure to use his cafe as a platform for advocacy and fighting against injustice.

“If I am to see injustice, I need to try and change it with my hand and if I cannot, I need to try to change it with my tongue or voice or my social media.”

“I’ve done this for the Voice [to Parliament], for the Indigenous people, for the Rohingyas, for violence against women,” a smiling Nidal says.

Earlier this month, Cornerstone Cafe gave out Palestinian scarves, known as Kufiyahs, watermelon pins, bracelets and more merchandise. Nidal himself has volunteered at a Palestinian exhibition at the UMA Centre. These acts are evidence that Nidal is using more than just his words to communicate his stance as firmly in solidarity with the Palestinian community. 137 days (as of 21/2/24) into the genocide occurring in Gaza, it is vital for all of us with a voice, platform, and means, to speak out, donate and show our support for the Palestinian cause.

The cafe has seen an overwhelming amount of support for these actions; Nidal says he frequently receives praised feedback from customers about his decoration. Unlike a cafe in the CBD, which would be full of businessmen, it makes sense that the occupants of an independently-owned university cafe would respond well to such vocal politicism. And if you find yourself at Nidals cafe during their happy hour at 2-3 pm, you will see it is full of students who are doing just that. 

The work that Nidal is doing should not be overlooked. University students are in such a particular period of life. We’re knowledge-hungry, we're radically passionate about things we believe in, and we’re often not shy about vocalising that. Nidal can see that the students who come through his cafe every day are sponges who are constantly absorbing information from their surroundings, and he actively uses his cafe as a way of feeding that. By spending his days selling cheap coffee to young students and providing them with social and cultural stimuli, he provides a safe place for them to let out political grievances whilst also teaching them about his own. 

By guiding the younger generation, he is contributing to the change of the future, and there is something incredibly admirable in that. 

So next time you’re on campus, show some support to a man who is using his agency to advocate for those who have none. If you’re going to spend your hard-earned money on a meal at uni that – let’s face it – won’t even get you through the day, spend it at a place that truly has good intentions.

You can access more information and the full list of companies listed under the BDS movement, here.


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