03 September 2014

Australian Universities hit by antisemitism

THE growth of antisemitism in our universities is deeply worrying. In the past month students at least six universities have reported anti-Semitic bullying. Outside campuses we are seeing growing anti-Semitic behaviour.

While the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians may invoke emotive responses, there is no place for anti-Semitism. Students have been targeted physically and verbally just because they are Jewish.

Ironically, this anti-Semitism is being led by the radical Left Socialist Alternative, which supposedly champions women’s rights but recently made headlines assaulting Foreign Minister Julie Bishop over the government’s higher education reforms.

Now Socialist Alternative, an advocate of marriage equality, has sided with Hamas, a recognised terrorist organisation whose goal is the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state.

Recently five Jewish students were refused entry to a Socialist Alternative discussion on Israel because they were Jewish and were told “only progressive-thinking people are allowed”.

In our universities, free speech is to be encouraged, but it does not extend to threats and physical harassment. I am not surprised that the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported in Australia last year was the second highest on record. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement has made anti-Semitism fashionable on the far Left.

Last week some University of Sydney students ‘‘occupied’’ a nearby Max Brenner chocolate shop. Chanting phrases such as “Max Brenner, come off it! There’s blood in your hot chocolate!” at customers in Australia is disgusting and targeting a shop because the owners are Jewish is racist. Students at the University of NSW spread false news about a similar protest at Max Brenner UNSW. This month, the student association at the University of Western Australia sought to bring Uthman Badar, spokesman for Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which claims “honour killings are morally justified”, to the university to discuss the Gaza conflict. Hizb-ut-Tahrir calls for the destruction of Israel and the establishment of a global caliphate, so one suspects the purpose is not to provide a balanced discussion — but it will fuel anti-Israel hate on campus. I applaud the university for condemning the speaker as inconsistent with university values, which led the association to cancel it.

Anti-Semitism has no place in Australia and our universities must act quickly to condemn it. University administrations should be very careful not to invoke freedom of speech to allow speech that vilifies students.

Most Australians are horrified at the wave of anti-Semitism that has washed anew over Europe recently. Riots outside synagogues, chants of “gas the Jews” and the smashing of windows in Jewish restaurants evoke terrible memories of pre-war Europe. Political leaders across the continent have condemned these actions, rightly. 

We must not let that old hatred grip us in Australia. It is our obligation to each other in a multicultural and diverse society to call out extremism.