A statement of violence

ECAJ co-CEO Alex Ryvchin called Clare's words "a thoroughly disappointing statement that … plays into the hands of some of the most extreme and dangerous elements in our society".

Photo: Peter Haskin
Photo: Peter Haskin

Amid the current atmosphere of intimidation on Australian university campuses, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) has welcomed Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s clarification that the phrase “from the river to the sea” is incompatible with a two-state solution.

It comes after Education Minister Jason Clare commented about chants of “intifada” and “from the river to sea” on Sunday: “I’ve seen people say that those words mean the annihilation of Israel. I’ve seen people say that it means the opposite.”

ECAJ co-CEO Alex Ryvchin called Clare’s words “a thoroughly disappointing statement that … plays into the hands of some of the most extreme and dangerous elements in our society”.

“President Biden has referred to the chants as inherently violent and antisemitic,” he said.

“We are in a time of mounting crisis on our campuses and wider society, terror threats against our community, and record antisemitism. The fact that the federal education minister cannot issue a condemnation without engaging in misdirection and false comparisons just isn’t good enough.”

Following the ECAJ’s outrage, asked on Monday about “from the river to the sea”, Albanese said, “It is a slogan that calls for opposition to a two-state solution.”

Albanese went further talking to former treasurer Josh Frydenberg in a documentary to be aired on Sky News later this month, agreeing that “from the river to the sea” is a violent statement that “has no place on our streets”.

Former ASIO head Dennis Richardson said in the same program it was a “very violent statement”.

In a letter to Clare on Monday, the ECAJ said his comment was “a deeply ill-informed and self-contradictory response”.

“We note with appreciation that the Prime Minister this morning made a corrective statement,” the roof body wrote.

“The widespread misunderstanding of the true meaning and intent of anti-Israel slogans, even by many of those who chant them, only serves to underline the critical need for strong, principled leadership from yourself and university administrators.”

The Zionist Federation of Australia also welcomed the Prime Minister’s emphatic rejection of the phrase, with president Jeremy Leibler saying, “This is the kind of leadership that is necessary to restore social cohesion in this country.”

A meeting of the University Chancellors Council Plenary last Thursday failed to issue a direct condemnation of antisemitism, with convenor John Stanhope saying in a statement, “We are confident that the management of our university sector has policies, procedures and sanctions in place to allow for academic freedom and freedom of expression.”

This is despite University of Sydney vice-chancellor Mark Scott, whose campus has seen some of the worst antisemitic incidents, saying last week that “from the river to the sea” and calls of intifada do not in his view meet the threshold of inciting violence or endorsing terrorism.

The AJN put Scott’s view to Australian oleh Arnold Roth, whose daughter was murdered in the Second Intifada.

“There’s room to wonder if he [Scott] actually grasps what motivates Hamas and its Australian proxies,” Roth said.

“My Melbourne-born daughter Malki was murdered at 15 in a Hamas bombing … The mastermind, a Jordanian woman kept safe from justice by Jordan until today, is never, ever called ‘terrorist’ in the Arab media.

“Hamas knows how to dumb down fierce, explosive hatred by engineering adjectives and nouns that convey something almost acceptable in polite society. Their advocates and supporters have little interest in a free and open discussion of what the unfathomable hatred driving Hamas is about.”

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