Hate becoming mainstream

Antisemitism before and after October 7

Anti-Israel protesters outside this year's Yom Hazikaron commemoration at Monash University. Photo: Peter Haskin
Anti-Israel protesters outside this year's Yom Hazikaron commemoration at Monash University. Photo: Peter Haskin

If you visited the Monash Gaza solidarity encampment, you would have seen a small, pathetic group of radical students espousing antisemitism to tiny crowds. So why do Jewish students care so much?

When I started university in 2020, I thought stories about antisemitism were being exaggerated.

I was quickly shaken out of that on my first day when I was stopped by a student who asked if I knew anything about socialism.

I replied truthfully, “not much, except that I’ve spent some time on kibbutzim in Israel”. I was immediately asked if I was Jewish, and told that their organisation was an anti-Israel one. Within seconds, a girl nearby started chanting, “we won’t stop until people like you are kicked off campus”. Others joined in, and began marching up and down in front of me. I repeatedly asked them to just talk to me before jumping to conclusions, but they didn’t want to listen.

I reported this to Monash, who had the entire incident on CCTV. But after months of meetings and investigation, they told me there was nothing they could do.

Later that semester, a student in class confidently said the Taliban were not terrorists, because they were rightly resisting the Zionist entity. The teacher responded to my protests by saying this was a valid opinion.

The rest of my degree followed suit. In one class, a girl claimed Holocaust survivors are inherently genocidal, and so should not have been granted access into Mandate Palestine. After I challenged this – outing myself as a Jew – she and her friends refused to use the lifts with me.

In another class, a teacher told us Nazis were good people. In yet another class, a student said if she ever had to live on the same street as me, she’d kill herself.

All the while, tutors and lecturers looked on in silence.

At the same time, I was getting involved in student politics. It was here I learned that antisemitism is not just a problem on the radical left. It permeates through every facet of student life.

I was told that only one ticket running for student council would let me join as a Jewish Zionist. I did encounter some mild antisemitism there, like having to make concessions about the definition of antisemitism, and seeing them share an Al Jazeera article headlined, “Hollywood’s thought police undertake to ensure that American celebrity culture remains firmly in the service of the Zionist narrative.”

Notwithstanding, I felt I could trust those around me. That is, until I attended my first National Union of Students meeting in December 2022 as an AUJS observer.

I saw hundreds of people (many of whom were mainstream, Labor affiliated) cheer wildly when someone said Jews shouldn’t be allowed to talk about the Holocaust because we use it to manipulate people’s minds. I was told by one student that each Jew kills one non-Jew as part of our coming-of-age ritual.

Students would walk away from us when we walked into a room, leave the table if we tried to sit down and refuse to look at us in the lunch line. When 200 people at this conference chanted “from the river to the sea”, I screamed back, “where else do you want us to go?” but received no answer.

While AUJS vice-president, I heard stories of Jewish students having swastikas shoved in their backpacks, being harassed on campus grounds and being too scared to go on campus.

I stayed involved in the MSA, but my ticket lost the last election, and I was elected to work in coalition with a more progressive, but still mainstream, Labor left union.

Small things started to happen. I was denied a position for which I was the most qualified candidate, and had overwhelming support of the student body. Meetings were scheduled for Friday evenings, so I could not attend. Israel was demonised at every possible moment. A union member told me no one else in her union would even talk to me because I was a Jewish Zionist.

An anti-Israel motion was introduced which made no mention of Hamas’s attack on October 7. They told me they would consider my suggestions, and would consult with MonJSS and AUJS directly.

The night before the vote, they released a new motion, worse than the original. They had done the opposite of what I had suggested, and failed to consult with MonJSS or AUJS.

To add insult, they published a statement thanking Jewish students for their contributions, of which there were none. On that statement, one student commented, in part, “stop claiming to be God’s chosen people”. In response to a Jewish student’s comments, another wrote, “stealing other people’s land is a part of your culture I see”.

Not once did any of these people know my opinions about Israel. No one can claim that these are merely ‘anti-Zionists’.

My story is not unique. It is one of thousands just like it. The reason the encampments are so scary for Jewish students is because they are the next step in the progression of antisemitism. What was once fringe antisemitism is now mainstream. If universities and student unions tolerate them, one has to ask what will come next.


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