Antisemitism is alive and well at Sydney Uni

Antisemitism is alive and well at Sydney Uni

'The SRC’s support for Corbyn and gaslighting of world Jewry must be recognised for the antisemitic filth that it is'.

The University of Sydney. Photo:
The University of Sydney. Photo:

“ALL Jews must die.”

These words were yelled by Robert Bowers as he shot up Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue on October 27, 2018, killing 11.

Such manifest antisemitism is common amongst Islamic extremists and neo-Nazis. Jew-hatred within certain circles on the left, however, disguises itself, often avoiding such open displays of bigotry.

So on November 10, when the University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council (SRC) passed a motion condemning the UK Labour Party’s suspension of Jeremy Corbyn, such blatant antisemitism was absent. But don’t be fooled. The SRC’s support for Corbyn and gaslighting of world Jewry must be recognised for the antisemitic filth that it is.

The Australasian Union of Jewish Students has accused the University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council of…

Posted by The Australian Jewish News on Wednesday, November 18, 2020

In October, UK human rights watchdog The Equality and Human Rights Commission held the Labour Party “responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination”, citing “a culture within the party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent antisemitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it”.

Corbyn – Labour’s leader from 2015 to 2020 – dismissed the report as “dramatically overstated for political reasons”. After refusing to retract his statement, Labour suspended him.

But what’s all the fuss about? Why, under Corbyn’s leadership, did the Labour Party experience such a whirlwind of allegations of antisemitism? Let’s take a brief look at Corbyn’s history.

Prior to leading Labour, Corbyn described genocidal, antisemitic and state-designated terrorist groups as his “friends”. He defended a vicar of the Church of England who claimed Israel was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, arguing he had been victimised for speaking out against Zionism. He suggested English Zionists (which surveys show are the overwhelming majority of English Jews) “don’t understand English irony” despite living in England “for a very long time, probably all their lives”. He attended ceremonies honouring terrorists, events hosted by Holocaust deniers, and defended an antisemitic mural depicting hook-nosed Jewish bankers running the world.

Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

Under Corbyn’s leadership, according to the report, Labour politicians compared Israelis to Nazis, suggested that Israel cease to exist, accused Jewish bankers of running the world, and described Jews as a “fifth column”; just to name a few examples. Jewish MP Luciana Berger – who quit the party in 2019 due to antisemitic abuse – required police protection at the 2018 Labour Party conference. When complaints were raised regarding antisemitism, Corbyn and his office quashed them – unlawfully – on multiple occasions.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of Corbyn’s relationship with antisemitism, yet the SRC somehow conjured up the drivel that “there is no evidence that he has ever done or said anything indicating prejudice against Jewish people”.

The SRC’s defence of Corbyn, and suggestion that Jews reporting antisemitism within the Labour Party are propagating a “cynical lie intended to intimidate and silence the left” and its “criticism of Israel”, is antisemitic gaslighting at its worst. 2019 polling of British Jewry revealed 87 per cent view Corbyn as antisemitic, while 47 per cent would “seriously consider” emigrating had Corbyn won the 2019 election. Yet the council that purportedly represents the students at the University of Sydney – including a large Jewish cohort – had the gall to accuse Jews of defaming Corbyn for political gain.

One cannot imagine the SRC passing a motion accusing African-Americans of running a political smear campaign against American police. Nor could one fathom a motion stating Indigenous Australians who accuse Pauline Hanson of racism are spreading propaganda for political purposes. These would rightfully be called out as disgraceful displays of bigotry. So why is it acceptable to level such accusations against Jews?

The sentiment behind this motion is nothing new. It rests on the myth believed by many on the left that they’re categorically incapable of being bigoted. The motion reflected this, claiming accusations against Corbyn represent “an attack upon the anti-racist and anti-imperialist left”.

When accused of antisemitism, as explained by British scholar David Hirsh, left-wing antisemites often charge their accusers with shutting down criticism of Israel as “a means of refusing to engage with an accusation of antisemitism; instead it reflects back an indignant counter-accusation, that the accuser is taking part in a conspiracy to silence political speech”. He dubbed this tactic the ‘Livingstone Formulation’, after ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone, who in 2005 compared a Jewish reporter to a Nazi – only after learning he was Jewish. Following widespread outrage, Livingstone insisted that anyone offended by his remarks was simply trying to silence his criticism of Israel.

Labour’s turmoil under Corbyn had nothing to do with criticising Israel, but it did have everything to do with Corbyn’s antisemitism. The University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council’s decision to deny that – and lay the blame on Jews – sends a clear message to all.

Josh Feldman is an active member of the community involved in informal education and Israel advocacy.

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