Greens tell universities to shun IHRA
'Wrong side of history'

Greens tell universities to shun IHRA

Two Greens Senators wrote to Australian universities asking them not to adopt the IHRA.

Senator Mehreen Faruqi. Photo: Facebook.
Senator Mehreen Faruqi. Photo: Facebook.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim has declared that the Greens are “on the wrong side of history”.

It follows Greens Senators Mehreen Faruqi and Gordon Steele-John writing to Australian universities asking them not to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. Late last year, the Parliamentary Friends of IHRA wrote to universities urging them to adopt it, with the University of Melbourne becoming the first to do so last month.

Speaking in Parliament last week, Faruqi said the definition “has been widely criticised, including by progressive Jewish organisations for its ability to stifle academic freedom, silence Palestinian voices and prevent legitimate criticism of Israel”.

She said the need to “apply scrutiny to Israel’s actions has never been greater”.

“2022 was the deadliest year for Palestinians living under occupation since the Second Intifada ended in 2005,” she said.

“The State of Israel has to be called out for its ongoing apartheid and oppression of Palestinians.

“Universities should be politically active places … We firmly believe antisemitism, like all racism, is abhorrent and must be condemned, and consider that universities should uphold and strengthen their existing policies on all forms of discrimination rather than adopt the definition.”

Wertheim said the Greens have “fundamentally misconstrued” the IHRA definition.

“Their opposition to it puts them on the wrong side of history. Jewish community organisations in Australia and around the world, of widely diverse political leanings, have overwhelmingly endorsed IHRA because it reflects our personal and historical experiences,” he said.

“The Greens do not dare to question the right of other vulnerable minorities to self-determine what constitutes racism against them. The fact that the Greens single out the Jewish community alone for this treatment speaks volumes.

“The Greens are clearly more interested in creating space for hate speech against Jews and Israel than in making a good faith attempt to address it.”

Echoing Wertheim, Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said it was “extremely disturbing that the Greens think it’s appropriate to dictate to the Jewish community what does or doesn’t constitute antisemitism without actually consulting with the Jewish community”.

“This is not something that they have done or would contemplate doing to any other minority,” Leibler said.

“This comes just a few days after Greens Senator Steele-John stood in solidarity with the eight Palestinian terrorists killed by the IDF in Jenin on 26 January, yet remained completely silent when seven Israeli civilians were murdered the very next day.”

He urged the Greens to “actually listen” to the Jewish community’s concerns and “actually read” the IHRA definition, “because it doesn’t do any of the things you accuse it of doing”.

Australasian Union of Jewish Students president Alissa Foster said the IHRA definition “explicitly states that it is a guide to support existing policies and practices”.

“It’s unfortunate that instead of consulting Jewish students, Senator Faruqi has misrepresented IHRA and its purpose,” she said.

“Jewish students, like every other minority group, have the right to define what antisemitism means for us but rather than listening to our concerns, Senator Faruqi has assumed she knows better.”

The AJN asked Faruqi’s office to explain how the IHRA definition prevents legitimate comment on Israel when it specifically states that “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be considered antisemitic”.

The AJN also asked why the senators seemingly allow other races and cultural groups to define what is racism against them, but not Jews.

A spokesperson for Faruqi and Steele-John replied, “A range of respected voices, including Jewish organisations and academics, have been critical of adopting the IHRA definition because of its impacts on academic freedom and free speech.

“Antisemitism must be vehemently opposed whenever and wherever it occurs, including on university campuses.

“University anti-racism and anti-discrimination policies must be strengthened and upheld to ensure that there is zero tolerance for antisemitism and all forms of racism on campuses.”

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