In the 1999 movie The Sixth Sense, a young boy explains that the ghosts he sees “don’t know they’re dead”.
Could it be that the University of Melbourne students who drafted and voted for last week’s shocking resolution against Israel – just a day after Yom Hashoah, no less – have a similar issue with identifying antisemitism?
For the umpteenth time, criticism of Israel in itself is not necessarily antisemitic. Israel should be held to the same standard as similar nations.
But this University of Melbourne resolution attacks Israel with an especially calumnious venom.
By the time the text gets through with calling Israel a “settler colonial apartheid state”, accusing it of “massacres, forced expulsion and ethnic cleansing”, and calling Zionism “a racist, colonial ideology”, the part where it purports to condemn “any and all forms of antisemitism” just sounds like trolling.
The resolution runs foul of at least three of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism’s examples. It denies Jews a right to self-determination by claiming Israel is a racist endeavour. It applies double standards by requiring of Israel a standard of behaviour not expected of any other democratic nation. And it uses the classic blood libel against Israel.
Indeed, the only mention of Palestinian terrorism within the resolution is a tacit endorsement of it; supporting the Palestinian right “to engage in self-defence against their occupiers”.
A meaningless condemnation of antisemitism by people who clearly don’t understand what actually constitutes it is little comfort to Jewish students who would right now feel rightly excluded and unsupported by their student union.
The challenge is how to address this issue of supposedly well-meaning, progressive anti-racist students drafting and voting for motions that are rife with antisemitism.
Universities adopting the IHRA definition is part of the solution, but it isn’t enough. We know there are those who will just reject the definition itself. Any adoption needs to be accompanied by clear strategies to educate students on the “why” of its examples.
Because antisemitism on campus needs to be identified and straight away dealt with, wherever it rears its ugly head.