‘Call out campus antisemitism’

“There is no place for the poison of antisemitism or any type of racism in our universities or anywhere else," says Jason Clare.

Minister for Education Jason Clare. Photo: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
Minister for Education Jason Clare. Photo: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

Jewish student leaders have related unprecedented experiences of antisemitism on Australian tertiary campuses to federal Education Minister Jason Clare.

During the May 10 meeting with Clare and with Macnamara MP Josh Burns, key leaders from the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) highlighted countless instances of overt discrimination, intimidation, exclusion, bullying and harassment faced by Jewish students.

AUJS president Noah Loven and vice-president Zac Morris emphasised to Clare that while their organisation supports peaceful on-campus protests, they demanded clear red lines to address rising antisemitism, including guidance that hate speech must not be tolerated and non-student actors be kept off-campus.

The leaders told the minister they share Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s view that the chant “from the river to the sea” is a violent statement that has no place on university campuses and this extends to other violent and hateful speech, such as “globalise the intifada”, open calls of support for Hamas, and disparaging use of the term “Zionist”.

“We raised these concerns directly with the minister and called on him to explicitly call out these offensive statements as antisemitic and examples of hate speech. We also requested the minister urgently bring university leadership together to enforce existing policies that are meant to protect all students,” the leaders stated.

Loven and Morris reported that Clare “expressed solidarity with affected Jewish students, reaffirming the government’s commitment to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of every individual within the university system. The minister committed to working closely with AUJS on an ongoing basis and centring Jewish voices in a national response to urgently address the rise in antisemitism, vilification and harassment at Australian universities.”

Contacted by The AJN this week, Clare said, “There is no place for the poison of antisemitism or any type of racism in our universities or anywhere else. In the lifetime of our grandparents, we have seen the manifest evil that antisemitism leads to.”

Clare found himself at odds with the PM last week after the Education Minister claimed “from the river to the sea” may mean “the opposite” of “annihilation of Israel”. Albanese later described the chant as “a slogan that calls for opposition to a two-state solution”.

“I made the point last week that I should have been clearer,” Clare told The AJN. “Any phrase or slogan that stokes fear is intolerable. It conjures the idea of one state. I don’t support that.”

The student visit came as a group of crossbench MPs wrote to Clare, urging the government to appoint an antisemitism envoy, as has occurred overseas. They asked for a judicial inquiry into antisemitism on campus and for the government to heed a recommendation of the University Accord report and conduct a study of racism on campus, with a specific focus on antisemitism.

A probe into racism in higher education, including but not limited to antisemitism, was announced in Tuesday’s federal Budget.

The teals jointly stated. “Student surveys and anecdotal evidence both indicate that antisemitism was rising before the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks and has increased since the resulting Gaza war, with many Jewish students experiencing exclusion and hostility,”

According to NSW Wentworth teal Allegra Spender, “Since October 7, antisemitism on university campuses has reached alarming levels. I have spoken to many students who have recounted terrible instances of antisemitism. Many of them are no longer attending university and are hiding their Jewish identity.

“We need a comprehensive plan to tackle antisemitism at universities and a robust and long-lasting response to this problem. We can’t let the tragic war overseas create division in our country. Australia must continue to be a country which is welcoming of all people, regardless of faith, ethnic background, gender, ability, or sexuality.”

Victorian Goldstein teal Zoe Daniel said, “Jewish students, indeed, all Jewish people, deserve safety as they live, work and study in Australia. Antisemitism is against our character and values as a nation.  The fact that it’s on the rise requires diligent research and data so that we can acknowledge it, address its drivers and find ways to combat it. Like many Australians, I am horrified by the unfolding conflict in Gaza but those events should not be attributed to Jewish people in Australia, nor be used to ostracise Jewish students.”

Deakin University in Victoria announced a ban on a pro-Palestinian encampment at its Burwood campus, with vice-chancellor Professor Kerrie Parker stating that “the right to freedom of speech does not extend to the establishment of unauthorised camps which pose hygiene and safety risks and restrict the access, availability and use of Deakin premises and facilities”.

While protesters said they would not comply, former treasurer Josh Frydenberg praised Deakin’s ban and called on other Australian universities to do the same.

On Wednesday, Australian National University (ANU) also directed protesters to pack up their encampment after a meeting between the university and protesters, at which ANU administration gave them what it described as “reasonable directions”.

Calling Deakin’s bans “welcome and overdue”, Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin described the encampments as “a nuisance, a disfigurement of campus grounds and [they] have become hubs for promoting a violent and racist ideology. The presence of outside agitators poses a particular security risk. We have to stop treating antisemitism as a lesser form of hatred.”

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan told media, “Universities should never, never be a place of violence. And they most certainly should never be a place for antisemitic behaviour. That is not acceptable.”

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