'Fertile ground for hamas'

Medicos act on hate

The petition to the Sydney Medical School was triggered by a May 29 letter from pro-Palestinian activists, with over 250 signatures.

Associate Professor Andy Smidt.
Associate Professor Andy Smidt.

MORE than 500 academics have signed a letter to the University of Sydney (USYD)’s medical school protesting the politicisation of the Israel-Hamas conflict on campus.

The petition to the Sydney Medical School was triggered by a May 29 letter from pro-Palestinian activists, with over 250 signatures, urging it to denounce the university’s partnerships with Israeli institutions, and castigating it for not taking “a formal stance regarding the genocidal atrocities unfolding in Gaza”.

“The Sydney Medical School has also failed to address its financial engagement with Technion and Technion Australia, both explicitly Israeli nationalist institutions which support the military intervention in Gaza,” the letter stated.

USYD struck a deal with the encampment on its campus last month to disclose its academic and research ties. It will also re-examine its investments in defence and security industries in a working party that includes the Sydney University Muslim Students Association.

A USYD spokesperson told The AJN, “Our agreement aligns with similar offers made at leading universities and emphasises transparency around partnerships. It does not include a review of our research partnerships, and we are not cutting ties with Israel, Israeli universities or Israeli companies. We have committed to establishing an inclusive working party with an independent chair to examine our investments in the defence and security industries; all students involved, including our Jewish students, were offered a place before any agreement was reached.”

A response to the anti-Israel letter was spearheaded by Dr Naomi Katz and Dr Karen Fink of the Alliance Against Antisemitism in Healthcare and former USYD academic Andy Smidt, an associate professor in speech pathology, who is active in the Australian Academic Alliance Against Antisemitism (5A). Smidt left USYD in February, citing antisemitic conduct towards her.

Addressing executive dean Professor Robyn Ward and USYD vice-chancellor Mark Scott, the July 9 response was signed by 561 people.

Smidt, who now teaches at Southern Cross University, said the initial protest was from Jewish academics, but it quickly grew to a wide cross-section of academia, students and the broader community.

“We have a large number of alumni, and people who are medical professionals or health professionals, including those who take students on placement or give guest lectures,” she told The AJN.

The pro-Israel response stated that the May 29 letter “stands to cause harm and alienation for staff, students and alumni”.

“We are seeing politics and activism being weaponised in healthcare and academia,” the response stated. “University campuses and medical conferences have become fertile ground for pro-Hamas and anti-Israel rhetoric and antisemitism. Israeli and Jewish academics and doctors have been cancelled from speaking positions. Students feel unsafe in their learning environment.”

Names of the signatories will not be publicly released to prevent doxxing.

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