Encampment deal

‘Nothing short of a scandal’: USYD does deal with Islamists

'This is nothing short of a scandal ... the University’s relationship with the Jewish community is in absolute tatters'

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott has expressed his comfort with Jewish students' "discomfort" on campus. Photo: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott had previously expressed his comfort with Jewish students' "discomfort" on campus. Photo: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD) president David Ossip said the the University of Sydney’s engagement with the Jewish community “has been thoroughly deceptive and insulting” after vice chancellor Mark Scott did a deal with Islamist groups linked to the extremist Hizb ut-Tahrir to pack up their ostensibly pro-Palestinian encampment.

In a deal announced on Friday as the Jewish community was getting ready for Shabbat, Scott offered the Sydney University Muslim Students Association full disclosure of all research agreements, partnerships and all investments in defence and security-related industries, in addition to a seat on the university’s working group that will review its investment policies.

The deal was outlined on the Muslim Students Association’s Instagram account in a collaborative post with the group Stand4PalestineAus. An explosive 60 Minutes report last weekend revealed the latter’s ties to Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Ossip said the university had “hideously capitulated” in doing the deal “with a group dominated by Hizb ut-Tahrir – an organisation proscribed as a terrorist organisation in much of the world including the UK”.

“This is nothing short of a scandal,” Ossip said.

“Despite assurances to the Jewish community that any offer to the encampment was off the table and that the university would be pursuing alternate options to clear the encampment, the University instead reopened negotiations with Hizb ut-Tahrir.”

He said when the JBD found out on Wednesday about the negotiations and formally requested immediate crisis talks, “Mark Scott ignored this request and has still not picked up the phone to us.

“Instead, the University negotiated with only one side, reached an agreement with a group dominated by Hizb ut-Tahrir, sought to bury the story on a Friday night and allowed the radical activists to first announce the deal.”

Ossip added the deal “goes beyond the terms agreed by any other institution and effectively gives Hizb ut-Tahrir influence over the University’s research and investment activities.

“In a sign of how futile their appeasement is, Hizb ut-Tahrir have already announced that they are planning future activities next semester to put pressure on the University and have not ruled out a further encampment,” he added.

“Be in no doubt – whilst the University may be enjoying its new collaboration with Hizb ut-Tahrir, the University’s relationship with the Jewish community is in absolute tatters.”

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said, “This dismal decision by the university shows that unlawful conduct, intimidation and extremism are effective tactics against weak leadership.

“Today, there will be celebrations among those who have turned one of our finest institutions into an eye-sore and created no-go areas on the campus. Meanwhile, Jewish students and staff will feel that once again their basic rights and equality mean less than the outrageous demands of anti-Israel fanatics.”

Australian Jewish Association CEO Robert Gregory said, “Jewish students and staff should reconsider their positions at the University of Sydney. We are nor convinced that the university is willing or able to protect them. Jewish donors should cut off their financial support.”

Contacted by The AJN, a USYD spokesperson said, “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our community. Our campuses must be welcoming and safe for all our community, including our Jewish and Muslim students … Our focus from the beginning has been to de-escalate tensions – not fuel them.

“Our priority has always been a peaceful resolution and we are pleased our proposal has been accepted … Our proposal emphasises transparency around partnerships and does not include a review of our research partnerships, including those with our valued defence and security industry partners. We are not cutting ties with Israel, Israeli universities or Israeli companies.

“We have been assured by police that we would be notified about any relevant information on the encampment that related to any extremist, violent or radicalised behaviour. No concerns have been raised with us by police or other government intelligence agencies at any time since the distressing events of 7 October.”

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