Universities must not allow anti-Semitism to persist

Herald Sun – May 6, 2022

On April 29, the Melbourne University Students’ Union (UMSU) passed an extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic motion. He used language one would expect from Hamas or Hezbollah, as terrorist groups committed to the destruction of Israel, not from the student union at an esteemed learning center here in Australia.

Its writers have created a fictional, one-sided narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the Palestinians as natives and any Jewish connection to the land denied. Based on this lie, they have constructed a motion that is contrary to everything higher education institutions are supposed to stand for, and will do untold damage to the credibility of UMSU and despite the welcome repudiation of the motion by the University, maybe even tarnish the University as well.

By viewing Zionism as a “racist and colonial ideology” and Israel as an “apartheid colonial state” and a “colonial project,” while demanding Palestinian self-determination, this motion is clearly anti-Semitic. It denies Jews the right to self-determination in the Jewish homeland, where Jews have lived for thousands of years, but demands that same right for others. The lip service in the motion condemning anti-Semitism does not alter this reality. It’s actually ironic, given the inherent anti-Semitism in the motion itself.

The motion’s narrative asserts that Israel “continually denies ethnic Palestinians their right to self-determination, freedom, dignity and equality”, ignoring the numerous State of Israel offers that the Palestinian Authority has rejected, as well as the fact that all citizens of Israel, including its Arabs, have equal democratic rights.

He claims that the State of Israel was created by “massacres, forced expulsions and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians”, when in fact, as soon as Israel declared its independence, it was immediately attacked at the both by neighboring Arab states and the local Arab population, determined to destroy it at birth.

He says Israel recently carried out a police raid on the Al Aqsa Mosque against Palestinians who were “just gathering and praying” – ignoring extensive and widespread video evidence that shows Palestinians stockpiling stones and burning fires. fireworks inside the mosque and violently attacking Jewish worshipers nearby.

The motion condemns Israel’s alleged “continued ethnic cleansing of Palestinians”, although the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza has more than quadrupled since Israel took control of these areas in 1967.

The motion’s support for the Palestinians’ “right” to “engage in self-defense against their occupiers” is actually code for supporting terrorism against Israelis, primarily civilians.

The motion demands a comprehensive policy of boycott and divestment against Israeli institutions and scholars, in violation of the spirit of free inquiry and fundamental academic freedom for universities as institutions, while the broader call to the boycott of the Jewish nation has troubling historical parallels.

In a contrived attempt to deny the anti-Semitism that permeates their motion, the framers included a clause stating that “Judaism and Zionism should not be confused.” As if the anti-Semitic motion wasn’t bad enough, the framers of the motion were arrogant in claiming to redefine Judaism to suit their own sectarian goals. In fact, for most Jews, Zionism – that is, the belief in a right of Jewish self-determination in their ancestral homeland – is an integral part of their Judaism.

The vast majority of Jewish students will no doubt feel deeply betrayed that the student union supposed to represent them could pass such an appalling motion so contrary to their core values.

This shameful motion should have no place in this country at all, let alone in any institution of higher learning. One can’t help but wonder if everyone who supported it fully appreciated its insidious meaning and intent. The union should rescind the motion at the first available opportunity.

The university administration issued a welcome policy statement distancing itself from the motion and rightly condemning it as anti-Semitic. He must now do everything in his power to ensure that this never happens again, as it represents a toxic stain not only for UMSU, but for the University itself.

One way to do this is to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism, which was formulated over several years by a group of leading experts on the Holocaust and racism. , and has been adopted by nearly 40 countries, including most Western democracies, as well as the European Union, and embraced by the Australian government and opposition.

The definition states that criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be considered anti-Semitic, then gives contemporary examples of anti-Semitism, which include “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination , for example by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist enterprise.

Only if Melbourne and other universities take proactive steps, such as adopting the IHRA definition, can they ensure that the kind of extremist fringe groups that control UMSU, and potentially other student unions do not cross the line into anti-Semitism in pursuit of their radical anti-Israel agenda.

Dr. Colin Rubenstein is Executive Director of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC)

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