Australia/Israel Review

The Last Word: Lower Education

Aug 31, 2022 | Jeremy Jones

A Melbourne University Student Union motion supporting BDS “oozed ignorance of, and malice and contempt for, Jewish people.”
A Melbourne University Student Union motion supporting BDS “oozed ignorance of, and malice and contempt for, Jewish people.”

In Germany this August, a public discussion took place about the responsibility of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the murder of Israeli Olympians at the Munich games in 1972, with Abbas having been named by Mohammed Oudeh (aka Abu Daoud) as one of the three senior officials of Fatah who assisted him in planning the Munich massacre.

With the 50th anniversary approaching and Abbas visiting Germany, there were many calls for a public apology, personally or on behalf of the PLO, to the survivors, the families of the victims, to Germany and to the Olympic movement. (Abbas’ response, at a well-attended media conference in Berlin, was to accuse Israel of committing “50 massacres, 50 Holocausts” against Palestinians – comments widely condemned as disgusting, abhorrent and repulsive.)

Within the PLO, a variety of units had roles in this and other spectacular acts of terrorism.

The same year as the Munich massacre, the West German government expelled hundreds of members of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) as a result of collaboration with the terrorists.

Just three years after the Munich massacre, the leadership of the Australian Union of Students (AUS) invited GUPS representatives to tour Australia to propagandise in favour of the PLO’s maximalist agenda.

When given the opportunity to express a view in campus votes, an overwhelming number of AUS members stated that there was no benefit to students for their union to indulge in Middle East politics at all, let alone offer support to an openly eliminationist terrorist group.

The ideological grandchildren of the 1970s AUS leadership live on, as demonstrated by the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) passing a motion at its August Council meeting which oozed ignorance of, and malice and contempt for, Jewish people.

This was the second, similar motion UMSU had passed this year, with the first being rescinded due to fear of legal action and after the University Council took the unprecedented step of publicly branding the text as antisemitic.

The motion drew immediate praise from groups with maximalist anti-Israel agendas, with BDS Australia applauding its passage, in particular the calls to abolish Israel in the long term while condemning each and every supporter of positive Australian-Israeli relations in the short term.

Using the language terrorists regularly use to justify and promote murder of civilians, the motion included terminology from the 1960s Soviet playbook for condemning Zionism.

It represented an assault on the right of anyone supporting Israel’s existence to even express a view – excluding from the “community of the good” supporters of dialogue and mutually beneficial co-operation, as well as the right of Palestinians to live free from the anti-democratic rule of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

As sure as day follows night, a chorus arose to defend the students from any charges of antisemitism, generally repeating the boring trope that the motion’s advocates were simply being “critical of Israel” – as if supporting terrorism, misrepresenting history, excluding pertinent information about current events and demeaning Jewish identity, are what one normally understands by the term “criticism”.

The student leaders behind the resolution apparently don’t understand the concepts of humility, preferring to condemn Israelis and Palestinians to permanent conflict rather than think beyond the cliches of the eliminationists.

The Palestinians, as well as “Zionists”, were treated as political playthings by egocentric student politicians.

In a powerful essay on the ABC’s Religion and Ethics platform, Alissa Foster, Vice President of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, wrote, “the modern-day manifestations of antisemitic tropes within progressive spaces means that many people seem not even to be aware that they are enabling antisemitism.”

Jewish students (and even some staff) on Australian campuses are regularly speaking of their discomfort, even fear, due to events like the UMSU resolution and anti-Jewish atmospherics from which it arose.

This will only end when the “anti-Zionist” bullies face real consequences for their behaviour, which I hope comes sooner rather than later.


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