IN THE MEDIA

Australia’s failing campus report card

May 22, 2024 | Tammy Reznik

Image: Facebook
Image: Facebook

Jerusalem Post

 

Australia’s mid-year report card is in and we appear to be failing nearly every class. Sub-standard grades in logic and common sense, falling short in history and research, an F for language and communications, and close to zero for team work.

Recent events read like a Jewish fever dream; first our Federal Government, unlike most of our allies, voted yes to the latest UN General Assembly resolution to grant rights and privileges to ‘Palestine’ – a decision that was seen by many as rewarding Hamas for its October 7 massacre. This possibly helped inspire a Muslim Labor Party Senator to call a press conference to accuse Israel of genocide, demand a boycott of Israel and conclude with the infamous genocidal chant “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free.”

A few weeks prior, another pro-Palestinian advocate proudly hosted what could only be labelled a children’s holiday indoctrination program at one of the country’s largest university campuses. Footage showed Aussie kids as young as five calling for an end to Israel.

And last weekend angry mobs of “Pro-Palestinian” protestors stormed a Labor Party state conference, as similar groups attempted to overrun a peaceful rally against antisemitism. Some local news outlets reported the latter violence as a “clash” rather than the assault it really was. And I haven’t even got to the university encampments yet.

I used to joke that Aussies couldn’t commit to a rally or a protest longer than it took for the next round of footy or the next cricket test match, but things seem to have changed. I have concluded that there has been a generational shift, coupled with real inertia in our national leadership. How else can one explain the level of anger and vehemence that we have witnessed at these protests? People with no skin in the game finding their meaning in a conflict far, far away? It took about a week for our Gen Zs to set up tent cities at university campuses across the nation in emulation of the scenes at prominent schools in the US. These sit-ins, or “die-ins” as one protest at the University of Melbourne called theirs, are definitely not sites of debate and discussion.

Worse still, as the encampers set up house, there has been regular participation by non-students, who don’t even attempt to conceal their aggressive propaganda tactics. Slogans like the “river to the sea” continue unabated and if anything, their underlying genocidal message is suddenly being described in the media as “complex” or unclear. Worse, they just become routine. Whilst this week some encampments have been forcefully dismantled by university administrations and security, for the Jewish student population, it is too little too late.

Jewish students on campus have felt so aggrieved and threatened by the level of aggression and attacks at these camps, that many have simply stayed away from university. Moreover, many institutions are effectively encouraging students and Jewish staff to stay away “for their own safety,” as one teacher was told in an email, with offers to view their classes and take their exams at home.

The underlying message being sent to our Jewish youth is that they are less important than the other group. Better to hide out rather than inflame the mobs. I have spoken to many young people in our community, who interpret the dragging of feet by authorities over the encampments as akin to tacit approval. The loudest and most hate filled voices march around with impunity. Their targets are told to stay out of their way. Even if the mess eventually gets mopped up, the psychological damage has been done – much in the same way that fake news, even if ultimately corrected, still causes harm.

Many Jewish students feeling like they are essentially “on their own”, are also having to take things into their own hands. I know for one that in my house, we have been role playing at the dinner table “how to react when accused of being a Zionist and an ethnic cleanser.” Whilst they may not be under the immediate threat of war or attack, local Jewish youth are having to arm themselves nonetheless – with a wealth of information, understanding of history, international law, psycho-social strategy (and of course physical self-defence training). I have heard of students being asked to debate the term “Intifada” in a first year law class, while my own son, who isn’t studying anything in the humanities, has been interrogated on a number of occasions by so-called “friends” as though being Jewish makes him the mouthpiece of the IDF.

All this will create lasting division and damage to social cohesion in Australia. However, I still hope that the outcome can be that Jewish youth will become more resourceful, and resilient, even as they become more isolated, whilst the lazy protestors, growing in number but devoted to simplistic slogans, extremism and violent self-defeating tactics, will thus ultimately lose the wider debate.

Tammy Reznik is a policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council and is the mother of two children currently studying at Australian universities.

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