IN THE MEDIA

It’s Time to Stop the Latest Pandemic of Hate

May 3, 2024 | Colin Rubenstein

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A version of this article appeared in the Daily Telegraph – 4 May 2024

 

Like a pandemic, hateful and disruptive demonstrations against Israel and its war of self defence against Hamas have spread from university campuses abroad to be replicated on our shores.

Worse, like overseas, extremism and open support for Hamas have led to numerous examples of blatant antisemitism, and the targeting of Jewish students at university campuses across Australia. And the leaders of our universities seem unable or unwilling to do anything about it.

Nobody is saying that the right to protest shouldn’t be upheld, but only in keeping with laws and university regulations. That must include the right of Jewish students to attend classes without intimidation and fear – and this is not currently happening.

Numerous Jewish students are reportedly too apprehensive to attend campus in the face of protest groups and occupation camps inhabited by extremist activists determined to target and intimidate them.

For example, at Melbourne, protestors reportedly systematically entered classes demanding students raise their hands to show their support for their extreme demands and photographed both those who did and did not. At the ANU, there are eyewitness reports of protestors chanting “F… the Jews.” Some protest leaders have said that all “Zionists”, supporters of Israel’s right to exist, should be killed, while others say they support Hamas, a banned terrorist group in Australia, unconditionally.

Meanwhile, protesters calling for an “intifada” on our shores – as has reportedly happened at almost all our campus protest – are calling for violence, presumably against Jews.

In the Palestine-Israel conflict context in which the term evolved, it is blatantly obvious that violence and terrorism are the main features of an “intifada”. During the first Palestinian Intifada (1987-1993), 160 Israelis, mostly civilians, were killed. During the second Intifada (2000-2005) it was 1,137 killed.

What’s worse, all of this is occurring against the backdrop of the largest global explosion in antisemitism since 1945. Since the Hamas terror pogrom of October 7, monitoring groups have recorded increases of hundreds of percent in antisemitic incidents in virtually every Western country. In Australia, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry recorded a 738% spike in incidents in the two months after October 7.

Therefore, armed with the foresight provided by the violence, disruption and illegality we have witnessed in California, New York and elsewhere, our universities should be getting out in front of this issue and protecting their campuses from the gangster-like ,bullying tactics of the extremist, mostly far-left demonstrators. Unfortunately, with many academics complicit in the political hooliganism on their campuses, many university administrators seem to currently lack the courage to do so.

As universities are also a federal responsibility, the Government should be putting pressure on the universities to act against the antisemitism and anti-Jewish behaviour on their campuses. Strong and principled statements and calls for action are needed now from the Education Minister, the Prime Minister, and the rest of our elected leaders and representatives.

Indeed, our Federal and State Governments absolutely need to demonstrate firm, forceful, principled leadership in condemning antisemitism, act to curtail this surge in incitement and violence and if our laws are inadequate strengthen them.

The pandemic is spreading. If tough measures are not taken, this extremist ideological virus from overseas could permanently damage the commitment to tolerance and mutual respect on which our vibrant and successful multicultural society depends.

Dr. Colin Rubenstein is Executive Director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.

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