Note: this is the first of a two-part series. For the second part, see HERE.
Student activism in NSW seems to be taking a dark turn.
For those who follow this blog, it would not be especially surprising to hear that the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel (‘BDS’) movement is steeped in antisemitism.
While BDS supporters always claim that this is not the case, time and time andtime again its prominent figureheads slip into overt Jew-hatred, and other BDS supporters consistently circle their wagons to defend the bigots.
In recent days, students at the University of New South Wales (‘UNSW’) have seen perhaps the most publicly explicit example of this phenomenon to rear its ugly head on Australian shores. A bizarre collective of Muslim students, students from the extreme left, prominent Muslim community leader Rebecca Kay, and “Jihad Sheila” Raisah Douglas, have come together – united only by a hatred of Israel and — in some cases — Jews.
This all took place on the Facebook page for an event entitled ‘Rally! Say no to Max Brenner at UNSW’. As the name suggests, the event, organised by a group calling itself ‘Students for Justice in Palestine, UNSW’ (‘SJP UNSW’), is to protest the opening of a branch of the wholly Australia-owned Max Brenner Australia on campus at UNSW.
There was a brief report about the event by Ean Higgins in the Australian this morning, however the print report did not mention hate speech at all, and the online version only mentions it in passing:
The rally’s organiser, computer science student Damian Ridgwell, said he expected a big turnout, with speakers to include Palestinian students and a “Jewish anti-zionist” female student. “The aim is to raise awareness of the campaign for Palestinians to obtain liberation and justice,” he said.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff said protesting against a Max Brenner outlet “is as immoral and counterproductive a tactic as is BDS in general”. … “As for the appalling racist invective on Facebook which has accompanied this issue, the less said the better.” Mr Ridgwell said some Facebook posts did not reflect the views of the organisers.
Otherwise, Higgins referred only to the “robust exchanges” on the Facebook page. As screenshots obtained by AIJAC from numerous Jewish students indicate, to refer to the vitriol on that page as “robust exchanges” is a severe understatement.
Below is a breakdown of what took place.
The event’s creation and the first hate speech
The first two screenshots taken on the evening of 21 April, subsequent screenshots taken in the evening of 22 April.
The event was created in the afternoon on Sunday 21 April. By the next evening, the page was already peppered with severe anti-Jewish comments.
The main perpetrators of throughout have been Aussie ex-pat Raisah Douglas and a man named Aymen Shalak. While Shalak is no public figure, Douglas has quite a profile. She first came into the spotlight when her husband was arrested in America on terrorism charges, but became widely-known in Australia as one of the “Jihad Sheilas” profiled in a 2008 ABC documentary.
Shalak was posting under the moniker ‘Ayms Machiine’, and Douglas began posting under her own name, but after she became aware that screenshots were being taken of her comments, quickly changed her screen name to ‘Umm Ayaan’ (meaning simply ‘mother of Ayaan’).
Shortly after some students opposed to the boycott began challenging comments on the page, Douglas posted this particularly nasty comment, saying that her Catholic grandmother had taught her “as a youngster about the evil greedy money loving nature of Jews”, and that she had “hated em [sic] ever since”.
The comment quickly garnered five ‘likes’, but was deleted a few hours later. The ‘likes’ were from Abbas El Hajj Hussein, Sami Tahiri, Touraj Vaziri, Mazen Sefian, and Elle Najjarine.
An apparently Jewish student named ‘Rachel Rothstein’ very quickly took a screenshot of the comment and posted her own comment on the page protesting the antisemitism. Douglas immediately rushed to defend what she had said:
Meanwhile, another member had posted a picture allegedly of a Palestinian child wetting herself while being taken away by Israeli soldiers, which Rothstein exposed as a doctored image. In the ensuing discussion, ‘Elle Najjarine’ commented that “Only news Jews are happy with goes through via media”:
When Najjarine was challenged on this point, Douglas immediately came to her defence, saying “take a good unbiased look at who owns and runs what in the media!”
An interesting character who then appeared was Sydney Muslim community leader Rebecca Kay. Kay seemed to be engaging in a debate with Rothstein, whilst mentioning nothing about the racist abuse to which Rothstein was being subjected. It was not until the next evening that Kay noted that things were “getting out of hand” and apologised to anyone who was offended by the comments on the page (this will be featured in a subsequent post).
Also defending Najjarine was Shalak, who ridiculed Rothstein’s plea for the antisemitism to stop.
An hour after telling Rothstein that she “make[s] up some funny ones”, Kay posted that BDS was a “basic human rights issue”, pleading for other members not to “get draw [sic] into religious debates”. Again, no mention of the hate speech that she had arguably given her tacit approval to:
Meanwhile, ‘Moon Elhassan’ – another member of the page – asserted that “Our problem is with the Zionist state of Israel. Not Judaism or any other faith.”
Immediately undermining this was a flurry between Rothstein and Shalak, essentially consisting of Shalak hurling both sexual and racial abuse at Rothstein, including the unambiguously racist “sue me jew”.
The next day, it seems that the organisers of the event had become aware that there had been what the Australian later referred to as “robust exchanges” occurring on the page. As a result, posting as ‘Boycott Max Brenner at UNSW’, they asked for respectful dialogue and committed to “keep[ing] the page clean and remov[ing] comments/posts that make personal attacks and abuse either side.”
Three hours later, none of the comments mentioned above had been removed, barring the first comment in which Douglas referred to her anti-Jewish education. At the time of writing, a number of those comments remain on the page.
The shenanigans continue
Screenshots taken in the late morning on 23 April.
If there was any sincerity in the plea from the organisers, it had fallen on deaf ears, and certainly been poorly implemented.
All of the posts in the ongoing debate around the doctored image not only remained, but had been added to. After a gibe by Rothstein that the image was a fake, Shalak responded with “so is the Holocaust.”
Rothstein again denounced Shalak’s antisemitism and noted that the event’s organisers had been deleting comments other than the antisemitic ones, but that the antisemitic ones remained. This prompted Douglas to tell Rothstein to “stop being a dickhead” and not to play the “anti Semite [sic] card”. This from the woman who had recently been discussing how she had hated the Jews since childhood.
Meanwhile, Moon Elhassan had made another attempt to mitigate the hate speech, this time under the premise that it would “make it easy” for the people on the page to be accused of antisemitism. When confronted with the fact that posts on the page had been unambiguously antisemitic, Elhassan took the line that this was not the real issue:
Similarly, the plea for respect by the event organisers had descended into yet another racial vilification-fest. In response to Rothstein’s condemnations of the hate speech on the page, user Touraj Vaziri had called for someone to “block and report this moron called Rachel.” Shalak then chipped-in by calling Jews a “cursed people” who had been “banished from the holy land”.
Sadly, this was far from the end of these activities. Later this week, we will be posting yet further examples of the horrific comments being made while the organisers, Rebecca Kay, and Facebook looked on.