UNIVERSITY orientation weeks have been marred by a series of alleged anti-Semitic incidents, sparking warnings from the federal government that academic institutions must take a tough line against racism on campus.
Jewish students at the nation’s flagship institution, the Australian National University, were allegedly verbally abused, with claims one was called an “Israeli bitch” and another a “filthy Jew”.
A paper plane bearing the message “Death to the Zionist entity. Love from Hamas” was allegedly thrown at the Jewish Students Association orientation week stall. The military wing of Hamas is listed as a proscribed terrorist organisation by the Australian government.
In another incident under investigation, a student at the University of NSW was harassed and verbally intimidated for carrying an Australasian Union of Jewish Students bag by two men until a third party stepped in.
The offenders in both alleged incidents were believed to be from the Socialist Alternative group.
The abuse comes after research by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry found the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported in Australia last year was the second highest on record.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne warned the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement had given anti-Semitism “a fashionability among highly ignorant sections of the far Left”.
Mr Pyne said universities needed to “step in and take a very firm line” against racism on campus. “Free speech does not extend to ugly threats and physical harassment,” he said.
Australasian Union of Jewish Students political director Matthew Lesh said campus extremists were targeting individuals rather than engaging in debate. “Rather than attempt to partake in a civilised political dialogue, extremists on campus have resorted to identifying and harassing individual Jewish students,” he said.
Mr Lesh said he had been “aggressively” criticised for visiting Israel in a University of Melbourne student forum last year and pointed to previous incidents, including one clash that had led to an arrest. “Universities have a responsibility to create a safe and secure atmosphere for students of all backgrounds,” he said.
“To ensure this, universities must respond strongly to individuals and groups who spread intimidation, hatred, and abuse.”
Mr Lesh said AUJS and the Anti-Defamation Commission were launching a website to report anti-Semitic activity.
A UNSW spokeswoman confirmed a complaint had been received and was under investigation. “UNSW deplores all forms of racism and discrimination and considers such behaviour unacceptable, as outlined in the university’s code of conduct for students,” she said.
An ANU spokeswoman said the alleged verbal abuse was under investigation, adding the university took any incident of harassment seriously.
The ACT branch of Socialist Alternative denied any knowledge of the ANU incident. “Socialist Alternative never racially abuses people,” their spokesman said. “We are proud of our record of consistently opposing racism in all its forms.”
(Via the The Australian)
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