Jewish Council: University encampments are no threat to Jews
April 28, 2024

Last week students in Australia established encampments at their universities in solidarity with Palestinians. These join the dozens of solidarity camps established across the US and elsewhere in recent weeks. Like their peers, Australian students are calling on their institutions to end relationships with weapons companies that are enabling Israeli war crimes, and urging our government to sanction Israel and cut military ties. 

The Jewish Council of Australia strongly rejects the claims that these protests are a threat to Jewish students and staff.

Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza in the last 200 days. In the past week, new evidence of mass unmarked civilian graves was uncovered. Palestinians in the West Bank are also suffering at the hands of the Israeli military and violent settlers. Students are right to peacefully protest these mounting crimes and should not be silenced by their institutions or by other organisations that erroneously claim these protests are antisemitic. 

Attempting to silence or censor these protests by deceitfully accusing them of antisemitism is a dangerous overreach that, if acted upon, risks stifling free speech on campuses. Universities must be places where diverse perspectives can be voiced and debated openly.

We object to the ongoing individual targeting and vilification of Dr Randa Abdel-Fattah in relation to the University of Sydney protest camp. Attempts by organisations outside universities to push Macquarie University to censure or dismiss Dr Abdel-Fattah are an unacceptable interference in academic freedom and independence. 

Dr Elizabeth Strakosch, Executive Officer, Jewish Council of Australia:

"We should be proud of all of the students, many of whom are Jewish, who are speaking out against this unfolding genocide. The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental democratic freedom that universities should uphold and defend. The student protests against the unfolding genocide in Gaza are legitimate expressions of political speech and human rights advocacy."

"These student actions are part of a long tradition of campus protest and dissent. Many on the Jewish Council of Australia are university staff, and we know the costs and risks students face when they speak up. We urge institutions across Australia to respond thoughtfully and listen to student demands."

Sarah Schwartz, Executive Officer, Jewish Council of Australia:

"There is nothing antisemitic about strong criticism of Israel, or calls for freedom and justice for Palestinians. Slandering these protests is a cynical attempt to distract from the atrocities Israel is currently committing. It is offensive both to Palestinians and their allies, including Jewish staff and students who are also protesting."

"We need to distinguish between genuine racism and political discomfort. These protests may make some students uncomfortable because they politically disagree, but that is not grounds to shut them down – it is a reality of life in a democracy."

Media contact:

0493 970 412

jewishcouncil@jewishcouncil.com.au

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