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Jewish Council calls for universities to immediately halt actions against anti-war students

The Jewish Council of Australia said today the actions some universities are taking in response to anti-war students are a violation of students’ rights and freedoms. Deakin University and the Australian National University (ANU) have indicated they intend to dismantle the student camps. Students across the country are protesting in support of Palestinian people and against their institutions’ ties with Israel.

Management at the University of Melbourne yesterday threatened to call police on students, rather than meet with student representatives and hear their concerns. Some universities have begun penalising students and commencing disciplinary proceedings.

After seven months of horrific violence in Gaza, and as Israel pushes further into Rafah, students are calling on their universities to end their complicity with Israel’s crimes.

Universities cannot take isolated incidents to be representative of the encampments as a whole. Palestine solidarity camp student organisers have made clear that these are anti-war protests which are opposed to all forms of racism, including antisemitism. Far right agitators coming onto campuses to disrupt these encampments and escalate the situation are the risk to student safety.

University leaders need to reject the deceitful narrative that the anti-war protests make staff and students unsafe, and instead listen to students who are urging their institutions to stand on the right side of history.

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

The current moral panic about campus antisemitism does not reflect the reality of the situation, and is being used as grounds to violate students’ rights and freedoms. Protests against Israel’s current military actions and strong criticisms of Zionism are legitimate political perspectives and are not antisemitic. This focus on antisemitism allows university leaders to direct attention away from the horror of the ongoing genocide, and the very real questions being asked about their military, financial and research ties to this genocide.

Bringing police onto campus to dismantle peaceful protests is an attack on freedom of speech and assembly. This is a critical moment where universities must make real their claim to be places of open debate and inquiry.

Antiwar protests pose no threat to Jews and it is important to note that Jewish students and staff have played significant roles in many of them. Such protests may make some students uncomfortable because they politically disagree, but that is not the same as racism and it is not grounds to shut them down. Instead, it is the reality of life in a democracy. Any violence observed on campus has typically been instigated by far-right agitators targeting the protestors, a concerning trend that university authorities appear to be overlooking.

Dr Max Kaiser, Executive Officer, Jewish Council of Australia:

Both Labor and Liberal parties are exacerbating community divisions by unfairly denigrating peaceful protesters. We call on both parties to recognise the diversity of views among Jewish Australians, rather than solely listening to lobbyists with a vested interest in stifling any criticism of Israel’s actions.

We urge university leadership to allow anti-war students to remain and to meet with representatives to listen to their demands, including  divesting from weapons and military industries that prop up Israel’s war.

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