Peaceful rally supporting Jewish students at Melbourne University

May 2, 2024 by David Marlow
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The Australasian Union of Jewish Students held a peaceful rally today on campus at Melbourne University in support of Jewish students on campus and against antisemitism, bullying and intimidation.

AUJS president Noah Loven addresses the rally

It was well supported by the broader Jewish community, including a broad range of community members and leaders from the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA), Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), Rabbonim, as well as a large contingent from AUJS.

Several hundred students and community members, adorned with Australian and Israeli flags and carrying signs speaking against antisemitism, harassment and intimidation on campus, attended the rally. A large media presence should ensure that the rally is well-reported.

The rally started with the Australian national anthem, and ZFA CEO Alon Cassuto opened the proceedings. He expressed strong support for Jewish students on campus, saying that there had been enough hate, and “campuses should be free of hate”.

Liberal MP David Southwick shows his support

Cassuto said, “ZFA is deeply concerned about the welfare of Jewish students on Australian campuses, and supports the Australasian Union of Jewish Students’ call to action.”

“Student union representatives openly support Hamas. Students are singled out in classes. Jewish students are scared to complain for fear their marks will be affected. They are staying away from campus and transferring away from the worst universities.”

“Societal cohesion requires community and political leaders to publicly and strongly call out and push back on those seeking to undermine that cohesion. Antisemitism under the guise of political discourse is still antisemitism. We must be vigilant and clear in our opposition to any form of hate on our campuses.”

In 2023, ZFA and AUJS commissioned a survey prior to October 7, finding that two-thirds of Jewish students had faced antisemitism on campus. It found that one-quarter of Jewish students had been singled out or excluded over issues related to Israel. It found that Jewish students often hid their Jewish identity on campus or avoided campus altogether to avoid antisemitism. It also found that students often don’t make complaints because they have little faith in the complaints process, and they fear their marks would be affected. The survey results were communicated to universities and the Education Minister before October 7, and the situation has dramatically worsened since.

Noah Loven, National President of AUJS, talked about the intimidation and harassment on campus. He said they did not want to stifle debate, but Jew-hatred was not welcome on campus. He said, “Antisemitism ha no place in Australian society, nor on our university campuses.” Loven called on students to stay strong and to celebrate Jewish life. He also thanked the community for their support and solidarity with the students.

Loven said: “Jewish students are being vilified, and we are calling for universities and government to do more to tackle these groups who are being openly hostile towards Jewish students.

It’s simply not safe for many Jewish students on campus at the moment, and it’s unacceptable that many feel they cannot attend their lectures and classes in person without fear of intimidation, harassment and violence. This is not an issue of free speech – it is of vilification and the endorsement of terror. Some of these extreme groups are crossing the line, and that’s why we’re calling on universities and government to do more to ensure campuses are safe again for all.

Universities must enforce the policies they already have.”

Jewish students have been targeted at university events and demanded to declare their political stances during classes publicly, with their orientation week stalls vandalised. As a result, many Jewish students have chosen to avoid their university campuses altogether.

In response to the escalating concerns on campuses, AUJS say they are calling for:

  1. A roundtable with the Federal Education Minister, state education ministers, and university vice-chancellors.
  2. Universities to stipulate, implement and enforce clear policies that prohibit hate speech on campus.
  3. Universities to require students to show their student identification to ensure that external extremists do not hijack campuses.
  4. Universities to provide more support, including counselling and security measures so that students may feel psychologically and physically secure on campus.

Holly Feldman, Victorian AUJS President, said, “university should be an enriching experience”, but “inclusion and safety are no longer guaranteed. We should feel free to express our love of Judaism and Israel.” She welcomed that the university was fast to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism but noted that the university was slow to enforce it in practice.

Melbourne University Physics Professor Steven Prawer called for universities to do more to end the hate and discrimination against Jewish and Israeli academics. He said, “We will not allow the campus to become a virtual no-go zone for Jewish academics and student.”

“They should show the same sensitivity as they do for indigenous and other minority groups.”

Jewish first-year Arts student Sophie Schwartz spoke about her first-hand experience of antisemitism and intimidation at Melbourne University and reflected on her experience in a bomb shelter for three days in Israel following the October 7 attacks.

Other speakers included JCCV CEO Naomi Levin and MUJS President Sarah Lupton who both talked about the community pulling together and for students to feel safe on campus.

State MP David Southwick attended the rally. He told J-Wire:“There is no place for hate, no place for racism, and no place for antisemitism. Students must always feel safe and it is the Government’s responsibility to make that happen.”

Comments

One Response to “Peaceful rally supporting Jewish students at Melbourne University”
  1. Byrton Wicks says:

    What a difference in the pro Jewish and pro Palestine students. I belong to none of these groups but from what I have seen, I am firmly with Israel and the Jewish students. I do not support the war in Gaza but I find those who support Palestine (for good reason) practice double standards. They will never condemn the events of October 7. Israel, we love you!

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