Protesters disown their university values…writes Richard Kemp

March 17, 2015 by  
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Tactical responses to insurgencies by the conventional armed forces of democratic states, and the ethical challenges of fighting an enemy that uses civilians as human shields and as targets, are topics of obvious relevance to Australian foreign ­policy and contemporary inter­national affairs.

Richard Kemp

Richard Kemp

I was invited to address these issues at the University of Sydney from the standpoint of my experiences as a commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, Iraq and elsewhere, and as the former head of international terrorism intelligence in the British Cabinet Office for the Joint Intelligence Committee and the national crisis management group, COBRA. As well as being a practitioner, I have studied and written extensively about these matters.

I spoke for about 20 minutes to an audience of about 100 students, academics and guests. A group of about a dozen people then stormed into the lecture theatre and started yelling at me and the audience through a megaphone, accusing me of “supporting genocide”, and trying to shut down the lecture.

The protesters occupied the lecture theatre, intimidated members of the audience and were intent on preventing the exchange of views my lecture was intended to facilitate. Two of the academics then joined them, one of whom I saw badgering an elderly woman who objected to him photographing her on his iPhone. When she tried to push the iPhone out of her face he grabbed her arm forcibly, and appeared to hurt her. When she retaliated physically, the academic — an associate professor — waved a $5 note in her face and the face of a Jewish student.

I heard one of the protesters yell support for the Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a vile group that is banned in many countries, whose theo-fascist values seem to me entirely at odds with the progressive values these students claim to support.

I have addressed the UN commission of inquiry on the conduct of the parties to the Israel-Hamas war. I have condemned Hamas as a terrorist organisation and recognised the extraordinary measures to which Israel has gone to avoid civilian casualties when faced with an enemy that militarises civilian infrastructure and shields its fighters with the bodies of the civilians it claims to defend. US General Martin Dempsey, the highest ranking officer in the US Army, sent a fact-finding team to Israel and concluded the US ­forces had lessons to learn from the measures taken by Israel to spare the lives of Palestinian civilians as far as possible, often at the expense of its own soldiers.

By daring to defend the actions of the Jewish state and condemning Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, both designated terrorist organisations, I was considered fair game for the protesters. This is indicative of a pervasive culture among certain sections of university students and staff in Britain, and clearly in Australia, where to speak objectively about Israel is to court harassment, thuggery and violence. The behaviour of the protesters and the academics was an affront to the core ideals of the university — the freedom to speak, the freedom to assemble and the freedom to engage with ideas and opinions.

This protest had clear anti-­Semitic undertones. The audience was predominantly Jewish and the protesters knew that. Often antisemitic abuse and ­hatred is dressed up as anti-Israel or anti-Zionist action. This resonated that way, with vicious shouting and intimidation against a group of Jews and brandishing money around invoking the stereotype of the “greedy Jew”.

As for Associate Professor Jake Lynch, shown to be so adept at conflict with an elderly woman, his value to the university and its students would be enhanced by listening to those who have seen real conflict and have risked their lives to secure peace.

Richard Kemp was commander of British Forces in Afghanistan and headed the international terrorism intelligence team at the British Cabinet Office.

This article first appeared in The Australian


11 Responses to “Protesters disown their university values…writes Richard Kemp”
  1. Leon Poddebsky says:

    Dedicated to poster, “Ben Eleiajah”and his friends in the Peace Dept. Sydney Uni.:

    Like you, Haman the Persian, Adolf the German and Stalin the Georgian,
    Thought they were winnin’
    And like you, they did lotsa grinnin’,
    But history wasn’t with ’em.

    So it’s futile to wear
    Swastika, red flag and keffyia, ‘Cos surely y’all soon have to bin ’em.

    • Ben Eleijah says:

      Thank you for your message. I don’t see it as a personal victory, but as a sign of the shifting fortunes. USA is a rapidly sinking power and cannot afford to bail out Israel for much longer. Netanyahu went to the USA and delivered what Speaker Pelosi called an “insult to the intelligence” of people in US.

      He has now dropped even the pretense of a two-state solution. USA cannot do his bidding and go to war with Iran. It cannot let China and Europe gain economic benefit from Iran. It cannot be seen as openly supporting the expansion of settlements.

      Sections of the US state and political establishment have already categorized Israel a liability – Walt Merschiemer, james Patraeus – and the very integration of the Jewsih population into US mainstream society means there is growing distance between them and Israel.

      All of them point to the growing isolation of Israel and growing success of the BDS movement. You are welcome to counter with facts and logical argument or abuse, whichever you are best at.

      • Leon Poddebsky says:

        Well, “Ben,” when are you throwing a party?
        Will Jake and Nick be available to celebrate with you?
        Will the date coincide with the Festival of Purim?

      • Leon Poddebsky says:

        If you believed in traditional logic, not “new-age logic”, “Ben,” you would know that to call a plan or proposal a “solution” even before it has been tested, is an egregious fallacy.
        I hope that you’re not a Science student.

  2. Eion Isaac Israel says:

    The antecedents of Hamas the Quassam the Grand Mufti who had Lemon Juice with the Feuhrer in 1941 blocked through pblackmail on the British the Escape of Jews from AJewish Hate Satured Europe from 1933-1940to even a Small area of Mandated Palestine :1500 sq Kilometres where there were few Arabs .Worse Islamic Turkey close to Eastern Europe took few Jews even refusing the Entry of Hundreds from the Struma in 1941 which was then sunk by a USSR submarine with most life lost .The option of British controlled Cyprus was refused by the British .From Turkey millions of Jews could have had refuge in Islamic lands .Mohammed saved the daughter of his Enemy and in the 15th and 16th Centure Islamic Turkey gave refugee to Tens of Thousands of Jews expelled from Spain.Clear Islam
    was not longer the Religion of Mohammed and Saladdin Mercy and Compassion with Strength but that of Nazi sympathisers a horrific Malignant Mutation .

  3. Paul Duffill says:

    As someone who was at this event it is clear that this event has been followed by some seriously unbalanced and distorted media coverage (including the above article), coverage which omits key events -including the physical assault of two University staff by one of Richard Kemp’s supporters- and makes inaccurate claims about what actually did happen. I have published these observations on On Line Opinion here:

    Michael Brull has published another reliable account of what happened at the disrupted lecture -along with new video footage of the event:

  4. Leon Poddebsky says:

    “History will not judge him well”: Lynch is a non-entity who will not even be remembered by history.
    If, however, The University of Sydney retains him, and if it continues to support the non-academic advocacy entity / hatchery for budding antisemites known as The Dept. of Peace and Conflict Resolution, that university will surely go down in history as a failed one because in effect that peace industry factory is a corrosive bane.

    • Ben Eleiajah says:

      History is on the side of Lynch. Israel is being isolated and after Netanyahu’s open declaration of no Palestinian state or stopping settlements and inciting racism against Arabs, even the USA is considering distancing itself from Israel.

      Israel’s fig leaf of a two-state solution is now lost and it is losing the war for people’s hearts and minds.

  5. Liat Nagar says:

    Thank you for your lucid and succinct account of what was a disgraceful situation, Richard Kemp. After its investigation is finalised it is to be hoped the University of Sydney will remove Jake Lynch from his position – this is not the first time he’s been instrumental in this kind of activity – and instil by way of its own codes of practice some semblance of discipline and civility in its students. If they can’t learn that, they’re wasting their time trying to learn anything.

    As an Australian, I apologise for such a rude, violent intrusion of your lecture time here. The subject matter is important and insight in regard to it would assist people considerably to understand the complexities of military situations instead of engaging in inexpert arm-chair opinions steeped in bias and ignorance.

    I commend you on your courage to speak how you see it even when that is against the accelerating condemnation of Israel globally and the obvious fervent wish of so many that Israel cease to exist.

  6. Vicki Sandilands says:

    Thanks Richard for speaking out against what you correctly identify as thinly veiled antisemitism. Professor Robert Wistrich dedicates a whole chapter (chapter 10 from memory) to this post-Shoah phenomenon in this book “A Lethal Obsession”. Professor Wistrich is a man of great learning who is highly respected. He is a professor of a standing that Lynch could only dream of emulating. Lynch may have found favour among his dysfunctional hate-ridden followers, but history will not judge him well.

    I will again thank you for speaking out by copying a great quote from the Jewish Film Festival: “The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.” – Joachim Prinz

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