UNIVERSITIES MUST LEAD IN FIGHTING ANTISEMITISM

Friday, 3 May 2024

Queensland Senator and University of Queensland alumna, Susan McDonald has demanded stronger action from her former university against increasingly virulent antisemitism occurring on campus.

Senator McDonald, who is also Federal Shadow Minister for Northern Australia and for Resources, wrote to UQ’s Vice Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry AC, urging her to stamp out Jew hatred.

In part, the letter stated: “…recent events on the St Lucia campus have left me increasingly concerned to see intimidation, hatred, and support for terrorist organisations permitted on University grounds while hiding behind the false guise of free speech.

“I have university students and lecturers as well as university staff contacting me that they do not feel safe on campus.

“Freedom of speech does not include the freedom to intimidate and harass Jewish students and staff.

“The standard that universities allow will set the tone for conversations across the state, and our nation more broadly.

“I implore you to protect all students and staff on your campuses and online from this ancient hatred and to take strong action against the groups and individuals who have incited these intimidatory and hateful demonstrations. You also have my full support to institute reforms to make sure it cannot happen again.

“Thousands of Australians gave their lives fighting the genocidal Nazi regime.

“Allowing that same hateful anti-Semitism to fester in places of learning tarnishes Australia’s legacy.

“I will not stand silent while this kind of menacing climate is allowed to build in Australia.”

ENDS

FULL LETTER

Dear Vice Chancellor
Since 1993, I have been proud to be an alumna of the University of Queensland. However, recent events on the St Lucia campus have left me increasingly concerned to see intimidation, hatred, and support for terrorist organisations permitted on University grounds while hiding behind the false guise of free speech.

The horrific attacks on Israeli civilians on 7 October 2023 shocked the world. While the vast majority openly condemned the atrocities, including the rape and murder of women and children, and hundreds of civilians including babies taken hostage – some still subject to unimaginable treatment by their terrorist captors – a small and radical fringe were spreading their antisemitic hatred even then.

Our national disgrace was broadcast to the world in scenes of protests outside the Sydney Opera House, where people chanted ‘gas the Jews’, while our political leaders equivocated. As intimidation, harassment and solidarity with terrorist organisations runs rife across our Universities, I urge you to not equivocate.

The events of images and videos from universities of Melbourne and Sydney have been shocking, where children have been encouraged to mimic the multi-generational hatred of Hamas. To see the same placards and flags displayed at the University of Queensland is deeply distressing.

I have university students and lecturers as well as university staff contacting me that they do not feel safe on campus. I understand that these intimidation tactics were attempted against you too, and I implore you to resist these strong-arm tactics.

Our success as a multicultural nation has always been a celebration of our best. In Mareeba, the multicultural festival features 91 different cultures showcasing food and dance, but not flags or nationalism. The hatreds and disputes of other places and times have no place in Australia, and for the world’s oldest hatred to be allowed to fester on University campuses is unacceptable. Freedom of speech does not include the freedom to intimidate and harass Jewish students and staff.

I ask you to imagine the swift action you would take against students who, if instead of flying a Palestinian terrorist group flag, flew a nazi flag; if instead of compelling children to chant ‘intifada, intifada’ referring to the campaign of suicide bombing against Israeli civilians, had children chant violently anti-gay slogans; if instead of shouting the genocidal ‘From the River, To the Sea’ chant, were shouting other ethnic cleansing slogans.

There would rightly be outrage and swift action; equally, there should be no double standards when it comes to antisemitism.

The standard that universities allow will set the tone for conversations across the state, and our nation more broadly. I implore you to protect all students and staff on your campuses and online from this ancient hatred and to take strong action against the groups and individuals who have incited these intimidatory and hateful demonstrations. You also have my full support to institute reforms to make sure it cannot happen again.

We choose the country that we become. We have always been a country that strives to protect the vulnerable and to be strong to shelter the weak. Thousands of Australians gave their lives fighting the genocidal nazi regime. Allowing that same hateful antisemitism to fester in places of learning tarnishes Australia’s legacy. I will not stand silent while this kind of menacing climate is allowed to build in Australia.

Yours sincerely