Australian encampments mimic US precursors but not in pugnacity

Authorities shrug off calls for camps to be dismantled, amid reports of antisemitism but little evidence of violence

五月 7, 2024
Source: X/Twitter

Pro-Palestinian encampments at Australian universities have remained all but free of the violence marring the US camps that inspired them, despite demands for US-style crackdowns.

Camps have been established or are planned on the campuses of at least five Melbourne universities as well as institutions in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth and Sydney.

Protesters are venting their outrage over the slaughter in Gaza and demanding an end to university ties with Israel and armaments manufacturers. They have faced off against pro-Israeli groups at several universities, amid claims of a rising tide of antisemitism.

In comments echoed by some Jewish leaders, shadow education minister Sarah Henderson said vice-chancellors should expel student ringleaders, dismantle the camps and call in the police to combat the “ugly tide of hatred at Australian universities”. She said education minister Jason Clare should cancel an Australian Research Council grant awarded to a controversial Macquarie University sociologist, after children under the academic’s supervision were filmed chanting “intifada” at a University of Sydney protest.

Ms Henderson also said Mr Clare “must ban hate speech at universities or resign”, after Jewish students, staff and community leaders “shared horror stories” of “intimidation, harassment and threats” on university campuses.

Like Ms Henderson, Mr Clare has called meetings with Jewish students and community leaders. “It’s obvious that there are students…who feel that they’re afraid to go to university, and that’s not on,” he told the ABC.

But he supported students’ right to peaceful protest, and said it was “not appropriate” for him to intervene in institutional matters. “If universities are failing to implement their codes of conduct, then Teqsa – the tertiary education regulator – has the power to issue fines.”

Mr Clare denied that universities needed “more power” to enforce their own codes of conduct. “What we need to do better is improve communication between universities and student representatives, in particular Jewish students who are looking for more information about what is happening on campus,” he told journalists.

“It’s incumbent upon…politicians, religious leaders, community leaders, student leaders, members of the media…to dial the rhetoric down…and work together to try and bring the country together rather than letting it be torn apart.”

There is limited evidence of that to date, with the encampments often proving self-policing. “No instance of bullying, racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, queerphobia or ableism will be tolerated,” Curtin University’s Gaza Solidarity Encampment rules state.

The Australian National University Students’ Association withdrew its involvement in the ANU encampment after a protest leader declared “unconditional support” for Hamas during a radio interview.

Monash University called in the police after outsiders converged on the Clayton campus to “disrupt” the encampment there. The interlopers left, no arrests were made, and no injuries were reported.

However prominent Liberal MP Julian Leeser, a former Australian Catholic University administrator and shadow attorney general, has vowed to move a private member’s bill to establish an independent judicial inquiry into antisemitism on Australian campuses.

“If any Australian student cannot feel safe…because of the religion they hold, then our universities are failing the principle test of character,” Mr Leeser said during an address at the Central Synagogue in Sydney.

“To Australia’s vice-chancellors I say this: Australians are watching. Those who donate to and fund your institutions are watching. And interNational University rankings will be watching too.”



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