Palestine supporters face escalating slander and suppression
Palestine supporters face escalating slander and suppression

Australian supporters of Israel have reacted to the growing hostility to the Gaza war with a hysterical campaign of slander and suppression against anyone who dares to criticise Israel.

On 26 July the Sydney Morning Herald published a courageous opinion piece by Mike Carlton in which he wrote: “The onslaught is indiscriminate and unrelenting, with but one possible conclusion: Israel is not fighting the terrorists of Hamas. In defiance of the laws of war and the norms of civilised behaviour, it is waging its own war of terror on the entire Gaza population of about 1.7 million people. Call it genocide, call it ethnic cleansing: the aim is to kill Arabs.”

Carlton predicted a “customary torrent of abusive emails calling me a Nazi, an anti-Semite, a Holocaust denier, an ignoramus” for uttering such self-evident truths. They arrived on cue. The Australian Jewish News ran an editorial calling for a boycott of Fairfax papers. Intense pressure was placed on Sydney Morning Herald management. And within a week, Carlton was suspended, after which he responded in the only honourable way and resigned.

While SMH management tried to claim Carlton was sacked because he responded with choice words to a few of the hundreds of emails defaming him as a Nazi, there is little doubt that if this were about any other issue, he would still have his job.

Two weeks later, a billboard in Melbourne that read “Apartheid: wrong in South Africa, wrong in Palestine” was pulled by publicity company oohmedia! following a flood of criticism. Oohmedia! declined to reveal to Red Flag who the “interested third parties” were that forced its change of heart, but the Zionist Federation of Australia, on its Facebook page, was open in claiming that its campaign made the difference.

On the same day, the NSW Supreme Court banned Palestine solidarity activists from protesting outside the Israeli Film Festival in Sydney.

This followed on from a campaign by Zionist hackers to shut down pro-Palestinian websites in Australia, including the Red Flag website, which was the victim of a DDoS attack that put it offline for several days.

But the most extensive aspect of the campaign to suppress pro-Palestinian voices has been that waged on university campuses by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS), in some cases in alliance with university administrations and right wing student union officials.

AUJS describes itself as the peak body representing Jewish youth. Its spokespeople are frequently quoted in the press as authorities on anti-Semitism. But AUJS is not an apolitical organisation. Its website proudly proclaims that it exists to “promote a positive image of Israel on campus”.

AUJS accuses its enemies on campus of conflating Zionism with Jewishness, and with turning criticism of Israel into hostility to Jews. In fact, conflating Judaism and Zionism is precisely the political goal of AUJS. Slandering supporters of Palestine as anti-Semitic is its primary method for “combating anti-Zionism” and fulfilling the project, outlined in the AUJS constitution, of “actively advancing the interests of Israel”.

The Australian Jewish News is an unabashed mouthpiece of AUJS propaganda. On 15 August it published a highly defamatory article repeating AUJS accusations against Socialist Alternative, without even bothering to get a response to the entirely unsubstantiated claims. Even Murdoch’s mouthpiece the Australian usually goes through the form of journalistic norms before printing its hatchet jobs.

AJN’s article claimed: “There are fears for the safety of Jewish students at universities across Australia, following a spate of verbal attacks and harassment, which resulted in at least one student being too scared to go to classes and AUJS suspending activities at one institution. Members of the Socialist Alternative are believed to be behind much of the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic vitriol aimed at Jewish students, who have been accused of supporting ‘genocide’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Israel.”

Socialist Alternative unequivocally rejects the accusations of anti-Semitism and that our student activists have targeted Jewish students. It is a vile slander based on bare-faced lies.

It has become clear to us that AUJS has adopted a conscious strategy of encouraging its members on campuses across the country to make unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism and “targeting Jewish students” as a means to sabotage Palestine solidarity activism.

AUJS members have filed a flood of complaints describing pro-Palestine events as “anti-Semitic”, while lobbying university vice-chancellors to ban pro-Palestine activism on campus.

They have managed to get the vice-chancellors of Monash and La Trobe universities to send emails to all students that implicitly attack pro-Palestine activists. At Monash, individual Palestine solidarity activists are facing “misconduct hearings” that threaten their right to study at the university (see article opposite). At the University of Western Australia, the Socialist Alternative club is fighting deregistration following false claims orchestrated by student Zionists (see article opposite).

These latest attacks follow a string of other incidents. AUJS spokesperson Matthew Lesh claimed on 3AW radio in Melbourne that Jewish students were physically ejected from a Socialist Alternative meeting at Monash University because they were Jewish. This is completely false. Not only were Jews welcome and encouraged to attend, but the talk itself was given by a Jewish member of Socialist Alternative.

A small group of organised Zionists attempted to disrupt the meeting. They gave up after being told the meeting was for supporters of Palestine and they were not welcome. There is nothing unusual in this. Socialist Alternative has in many previous instances barred right wingers who have attempted to disrupt our meetings. Even if you don’t agree with this policy, it has nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Semitism.

If AUJS were honest, it would admit that its campaign is not driven by concerns about anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish students, but concern that the tide of opinion is turning against Israel’s ongoing war on Palestinians.

Socialist students have played an important part in this process. At Monash University, Socialist Alternative moved a motion in the Student Council condemning Israeli war crimes and occupation. Similar motions, including endorsements of the BDS campaign, were taken up and adopted at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Sydney, Flinders University and Curtin University. A similar motion moved at La Trobe University was voted down in a heated council meeting.

As Israel’s crimes against humanity in Palestine are exposed to the world, support for the Palestinian cause will continue to grow. But if the last month is any indicator, this will also lead to ever more fanatical and dishonest campaigns by pro-Israel groups as they try desperately to defend the indefensible. It is crucial that these campaigns are resisted.

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