Australian Student Union Condemns Campus Antisemitism Amid Rise in National Incidents
The National Union of Students (NUS) in Australia adopted a resolution on Thursday condemning antisemitism and pledging to counter its rise on university campuses.
The motion — brought forth by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) during the NUS National Conference — recognized the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, which includes “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.”
It also committed the NUS to working with the AUJS — which represents some 9,000 Jewish students in Australia and New Zealand — to ensure that its programs and spaces “are inclusive and welcoming of Jewish voices and perspectives.”
To this end, the NUS agreed to endeavor to provide kosher food options at its events; to help AUJS ask universities for special consideration for Jewish students who would otherwise be required to take exams on Jewish holidays and the Sabbath, and to ensure that observant students have access to appropriate religious facilities; and to work with AUJS to survey the effects of antisemitism on Australian campuses.
Moreover, the NUS will formally recognize January 27th as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and work with AUJS to educate students on the genocide.
Student groups affiliated with both the left and right wings of the Australian Labor Party, as well as the ruling Liberal Party and independent delegates, all supported the motion — with the exception of the Marxist group Socialist Alternative, which held about 17% of the votes on the conference floor, AUJS’s national political affairs director, Ariel Zohar, told The Algemeiner.
Starting around 2002, AUJS stopped engaging with the NUS due to the “incredibly hostile attitude towards Jewish students and Israel specifically” that the organization then displayed, Zohar said.
“During this time we kept our distance and condemned NUS from the sidelines,” he recalled.
AUJS reconsidered this approach in recent years, and sent a delegation to the NUS conference in 2016.
“We used our first conference to learn from the experience and restore crucial links with many of the attendees,” Zohar explained.
AUJS returned with a bigger contingent this year, and “had Jewish students elected to various roles on their campus unions also attend,” he added. “This combined strength allowed … our members to speak passionately not only about antisemitism, but also [call] out separate convoluted motions that unfairly attacked Israel.”
According to the AUJS, its resolution came at the conclusion of a year when “Jewish students were attacked for simply wearing religious clothing, campuses were vandalised with swastikas and horrific statements and accusations were made against Jewish students participating in campus elections.”
A report on antisemitism published in November by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) — of which AUJS is an affiliate — found that antisemitic incidents increased by 9.5% between October 2016 and September 2017 over the previous twelve-month period.
In a statement released shortly after the NUS vote, the ECAJ “warmly” congratulated the student body for passing AUJS’s resolution, which it called “entirely sensible, uncontroversial and in keeping with the legal and moral duty of Australian public institutions to operate free from racial discrimination.”
The ECAJ also condemned representatives from the Socialist Alternative for abstaining on the motion.
In October, the Austrian National Union of Students voted to adopt a version of the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism, and to condemn the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.