University of Sydney Student Newspaper Features Suicide Bomber With AK-47 Who Killed Israeli, Lebanese Troops
A University of Sydney student newspaper drew controversy after it featured a female suicide bomber who killed Israeli and Christian Lebanese forces on the cover of a recent edition.
Hamida Mustafa al-Tahir, a Syrian member of the Arab Ba’ath Party, detonated a car fitted with 660 pounds of explosives at a post used by Israeli intelligence agents and Southern Lebanon Army troops in Lebanon in 1985. At least 20 people were killed or wounded in the attack, according to local sources cited by the New York Times, while some Arab-language outlets indicated that more than 50 people died.
The 2018 cover of the Women’s edition of Honi Soit showed al-Tahir — who previously expressed her desire to “explode among my enemies and the enemies of God” — aiming an AK-47 assault rifle while wearing fatigues adorned with a Palestinian flag patch. It was published two weeks ago and produced by the “Wom*n’s Collective” of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC), the school’s undergraduate student association.
An editorial in the paper called al-Tahir “a Lebanese martyr of the institution of Israeli colonisation,” while an article in the same edition on Israel’s recent victory in Eurovision claimed it was “not even a real country,” Australian Jewish News reported.
An earlier Honi Soit edition published on April 16, which was put together by the SRC Queer Action Collective, featured an image of a firebomb with the text, “the fight isn’t over yet, queer anger is queer power.” The titles of several articles inside the issue — including “Queers for Palestine” — were also included.
Under the SRC constitution, Honi Soit is mandated to reserve two issues a year for Queer and Women’s editions. A collective of students who belong to each identity is charged with putting them together, while the elected editors of the newspaper are typically not involved.
Both covers drew criticism from the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS), which denounced them for seeking “to exclude, demonize and isolate queer and female identifying Jewish and Israeli students.”
“Al Taher displayed a lack of humanity, insisting on the attack despite objections from her comrades, and even expressing her regret at not being able to witness its aftermath,” the AUJS wrote.
In response to the Queer edition cover, which was “deliberately alluding to and endorsing violence as a legitimate form of protest,” AUJS said it “received complaints from several Jewish students at the university expressing their acute distress over the idealisation and legitimisation of violence against Israel by their university’s student newspaper.”
“These editions of Honi Soit display a blatant disdain for Israeli victims of violence, an attitude that has left Jewish students feeling deeply alienated,” the organization continued. “AUJS is angered and disappointed that university resources are being used to endorse a violent approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The Queer Action Collective dismissed AUJS’s charges, writing that it takes “offence to the implication that the Molotov cocktail on the front of Queer Honi has any connection to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict in any way,” or to its article on queer support for for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
“[To] assume that our cover was created solely in relation to this article is ridiculously self-centred, and honestly seems to be the argument of illogical sceptics,” the collective wrote.
It said AUJS’s statement was “incredibly ironic,” as it “exists as a Zionist organisation, who openly support the state of Israel, and thus the actions of the state against Palestine currently.”
SRC Women’s Officers Madeline Ward and Jessica Syed, who produced this year’s cover, also told Honi Soit that they stood by their decision.
“We were aware that Hamida Al Taher car bombed an Israeli military encampment …[but] her actions occurred in the context of the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon, ie: a war,” they said.
“We believe in and support the right for people to resist occupation and oppression, and believe that Hamida’s actions are far less shocking than the fact Israel murdered over 58 peaceful Palestinian protesters, the youngest of which being an 8-month-old baby,” they continued, referring to a Hamas-led riot by the Israel-Gaza barrier on May 14.
Palestinians were filmed throwing firebombs, burning tires, and flying flaming kites into Israeli territory during the protest. The Israeli military said others opened fire on its soldiers; assembled improvised explosive devices; and attempted to breach the barrier with guns.
Some 60 Palestinians died that day, 53 of whom were claimed by Hamas and the Iran-backed terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The Hamas-run Health Ministry initially indicated an 8-month-old girl was among the fatalities, though a Gazan doctor quickly cast doubt on that report, saying the baby had a preexisting medical condition. She was subsequently removed from the Ministry’s list of “martyrs.”
A day after the clashes, the SRC promoted a rally in support of the Palestinian “right of return” to Israel, during which a speaker called Israel, the United States, and the United Nations “disgusting parasites.”
On Wednesday, following AUJS’s protests, the student association narrowly voted to condemn the Jewish group “for suggesting the university should intervene to censor a student-run publication,” the Australian reported.
“This SRC congratulates those who put together the women’s edition of Honi for their brave and highly defensible cover depicting a pro-Palestine freedom fighter (opposing) the illegal Israeli occupation of Lebanon and Palestine,” the motion read.
A spokesperson for the university the Australian that it did not endorse the cover, but would not otherwise intervene.