THE Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) has accused the University of Sydney (USYD) Students’ Representative Council (SRC) of “gaslighting the Jewish community” after it passed a motion opposing the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn from the British Labour Party.
The former party leader was suspended in October after downplaying findings by the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that identified a culture within Labour “which, at best, did not do enough to prevent antisemitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it”.
He was readmitted this week after just 19 days in a decision the Jewish Labour Movement slammed as “extraordinary”.
I am pleased to have been reinstated in the Labour Party and would like to thank party members, trade unionists and all who have offered solidarity.
Our movement must now come together to oppose and defeat this deeply damaging Conservative government.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 17, 2020
The USYD SRC motion claimed Corbyn was “the victim of a monstrous campaign of slander” and called the suspension “an attack upon the anti-racist and anti-imperialist left internationally and the Palestinian solidarity struggle in particular”.
It also stated, “There is no evidence that he has ever done or said anything indicating prejudice against Jewish people” and rejected the notion that “opposition to Zionism is antisemitic”.
AUJS national political affair officer Daniel Elberg and NSW political affairs officer Gabi Stricker-Phelps said for the “deplorable motion” to label the outcome of the independent investigation a smear “is essentially to adopt the antisemitic rhetoric which the [EHRC] report itself highlights”.
“The report states that ‘suggesting complaints of antisemitism are fake or smears’ has the effect of accusing the Jewish community of ‘deliberately making up antisemitism complaints to undermine the Labour Party, and ignores legitimate and genuine complaints of antisemitism in the party’,” they said.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim called it “a convoluted attempt to whitewash the well-documented proliferation of antisemitism within the UK Labour party under Corbyn’s leadership”.
The Jewish Labour Movement’s statement on Jeremy Corbyn’s readmission to the Labour Party pic.twitter.com/eMMjJgKoJm
— Jewish Labour Movement (@JewishLabour) November 17, 2020
“Like Corbyn himself, the supporters of the SRC resolution remain in denial of the anti-Jewish racism that flourished under Corbyn’s leadership,” he said.
“They presume to understand better than Jewish people themselves, and better than an impartial statutory body, what is, or what is not, objectively antisemitic. I doubt the supporters of this disgraceful resolution would have the arrogance to tell Indigenous or Muslim people that they are inferior judges of what constitutes prejudice against their communities.
“This is the racist double standard that lies at the core of their resolution.”
I know that this has been another painful day for the Jewish community and those Labour members who have fought so hard to tackle antisemitism.
I know the hurt that has been caused and the trauma people have felt.
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) November 17, 2020
Despite having academic links with Israel, there have been problematic incidents at USYD in the past. In 2015, anti-Israel protesters interrupted a lecture by visiting retired British army colonel Richard Kemp, during which a boycott advocate employed at the university waved money in front of a Jewish woman.
In 2018, student newspaper Honi Soit featured on its cover a suicide bomber who attacked Israeli and Southern Lebanese Army soldiers in 1985. When AUJS complained, the SRC condemned it as an “attack on free speech”.
In February this year, Honi Soit published an image claiming Jews were responsible for killing Jesus.
Stricker-Phelps said AUJS has worked hard since to achieve a “mutually respectful and productive relationship” with Honi Soit, holding several meetings with its editors and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, resulting in the publication of an apology and the editors visiting the Sydney Jewish Museum.
AUJS leaders were investigating the possibility of having the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism formally adopted by both the USYD administration and SRC, she added. “We acknowledge the university authorities and the SRC for being willing to consider this possibility,” she said.
The National Union of Students adopted a resolution in December 2017 condemning antisemitism “in all its forms” as defined by the IHRA.
The AJN sought comment from USYD SRC president Liam Donohoe, but did not hear back by press time.
A pro-Corbyn motion was also recently carried by the University of Wollongong SRC.