AMID rising tensions on campus with anti-Israel sentiment spilling into virulent antisemitism, the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) felt it had no choice but to cancel a Shavuot event for fear its members would not be safe.
The decision came as Jewish students across the country came under fire online, with groups such as “Monash StalkerSpace” – a Facebook discussion page created independently by students at Monash University – becoming a medium for people to post abusive comments and incite violence.
One Jewish student who finished at Monash last year, tried to defend Israel but was told “this isn’t your safe eruv Israeli friendly bubble so step by step waltz the f**k out of here w [with] your amoral, victim blaming attitude to systemised ethnic cleansing”, before another student continued, “All Zionists are bastards, report that you f**king gronk.”
The student, who doesn’t want his name published due to the fear of being attacked again, told The AJN, “I try to stay out of any conflicts but when Jewish students don’t feel safe to go to campus and don’t feel safe to express their opinion then that is where my issue is.”
Other messages directed at him included, “Hope they kill more IDF and zionists” and “A support for Israel is support for massacre, genocide, rape and displacement.”
The Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) also saw a flood of antisemitic comments on their Facebook page, one reading “Is it okay for my friend to come along?” alongside a picture of Hitler, while another student added, “it’s such a shame he didn’t finish his job.”
Threats were also made against the president of the Monash Jewish Students society, with someone commenting “bash the f***er”.
AUJS has received private emails and messages, including one that read “hell is waiting for you c**ts…Hope f**king die and get shanked.”
AUJS political affairs director, Gabi Stricker-Phelps, who has since cancelled the AUJS Shavuot event in Victoria, said, “There have been suggestions that it will not be physically safe for our members to attend their campuses, or hold events celebrating our Jewish identity.
“We will not be deterred from exercising our right of free speech and expressing our convictions,” she added, “We encourage open conversations undertaken with mutual respect and dignity.”
AUJS Vic has met with a team at Monash University where president of the Monash Students Association (MSA), Marni O’Connell, said, “MSA condemns discrimination of any kind, no matter a person’s religion or background,” and will be striving “to ensure an inclusive and safe campus”.
“Any discourse should hold respect at its core.”
On Friday, Monash University told The AJN they were working with AUJS to address the situation.
Noting that Monash Stalkerspace is not an official Monash University Facebook page, a spokesperson said, “Freedom of speech is valued and protected at Monash – we hold it as fundamental to the nature of a university and it is enshrined in our founding legislation. Monash does not tolerate racism of any kind. Racial discrimination or vilification is unlawful.
“We are committed to fostering a safe, inclusive and respectful environment for everyone and are proud of our richly diverse and culturally inclusive community. We encourage our staff and students to report any type of behaviour they believe is inappropriate to our Respectful Communities team or the relevant authorities.
“The health, safety and wellbeing of the entire Monash community is our priority, and we continue to support those who are affected by the situation in the Middle East.”
The spike in online hate comes as groups of students across the country have promoted and attended pro-Palestinian rallies with attendees chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
Roughly 100 RMIT students in Melbourne marched through buildings on campus last week chanting and holding up signs which read “Israel is a terrorist state.”
Meanwhile, Sydney University senior lecturer Nick Riemer also took to Twitter at Saturday’s pro-Palestinian rally in Sydney, posting a photo of him and other colleagues holding up a banner that read “CUT TIES WITH ISRAEL APARTHEID … SYDNEY STAFF FOR BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions).”
Seventy staff at Sydney University have signed the “Academic BDS Pledge”, while the student magazine Honi Soit – which has a history of antisemitic content – posted a “joke” job advert from the university asking for a social media intern for the Israel Defence Forces, calling the IDF “one of the biggest propaganda suppliers in the Middle East”.