A Lynch Mob at Sydney University

What a disturbing story we find at the University of Sydney the other day. I am even more than normally conscious of how disgusting it was, having this afternoon gone along to the Jewish street festival in which a couple of roads were blocked off and where we wandered around in the afternoon sun. But, as always, I was conscious of the Jewish primary school which sits just around the corner from the Holocaust Centre, both of which I pass every day on the way to the station. I had never been in the Holocaust Centre but went in to have a look. Let me just leave it at this. The children in the school are no different in any way from the murdered children whose pictures can be seen on the walls of the Holocaust Centre. We are playing with fire in allowing any of this to continue.

At the centre of the disturbance at the University of Sydney was the presentation by Colonel Richard Kemp, who had been in charge of security operations in Afghanistan and Northern Ireland, who looked down with utter disdain at these pathetic nonentities. As he wrote in his letter to the President of the University of Sydney which was released today, “although the students attempted to intimidate me as well as the audience members, I did not feel personally threatened, as I have faced considerably greater dangers and threats than could possibly be presented or contemplated by such people”. The protestors knew, of course, there was absolutely no danger to themselves in anything they did, total cowards that they are. Here’s what I think of as the central point of the letter written by Colonel Kemp:

Peaceful and reasonable demonstration, such as handing out leaflets, chanting dissenting views or holding placards with messages of opposition to the views of a speaker, is of course acceptable. Indeed, such a peaceful demonstration was under way outside when I entered the room for my lecture. I was offered and accepted a leaflet, which I read and I briefly engaged in discussion with a protester. However the type of racially‐motivated aggression, intimidation and abuse that occurred at this event is wholly unacceptable. Also unacceptable in any respectable university is the curtailment of an invited and approved speaker’s freedom to speak and engage in legitimate academic discourse such as I experienced at your university.

I urge you to investigate this incident and to take action against the students and staff members who were responsible for the behavior that I have described. If you fail to do so then you will be failing to discourage such action in your university in the future. You will thus be failing in your duty to ensure that your students, visitors and guest speakers may take part in debate within the precincts of the University of Sydney without fear or concern for their own safety.

I would add that you have a particular responsibility in respect of the racist, anti‐Semitic nature of this protest. As you know anti‐Semitism is a rising phenomenon in the world. Jews in many places live in increasing fear and concern that they will be singled out and discriminated against. Only by taking firm action against anti‐Semitic abuse and hatred whenever and wherever it occurs can this situation be reversed. Sydney University has the opportunity here to set an example to other academic institutions that lack the moral courage to face up to the modern scourge of anti‐Semitism.

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