Socialist Alternative has denied allegations by the Jewish Students’ Society at the Australian National University (ANU) that members of the socialist group abused them with anti-Semitic slurs.
The Australian Union of Jewish Students alleged the harassment took place during a clubs and societies day on campus last month. It said: “A paper airplane was thrown at the Jewish Students’ Society stall. On one side the paper contained a Socialist Alternative petition, and on the other the message: ‘Death to the Zionist entity. Love from Hamas’.
“Following various refusals to take pamphlets by Jewish students on the day, [members of Socialist Alternative] responded ‘that’d be right, Israeli bitch’, and ‘filthy Jew’.”
ANU is investigating the allegations. The incident has already received widespread media coverage and the federal education minister, Christopher Pyne, took the time to comment on it.
But Socialist Alternative national executive member Corey Oakley told Green Left Weekly the group was confident the claims were baseless: “Accusations of anti-semitism are an outrageous slander, we reject them entirely,” he said.
“Socialist Alternative has a proud record of standing up to racism in all its forms, including anti-semitism. The idea that a Socialist Alternative member would call someone a ‘filthy jew’ is simply laughable.”
It’s not surprising that these attacks are being made against the group. Socialist Alternative has long been involved in campaigning for Palestine solidarity and has helped build the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign, which calls for the boycott of Israeli-made products.
Oakley said the accusations are “clearly part of a co-ordinated campaign across the country to smear Palestine solidarity activists as anti-semites. On one level there is nothing new in this. It is the standing policy of most pro-Israel groups to equate political opposition to Israel with anti-semitism.
“But now, as the crimes of the Israeli state are becoming increasingly clear to people across the world, including many Jews, this strategy is failing. I think this helps explain why pro-Israeli student organisations are now resorting to outright fabrication.”
Journalist Antony Lowenstein, writing about the allegations at ANU in New Matilda, said: “It’s time to call this co-ordinated campaign of the local Zionist lobby and the Murdoch press for what it is; a cheapening of real anti-semitism and a clear attempt to brand all critics of Israel as Jew haters. It’s a tactic imported from America and Europe, articulated from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu down, that aims to neuter opponents of the Jewish state’s brutal, military occupation as deluded and anti-semitic.”
Unfortunately, the damage can be difficult to reverse. Even if the investigation shows the allegations are unsubstantiated, the media is unlikely to show the same level of interest in Socialist Alternative’s vindication as the original sensational allegations.