Survey results from Zionist Federation of Australia report described as ‘heartbreaking’
Herald Sun, 15 August 2023
More than half of all Jewish students are hiding their faith or avoiding classes altogether to avoid antisemitism on campus, a damning report has found.
Jewish university students are hiding their faith, removing religious clothing and avoiding class to escape antisemitic harassment on campuses nationwide.
A shocking new report into antisemitism at Australian universities has revealed more than half of Jewish students have hidden their identity and one in five have avoided campus altogether to evade antisemitism, prompting calls for urgent action from the Albanese government.
The online survey of 563 students, by the Zionist Federation of Australia, found 56 per cent had experienced antisemitism at university, while 28 per cent reported their teachers had ignored or engaged in antisemitic behaviour.
Sixty-six per cent of respondents who attended Melbourne University reported experiences of antisemitism, compared to 57 per cent from Monash and 48 per cent from Deakin.
Monash University Arts-Law student Paris Enten said antisemitism on campus was “inescapable”.
On her first day on campus, the 21-year-old said she was surrounded by a group of anti-Israel activists who began “marching up and down and chanting ‘We won’t stop until people like you are kicked off campus’,” after she revealed she was Jewish.
“They had no idea of my opinions on Israel. All they knew was that I was Jewish,” she said.
Controversy over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the source of many of the examples from students, with 37 per cent saying Israel had been compared with Nazi Germany.
Ms Enten said – during a discussion about the conflict – one student told the class “Jews are genocidal, Jews are murderous”.
Dozens of students said they felt “unsafe” or “uncomfortable” on campus, with one student, who wears a kippah, saying he had been called a “dirty Zionist Jew”.
But just 14 per cent of students said they had submitted a complaint and those who did complained they were “largely dissatisfied” with the responses from their university.
Australasian Union of Jewish Students president Alissa Foster said the survey results were “heartbreaking” but not shocking.
“Anti-Semitism is not recognised by our Universities and as a result they are failing our students,” she said.
Ms Foster called for an “urgent and overdue cultural shift” in how universities addressed antisemitism.
ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said the results “should be met with alarm”.
“We are calling on the Albanese Government to establish a working group to assess what actions universities and state and federal governments should take on this appalling situation,” he said.
“It is unconscionable that over half of Australia’s Jewish university students have felt they had to hide their identity in order to protect themselves.”
A University of Melbourne spokesperson said in a statement: “As a diverse, multi-cultural and multi-faith community, the University of Melbourne condemns racism in all its forms and actively stands against it.
“The University of Melbourne expects that students, staff, visitors and our partners of all ethnicities, nationalities and faiths feel welcome, safe and that they belong.
“In January 2023, the University of Melbourne published its anti-racism commitment which outlines the ongoing work of the University against racism.
“This included the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance ‘working definition of antisemitism’.”