The ZFA-AUJS survey into university antisemitism was presented to federal Parliament on Monday this week.
A dozen MPs and senators gathered to hear ZFA President Jeremy Leibler and AUJS President Alissa Foster speak about the survey results, the motivation for the survey and Jewish student experiences on campus.
That meeting was followed by individual meetings with Education Minister Jason Clare, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, Shadow Education Minister Sarah Ferguson and a senior adviser from the Prime Minister’s office.
Mr Leibler said, “I am very grateful for the genuine concern showed by everyone we spoke to about the survey and its results. Importantly, both the Education Minister and the Opposition Leader agreed with us on the importance not only of taking action, but of taking bipartisan action.”
In an earlier morning tea, Ms Foster told the Parliamentary Friends of IHRA that “university was the first time in my life where I considered hiding my Jewish identity.”
The parliamentary friendship group, convened by Labor’s Josh Burns, the Liberals’ Julian Leeser and independent Allegra Spender, heard Ms Foster’s anecdotes about students excluded from groups on the basis of their Jewishness, of inadequate complaints mechanisms and a basic misunderstanding within university administrations of how modern antisemitism is expressed on campus.
Opening the gathering, Mr Burns said, “Sometimes some of the circles where Jewish students feel least comfortable is around the progressive parts of campus. Now obviously we have the rise of the extreme right in Australia where we are seeing people targeted in age-old antisemitism. But we also need to acknowledge that this is happening across the broad spectrum of politics where there are toxic and really unwelcoming environments that frankly, as a progressive member of Parliament, I find completely contrary to the values that I hold dear.”
Mr Burns and fellow Labor member Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah also attended the meeting with the Education Minister.
In her remarks, Ms Spender focused on the fact so many Jewish students felt they needed to hide their identity. “That this is happening in our streets, in our schools and in our universities is appalling”, she said. “It is an indictment on the Australian community that these sorts of things are happening. In continuing to have the country which is the most successful multicultural and multifaith country in the world, we absolutely have to fight this. It was critical to get this research done because it allows us to move beyond anecdotes to effect real change.”
Mr Leeser urged the gathered MPs to talk to universities in their electorate. “Draw their attention to this survey”, he said. “Tell them that this is important to you, as it is important to us, because the more voices that universities hear, the more they’ll realise that they need to take antisemitism seriously. They need to adopt the IHRA definition. They need to have a proper complaints system. Until they’ve done that, I think the issues that this survey has highlighted will just get worse.”
MPs and senators that heard from the ZFA and AUJS also included Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah, Catryna Bilyk, Raff Ciccone, Zoe Daniel, David Fawcett, Paul Fletcher, Dr Mike Freelander, Dr Carina Garland, Sarah Henderson, Deborah O’Neil, Dean Smith and Glenn Sterle.