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Uni pro-Palestine camps told to pack up

Written by on May 14, 2024

Former treasurer Josh Frydenberg wants universities to follow Deakin’s lead in ending pro-Palestine encampments on campuses across the country.

Deakin University’s Burwood campus in Melbourne has hosted a relatively small camp of about 20 people each night since early May.

A standoff could eventuate this week; the deputy vice-chancellor has told them: “The right to freedom of speech does not extend to the establishment of unauthorised camps which pose hygiene and safety risks and restrict the access, availability and use of Deakin premises and facilities for the benefit of the Deakin community of users.”

Pro-Palestinian camps have been set up at Australian National University, Curtin, La Trobe, Monash, RMIT, and the Universities of Adelaide, Melbourne, Queensland, Sydney and Wollongong in recent weeks.

A University of Wollongong spokesperson said the camp on its campus was safe.

“The University of Wollongong upholds the principles of academic freedom and free speech, encourages open expression, free debate and respectful discourse, and respects the right to peaceful protest,” a spokesperson said.

“We strongly support free speech but have zero tolerance for any form of racism, vilification, hate speech, threatening speech, bullying or harassment. The university will monitor activity closely to ensure a safe space is maintained.”

A The University of Sydney spokesperson said its camopus and camps were peaceful.

“Our focus remains on the safety and wellbeing of our community, ensuring our campus remains peaceful and our university activities can continue uninterrupted,” a spokesperson said.

“As we’ve consistently communicated with our community, we recognise that peaceful protest is a legitimate expression of free speech but condemn all forms racial vilification including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and will not hesitate to take disciplinary action where needed.”

NCA NewsWire understands The University of Sydney has taken disciplinary action on two camp-related matters, though there have been no substantiated complaints related to the camp about anti-Semitism, hate speech or harassment.

Jewish man Mr Frydenberg has called on all universities to “clear the camps of hate’’ from campuses and praised Deakin University for ordering the encampment be dismantled.

Mr Frydenberg, whose working at financial behemoth Goldman Sachs since he lost his seat in 2022, has produced a documentary called Never Again the Fight Against Anti-Semitism due to premier later this month.

There have been mounting accounts from Jewish students and representative bodies about being singled out on campus because of their Judaism.

Jewish students have reportedly been pressured to declare political allegiances in Melbourne lecture halls.

There are also highly contentious slogans used by pro-Palestinian camps on Australian campuses; “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is seen by some to call for freedom from oppression for Palestinians, while some hear it as an anti-Semitic call for the destruction of Israel.

The Group of Eight Australia represents the eight elite universities in the country. The group has previously said it would act to stop the use of the word “intifada” on campus. The word means “shaking off” in Arabic, and in the Palestinian context, it is understood to mean a civil uprising.

The word encourages resistance, most prominently in the form of violence, against Israel, the American Jewish Committee says.

“Our universities must be safe spaces for learning and education, not indoctrination,’’ Mr Frydenberg told The Australian.

“All our universities should follow Deakin’s lead, bringing an end to these encampments and taking a strong and principled stand against the anti-Semitism, violence and hate we have seen across Australia in recent months,” he said.

Read related topics:Josh Frydenberg