Israel in campus spotlight

A Friends of Palestine WA protest in 2015. Photo: AP Image/Newzulu/Alex Bainbridge

WHILE Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) events are set to be held at universities across Australia in the coming days, the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) is preparing to launch its own campaign next month, Reclaim the “Z” Word, to encourage respectful debate about Zionism.

AUJS national chairperson Saul Burston said the April 19-26 campaign “does not seek to champion a particular ideology”, choosing instead “to educate about Zionism through the dissemination of diverse perspectives”.

Reclaim the “Z” Word will be featured on AUJS Facebook pages and through campus events throughout Australasia, he said.

Through the campaign, “AUJS members are encouraged to raise and consider challenging and perhaps confrontational questions about Zionism and to discuss these openly and respectfully.

“Through such discussion, the campaign strives to encourage AUJS members to take pride in their Zionist identities,” said Burston, and “feel more confident discussing Zionism openly”, particularly on campus.

Meanwhile, IAW is being staged by pro-Palestinian supporters at Australian campuses, with visiting Palestinian-American activist Huwaida Arraf drawing fire for past statements in which she has endorsed violence against Israelis.

In a 2004 article, Arraf and her husband Adam Shapiro wrote, “The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics – both nonviolent and violent.” She later claimed she was responding to advocates of a violence-only strategy.

Arraf, a co-founder of the ­anti-Israel International Solidarity Movement, is due to speak at two IAW events on Australian campuses. At the University of Sydney, the Palestine Action Group is hosting her public address at an event today (Thursday), and The Friends of Palestine WA and Palestinian Community of Western Australia will host her at the University of Western Australia on March 27.

Burston said IAW events around the world “have continually hijacked legitimate debate and presented a narrow, one-sided view of the conflict. This leads to hostile environments for students that identify as Jewish and Zionist. AUJS will be monitoring the events … to ensure they do not promote a dangerous and one-sided campus ­environment.”

Anti-Defamation Commission chair Dvir Abramovich said Arraf “has consistently slandered Israel and has advocated for its boycott” and “has expressed support for Palestinian violence and armed struggle, including shooting Israelis, as legitimate means of resistance”, adding, “there is the potential that her talk will increase the climate of hostility against Jewish students.”

PETER KOHN