Saturday, March 28, 2015

On Israel's 2015 Elections

Dear friends, 
some belated thoughts/comments on Israel's recent elections.
in solidarity, Kim



by Kim Bullimore, 28 March 2015

March 17 saw Benjamin Netanyahu relected as Israel's Prime Minister, despite the exit polls the previous week indicating that he would be swept from power by the Zionist Union.

The electoral outcome was a smashing victory for Netanyahu, as the previous week exit polls had only predicted that he would win 20 seats. In reality, Likud only lost 1 seat, dropping from 31 to 30. Other centre right and hard right competitors did not fare as well. 

Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid lost 8 of its seats, while Naftali Bennet's Jewish Home lost 4 of its seats. Meretz, a so-called “left - liberal” Zionist party was squeezed between the Zionist Union and the Joint Arab List, dropping from 6 seats to 5 seats. While the parties contained within the Zionist Union increased their overall vote by 3 seats, while the newly formed Joint Arab List became the third biggest bloc in the Knesset.

The Joint Arab List (JAL) is comprised of Hadash, which is includes the Israeli Communist Party and its allies; Balad, a Palestinian based democratic national party; Taal - Islamic movement and the Arab Movement for Change. The impetus for the joint ticket came in the wake of changes passed in the Israeli Knesset last year which raised the electoral threshold for seats in the Knesset to 3.25 percent (approximately 4 seats). In past elections, the four so-called “Arab parties” won between 3 and 4 seats each. 

For a more detailed outline of the JAL elected MKs
please click here to read Mondoweiss' summary


The previous two Israeli elections have seen barely more than half of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship turn out to vote. In the lead up to the election, the polls indicated that Palestinian turn out forthe election would be the highest ever. Polls predict the Joint Arab List could nudge its tally of seats from the current 11 shared across the parties to 15. However, in the end they were only able to increase their overall combined vote by two seats. 

So while the Palestinian vote was higher than in previous years, with overall 30 percent more voters voting for the Joint List as a group than had voted for the four parties individually, the voter turn out was still much lower than predicated.

Occuption and apartheid ignored

Israel's occupation, its continuing colonisation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and its July 2014 50 day assault on Gaza were all but ignored in the campaign, except when it was convenient for candidates to do some sabre rattling. As numerous commentators on the Israeli elections have noted, Israel's occupation is no longer an issue to be solved or dealt with in Israel's election campaigns. 

As a result, there was little to differentiate between Likud and the Zionist Union on these key issues. The Zionist Union, which is a partnership of Labor, Livni’s Hatnuah and the Green Movement, ran on a platform for Israel to keep major settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank, keep Jerusalem as Israel’s "undivided" capital, and block the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

This should come as no surprise, the raison d’etre of a settler-colonialist society is displacement of the Indigenous populationi and their replacement by settlers. Historically it was the Labor Zionist movement which brought Israel into existence, engaging fully with the settler colonial project and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. With Likud in power, the only difference is that it appears that Israel's Zionist population prefers a version of Zionism which is unhindered by some of the ideological contortions of the Zionist Labor movement which sought to mystify the settler colonial nature of Zionism.  

According to veteran Israeli journalist, Amira Hass in an interview with Democracy Now on the Israeli elections:

What Netanyahu has been offering for the past years continues to be a winning horse for most of the people. That means the non-existent welfare state in Israel proper now exists by the occupied territory in the forms of colonies, well-pampered colonies, so it is always an option for Israelis to move to the occupied territory to improve their conditions. Inside Israel, his policies guarantee that there will be continued the discriminated—the policy which discriminates Palestinians, Israeli citizens, from their—against the Israeli Jews.”
 The apartheid nature of the Israeli state was exposed several times through out the election. One such time was when, for the second time, Israel's Central Election Committee banned Palestinian politician Hanen Zoabi (who is a member of Balad) from running in the election. While this was initiated by Avigador Lieberman's racist Yisrael Beiteniu party, it was support by Likud and all the rightwing Zionist parties running in  the election, including the Zionist Union. However, just as with the 2013 election, the ban was overturned by the Israeli Supreme court.

The apartheid nature of Israel was also on display the morning of the polls when Netanyahu posted a video declaring that “the rule of the right is in danger” as “Arab voters area advancing in large numbers towards voting places”, accusing the Left of “busing” them in. 


Israel Hayom, a paper owned and funded by US Zionist Multi-millionaire, Sheldon Adelson, without a skerric of irony also ran a headline (based on a quote from an interview with Netanyahu) declaring “Millions of Shekels from overseas – to raise voter participation for the Left and Arabs”. Adelson's paper is distributed free to approximately half a million Israelis. 

Generally, an increase in voter participation is viewed as a good thing – at least this is supposedly the case in regard to liberal democracy under capitalism. But for Netanyahu and the vast majority of Israeli Zionists, it was something to be disdained, feared and treated as a Leftist plot to install a pro-Arab government in Israel.

Netanyahu was not the only one engaged in outright racism against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Avigador Lieberman, a Russian settler, who is also Israel's Foreign Minister and head of Yisrael Beiteniu called for the beheading of Palestinian citizens of Israel he accuses of disloyalty to Israel. In addition, in a debate on Israel's Channel Two with the heads of the representatives of all the political parties running in the election, Lieberman unabashedly referred to Ayman Odeh, Palestinians and the Joint List as a “fifth column”, stating that Odeh and other Palestinians were not wanted in Israel. Lieberman went onto declare that the Joint Arab List represented terrorists and should be put on trial for incitement and sedition. 

What this revealed was not only the racism of Netanyahu, but also the racism ingrained in the Zionist state. Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are make up 20% of Israel population, are seen as little more than a fifth column and are thus an “enemy within” rather than equal citizens.

Systemic anti-Palestinian racism
This of course is not news to the Palestinians inside the Israeli state. In the last year alone, the incitement against Palestinians inside Israel had reached new heights, with Israeli government ministers and members of Knesset leading a campaign against them. 

In both the lead up too, during and in the aftermath of Israel's 50 day assault on Gaza, Palestinians in Israel were not only attacked in the street, with one 16 year old boy Mohammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped,tortured and murdered by settlers, Palestinians Palestinians inside Israel fired from their jobs for speaking out against Israel's brutality in Gaza. They were also arrested in mass numbers during protests against Gaza operation, with well over 1000 Palestinians being jailed. At least 2 shot to death by Israeli police. All ofthis was because they were Palestinian. 

All of this comes on the back of a raft of racist legislation, which has increased the last decade which has not only sought to disenfranchise Palestinian citizens electorally but also socially, economically and in the broader political sphere.Today, there exists 50 laws which actively discriminate against non-Jewish citizens not only in areas of electoral politics but land, housing, education, marriage.

Netanyahu also made clear, just days before the March 17 vote, that the USbacked “peace process” was dead in the water, declaring: “Anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state, anyone who is going to evacuate territories today, is simply giving a base for attacks by radical Islam against Israel.

For anyone following Israeli and Palestinian politics, Netanyahu's declaration come as no surprise. Despite declaring in 2009 his support for a Palestinian state, like every other Israeli Prime Minister, this was all smoke and mirrors. His declaration barely caused a ripple in Israeli society. This is because the very idea of supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state is so politically toxic within Zionist politics that none of Israel's parties dared mention it for fear of losing votes.  

As Gershom Gorenberg put it in Haaretz, what Netanyahu's declaration meant was that: “The Israeli prime minister sees the Green Line as the border between where Arabs can’t vote and where they shouldn’t.” 

So while the subjugated position of Palestinians living inside Israel and in the occupied Palestinian Territories is not news to them, what Netanyahu’s declaration about a Palestinian state and his call to arms on voting day exposed was the deep racism within in the heart of the Israeli political system, at a time when the international spotlight was well and truly on it. Netanyahu's declaration and call to arms, once more stripped away the illusion surrounding the shame “peace process”. 

US-Israel Alliance
While the Obama Administration in the USA is unhappy with Netanyahu's declaration and racism, it not the declaration that the two state solution is dead in the water or his overt racism during the election or even the mass murder of 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza as a result of Israel's 50 day bombing spree which has caused problems within the US-Israel “special relationship”. Instead it is the issue of Iran.

Netanyahu, along with Republican Tea partiers and the US arms lobby have been pushing for out and out war with Iran and have sought to undermine any possible US deal with Iran. in particular it has sought to undermine the Joint Plan of Action in regard to Iran's nuclear program, which would see a short term freeze in regard to portions of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for a decrease in economic sanctions on Iran.

As part of the deal, the USA has been seeking rigorous inspections, limits on the number of centrifuges with which Iran can enrich uranium, and the removal of most of Tehran’s stockpiles of existing fuel. Iran, however, is negotiating to retain nuclear capability in order to produce nuclear energy for power and medical purposes, and wants an end to sanctions that keep it from shipping oil or gaining access to global financial markets Obama and his military elite want the deal with Iran, not in order to avoid a bloodbath but because they want to advance the USA strategic interests in the region.

The tension between Israel and the US was further exacerbated by the Republicans inviting Netanyahu to give a speech to the US Congress without notifying the American President, something which is unprecedented. This resulted in not only the Republicans getting many in their own support base off side, it saw Netanyahu use the speech as little more than part of his election pitch.

Despite this recent tensions in the US-Israel alliance, the USA will not abandon Israel. It will not veto motions in the UN against the apartheid state and it will continue to fund its military and occupation of the Palestinians, turning a blind eye to Israel's atrocities. For example, at the height of the debate over the US nuclear deal with Iran last month, the Israeli Defence Ministry signed a deal with the US to purchase 14 more F-35 planes for the Israeli Air Force at US$110 million each, part of a deal worth US$2.8 billion.

This is because at its core, the US alliance with Israel is based on maintaining and furthering US geopolitical interests in the region. As a result, a fundamental break between the US and Israel remains very unlikely. However, this does not mean there will not be increasing tension, resulting in more cracks appearing in the alliance.

Netanyahu's victory and the Palestinian struggle

As most Palestine and pro-Palestine supporters have stated in the wake of the election, Netanyahu's victory was politically the best outcome for the Palestinian struggle. We can of course expect to see more racist legislation introduced into the Knesset, more ethnic cleansing on the ground in Palestine and a further grow of settlements and a deepening of Israel's occupation. This would have also happened even if Netanyahu had lost. The election of a centre-right or even centre-left part, would simply have resulted in the masking of the apartheid nature of the Israeli state. Netanyahu's victory, however, strips this mask away. 

In the wake of Netanyahu's election victory, liberal Zionists in the US are in a tail spin, as it is more and more difficult for them to continue to deny that Israel is an apartheid state. According to at least one Zionist campus activist writing in Haaretz, the biggest victor out of the elections is the Palestinian BDS movement.

As Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the Palestinian BDS movement has noted: “So many Palestinians welcomed Netanyahu’s win. The mask has fallen”. Barghouti went on to state: "The rift between the White House and Israel is opening up space for criticism of Israel that was not there before, and for calls for boycotts of Israel that were not tolerated before”. He noted: “BDS in the US is still controversial, but it is no longer taboo”.

Of course, Netanyahu has of course now tried to back track, saying in a series of US broadcasts he had not been trying to suppress the votes of Palestinian Israelis and had not abandoned the two state solution. Only that he had meant that it was impossible right now. However, the damage has been done.

Supporters of the Palestinian people and their struggle, of course, have no illusions that the US will ever be an “honest broker” in the Middle East or that Netanyahu wants real peace. However, the re-election of Netanyahu and the exposure of Israel's unvarnished racism and ethnic cleansing of Palestine means that it is harder for Israel and the US to pretend that the “peace process” is anything but a sham and that Israel want real peace. As such it will aid in the building of a movement in the West in support of the Palestinian people and Palestinian liberation.


120 Knesset members - electoral breakdown:

Likud 30, Zionist Union 24; Joint Arab List 13; Yesh Atid 11; Kalunu 10; Jewish Home 8; Shas 7; Israeli Beiteniu 6; United Torah 6; Meretz 5.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What Really Happened At The Colonel Kemp USyd Protest: On the Zionist lobby slander campaign against Jake Lynch

Dear friends,
In the past week, both the Australian Zionist lobby and Zionist press have been running a campaign of slanders about University of Sydney Associate Professor Jake Lynch, regarding events at a campus protest the University of Sydney against Colonel Richard Kemp (see here, here, here, here and here).

As part of this campaign, they have also made untrue claims about other pro-Palestine activists, in particular the Sydney University Socialist Alternative Club.

The campaign to slander Jake and other pro-Palestine activists has continued, despite there being video evidence which shows their claims to be untrue.

The Zionist lobby and press are going after Jake because of his strong stand in support of BDS and Palestine. The law case brought against him by Israeli Zionist group, Shurat HaDin over his support for BDS ended with egg all over their faces (see my previous posts on the court case: here, here, here, here, here and here).  So now they are seeking to engage in outright lies and slander to get him fired

It is important that we continue to stand in solidarity with Jake and reject the lies and slander against him.

I have included below an article by Australian Jewish writer, Michael Brull, has been following the current Zionist campaign and has written this excellent exposure of the lies and slander against Jake. Please share widely.

I have also included a copy of the University of Sydney Socialist Alternative statement issued in response to claims about them.  I have also included a rebuttal of the claims against Jake by another Sydney Uni academic who was present at the meeting.

In solidarity, Kim

Blaming The Victims: What Really Happened At The Colonel Kemp USyd Protest

By Michael Brull: New Matilda: 18 March 2015

University of Sydney Professor Jake Lynch* has been accused of anti-Semitism during a campus protest. Fresh video footage provides a different theory, writes Michael Brull.

If it weren’t for the video footage which I have in my possession, I would probably find it hard to believe the story I am about to tell. Anyone interested can trace the development of contradictions and exaggerations from one source to the next. I will simply point out that the four videos which I will include in this story give us a pretty good idea of what actually happened.

Readers can draw their own conclusions about whose claims are flatly contradicted by the video footage.

So let us start with the first account of what happened during the protest against Colonel Richard Kemp at the University of Sydney last week.

Glen Falkenstenstein, from the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) wrote an article, under the suitably dramatic headline “Riot at Sydney University”. It explained that Kemp was giving a talk on military tactics, when a group of over a dozen students came into the hall, chanting “Richard Kemp, you can’t hide, you support genocide”. One of them utilised a megaphone.

Falkenstein’s account then got… interesting. He claimed that “Protestors wrestled with security guards who had asked them to leave and were then forced to remove them. Protestors stood on chairs, began to push students and shout loudly at those who objected to their behaviour.”

Furthermore, Jake Lynch allegedly “shouted in the faces of students, including at a senior officer of the Jewish student union. He then proceeded to stand on chairs and film attendees. Lynch screamed that attempts to remove the protestors was a violent attack on freedom of speech by security guards.”

It took “20 minutes of shouting” for the protesters to be “finally removed”, having “objected loudly” to their treatment by the security guards for some reason.

Professor Suzanne Rutland from University of Sydney was then quoted explaining that “when they stand there chanting, ‘free Palestine’ what they mean is the dismantling of the Zionist entity which means genocide against Israel’s Jewish population”.

Peter Wertheim, the Executive Director of the Executive Council of Jewry – the national body representing Australian Jews – commented that the protester’s “attempts to bully campus security personnel who restored order was also shameful”.

Then came the account by the Australian Jewish News. It featured a video – more on that soon – and more of the same.

AJN paraphrased the account of Falkenstein: “Protesters stood on chairs, began to push students and shout loudly at those who objected to their behaviour.” It then repeated, without credit, his claim that Lynch “shouted in the face of students”, and “screamed” that this was “a violent attack on freedom of speech”.

It then added this claim: “He was also seen holding money to the face of a Jewish student and filmed students in attendance without their consent.”

There is a photo of him holding what looks like five dollars, though it is not entirely clear if it’s to a man in the photo, or someone not in the frame (which, as we will see, is far more likely).

The Australasian Union of Jewish Students decided to step up the rhetoric. AUJS national political director Julian Kowal explained in the Jewish News that they condemn “the highly aggressive tactics” of the protestors used to “intimidate audience members”. It was “undoubtedly intended to intimidate the largely Jewish student audience and make them feel unwelcome at the University of Sydney”.

He claimed that Lynch intimidated Jewish students by hurling verbal abuse and filming them without their permission “after he was repeatedly asked to stop”.

Furthermore, “Many of the Jewish students were traumatised by the highly confronting and violent experience, and will feel unsafe to attend future public lectures and events with the fear of further abuse”.

Helpfully, AUJS offered support and guidance to those who needed it from this terrible and traumatic experience of violent intimidation.

And then came the petition – with almost 4500 signatories at the time of writing. It repeats the claims already made, and calls on the University of Sydney to fire Lynch.

Naturally, the Murdoch press also picked up the story. Ean Higgins in the Australian said Lynch was under “renewed pressure” over the petition. Kemp denounced him, as did AUJS, again.

The national chairman of AUJS, Dean Sherr explained that “Waving money in the face of Jewish people screams of the classical anti-Semitic falsehood that Jews are obsessed with money”. Higgins reported that Lynch denied the allegations, but didn’t bother to explain if either side was right or wrong.

Strangely enough, Gerard Henderson came the closest to an accurate account. He explained that he had corresponded with Lynch, who provided him with footage of the protest. Henderson acknowledged that “Lynch’s iPhone video indicates that a middle-aged woman threw water at some demonstrators”.

However, Henderson also claimed that Lynch threatening to sue her – which he somehow didn’t pick up from Lynch’s videos – was “of no moment. As Lynch conceded in his correspondence with me, he ‘emerged without injury’ from the occasion.”

Apparently, Henderson believes that assault is legal if it doesn’t cause injury.

If we turn to the more highbrow Murdoch press, the Daily Telegraph reported on Lynch’s claim that the “elderly Jewish woman… believed to be 75 years old” assaulted him.

He threatened to sue her, which was where the photo of the five-dollar note came from. Also reported: “In a video viewed by The Saturday Telegraph, Dr Lynch can be seen arguing with the woman before she throws out her right arm at him.”

So the Telegraph admitted that Lynch was assaulted by this woman. Now, let us turn to the facts of what happened.

Here’s the video featured at the AJN.

It begins with the protesters coming in chanting about genocide. Kemp smiles at the entrance, apparently not too traumatised yet. They begin by saying the University of Sydney was being hypocritical in letting Kemp speak, after banning Hizb ut Tahrir. Within 50 seconds of the protest the audience starts booing as the speaker with the megaphone denounces the attack on Gaza last year.
The rest of the protesters stand around, as security guards start filing in.

UTS academic at Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, Paddy Gibson – who I know from my days of involvement with Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney – can be seen towards the front of the protest. As the speaker is getting drowned out, she seems to give up and they start chanting again.
At 1:15 you can see a woman in a maroon top get up, as she throws water from her water bottle at people off-screen – presumably protesters. 

A still of the video, showing water being thrown on protestors by the 'red-haired woman' (in the bottom right of the photo).
A still of the video, showing water being thrown on protestors by the 'red-haired woman' (in the bottom right of the photo).
The camera cuts to the audience. A young woman watches with a smile, seemingly amused. Several others in the audience appear to be filming the incident with their phones, one is taking a photo with a fancy looking camera.

The young woman turns to the camera seemingly laughing.

By 1:31, the guards are already pushing the protesters, their patience apparently exhausted. The woman with the loudspeaker goes with the tide, but a young man struggles a bit, as a guard holds him around the body from behind and tries to push him out of the venue.

The students now chant “Free Free Palestine”. Paddy Gibson can now also be seen becoming more prominent in the protest, chanting and clapping “Free Free”. The lights go out, presumably during the struggle to expel the protesters. It’s mostly the one young man who struggles and gives the security guards difficulties.

It should be noted that the entirety of his resistance is trying to prevent himself from being forcibly removed by them. The AJN featured a still image of him in a full nelson hold by the guards. Whatever one thinks about his resistance, he is clearly not the one being aggressive.

At 2:42, the lights are back on and you can see Jake Lynch filming the protesters (like many others in the audience, as noted). A young male protester standing by the side criticises Israel for suppressing free speech.

Lynch quietly speaks to people near him, who allow him to walk past, where he goes to talk to the guards. Their discussions are quiet, and civil, which is slightly different to what was claimed about him – and remember, this is the video featured on the Jewish News website.

How exactly this is supposed to have traumatised Jewish students – well, you can judge for yourselves. And that’s the footage the AJN was willing to publish.
Then there’s Lynch’s videos. He filmed three of them.

VIDEO 1 begins with the students in their “genocide” chanting phase. A woman with red hair and a pink top can be seen throwing water at someone off screen, first at the 7 second mark, then at 0:11.

At about 0:14 someone appears to be trying to block her, and a voice says twice “sit down”. A young protester with luridly pink or red hair – now soaking wet – leans towards her, and conversationally asks her her name. She leans in closer to respond.

Meanwhile, the protesters are being pushed, whilst Gibson stands nearby, making himself a minor nuisance, but not doing much to actively resist, beyond putting his arm in the way.

Three guards manhandle the young actively resisting protester. The wet-hair protester can be seen trying to resist expulsion too, to little effect.

There is more struggling, before a protester is dragged away by his legs.

VIDEO 2 begins with the red-haired woman, who I would estimate to be elderly, as the Telegraph said, rather than middle aged, as Henderson said. If there is any evidence in her appearance that she is a student, as claimed by the AJN, AIJAC and AUJS, it is not readily apparent.

At about the two-second mark, her hand comes toward and appears to strike the camera.
Lynch can be heard explaining, “This is the woman who has assaulted me by kicking me and who has thrown water over me”.

As he says this, at the 6-second mark, she reaches for water. She unscrews the top, and then moves to throw water. The camera jerks away, but water still seems to be seen striking the person next to Lynch.

The camera moves to show water on a green surface nearby. Lynch explains that that’s what she’s done, and says to someone that “this is what you should be stopping”.

IN VIDEO 3 the red-haired woman is talking to some security guards. Someone says “we have it on camera”. She sees the camera, and rushes towards it at around 0:12. The camera jerks around, and we can then see her hand moving, and she is nearby the camera.

Lynch says: “Yep, again. See? This is going to cost you a lot of money”. Which he repeats a few times.

Some men stand between the two. Eventually the camera shows another guard is talking to Lynch too. Lynch says “I was in the audience”, and the guard moves his head with newfound understanding and moves away.

The woman looks at the camera again, and gestures at it with her arm. She seems to strike at it again, the camera jerks (1:05), and Lynch says “It’s going to cost you a lot of money”.

At about 1:11, her body moves a bit, the camera moves down towards her legs, and he says “keep going”. It may be at this moment that she kicked him, but the camera doesn’t catch it.

Lynch keeps saying “keep going”, and then “get your money out”. Which was what he kept saying – threatening her with legal action for assaulting him.

“It’s going to cost you a lot of money”, and he makes a money gesture with his hand. A woman nearby tells him “please leave”, and says he’s being anti-Semitic, which she repeated a few times. He said that he’s a professor at the University and had a right to be there. Which he also repeated, then asked how he was being anti-Semitic.

She then walked away, as he turned the camera on her and said the other woman would owe him “a lot of money for assaulting me”. Another man said that the red-haired woman “needs to be removed from the event”. She then says “I’m going to sit down”.

Veteran Jewish activist Vivienne Porzsolt can be seen speaking to her, pointing her finger at her. She ignores Vivienne, then appears to stand with her body in front of Vivienne for an extended period, her back turned to Vivienne.

The red haired woman then appears to threaten to throw water at Lynch again, he threatens to sue her again. A man says he’s provoking her, Lynch says she doesn’t need to be provoked.

As to the factual questions, this doesn’t entirely prove everything claimed by Lynch. As it happens, it also doesn’t disprove everything claimed by AIJAC, AUJS and so on.

Lynch has claimed that the red-haired woman repeatedly kicked him in the groin, and that she also assaulted his wife, Dr Annabel McGoldrick.

The video footage does not prove any of the kicking, but is strongly suggestive of at least one attempt to strike the camera, and numerous instances of throwing water on people.

As for Lynch waving money at someone, it seems highly likely that in one of the instances when he said the assaults would cost the woman “a lot of money”, that was the occasion that included the gesture with money.

As for Lynch shouting in the face of students, as alleged by AIJAC, the AJN and AUJS?

Protesters standing on chairs and pushing students?

ECAJ’s claim that the protester’s “attempts to bully campus security personnel”?

AUJS claims about the “highly aggressive” tactics of the protesters?

The attempt to “intimidate” the largely Jewish audience?

Well, readers can draw their own conclusions about the factual claims they’ve made.

What actually happened was a group of protesters disrupted a speech by a man who has distinguished himself with his shameless defences of Israeli massacres. You can get a sense of his moral and factual compass by this story in the AJN: “Kemp: Hamas tunnels like Auschwitz”.

I don’t agree with their decision to try to prevent Kemp from speaking, but I understand why they didn’t admire him.

Security guards almost immediately responded by aggressively manhandling the protesters to push and drag them out of the lecture theatre. As this met with some resistance, it took a while to kick them out.

AUJS and AIJAC then reported that the Jewish audience was “traumatised” by this aggression – not by the guards, but by the protesters, who at most resisted being shoved out of the room.

One elderly woman repeatedly threw water on protesters and Jake Lynch, and allegedly kicked him and his wife repeatedly. Video evidence suggests she struck at him or his camera. He responded by threatening to sue her if she continued, and he started trying to film her and her assaults.

Neither did much good in deterring her. This then became proof of his depravity – it was alleged that he made an anti-Semitic gesture at a student (no-one has made any suggestion as to how anyone, let alone Lynch, would know that she’s Jewish or a student). And shouted at students. And screamed about what the guards were doing.

Now the university is reportedly investigating whether they should fire Lynch. How the Jewish students were traumatised has not yet been explained. Perhaps they can’t handle being in the presence of people with different political opinions.

Obviously, they weren’t upset by seeing protesters forcibly removed without any attempt at negotiation. They don’t seem to have been troubled by the apparent assaults by the red-haired woman. The numerous people filming the protesters also didn’t trouble anyone – nor did the AJN publishing a video of the protest, without gaining the consent of everyone filmed.

But Lynch doing so apparently was offensive: filming someone assaulting him apparently was deeply offensive. Presumably because it may have provided a counter-argument for all the claims of anti-Semitism and misconduct levelled against him.

Which brings me to the perhaps funniest part of this incident: the letter by Colonel Kemp about the protest. I encourage everyone to read it. He claims that the “aggression” of the protesters “intimidated” the audience, including its elderly members.

The audience “appeal[ing]” to the protesters to leave resulted in “even greater aggression, including personal verbal abuse”.

In “some cases I saw the protestors deliberately and aggressively invade the personal space of members of the audience, including at least one elderly woman.”

He claimed that Dr Nicholas Riemer** and Jake Lynch “who were both apparently leading and encouraging the protesters, screamed at the security officers to desist”, and otherwise tried to “intimidate” them (note that neither were part of the protest which they allegedly led – and we can only speculate how Colonel Kemp could possibly recognise either of them).

Colonel Kemp had no doubt the audience was “greatly and understandably traumatised”. He “observed” Lynch “waving money in the face of a Jewish student”, and drew the conclusions seen above. The point of the protest was anti-Semitism and “intimidating Jews” at the University. Kemp concluded that this was “racially-motivated aggression, intimidation and abuse”.

When you consider that Colonel Kemp has distinguished himself in his defence of Israeli massacres, this becomes deeply enlightening. If anyone was aggressive in this story, it is those who used violence – the security guards, who used it as a first resort, and the woman who assaulted Lynch, and perhaps his wife too.

The real story here is yet another attempt to smear opponents of Israeli massacres as anti-Semites, and the ongoing campaign to destroy Jake Lynch’s career for his principled opposition to how Israel treats the Palestinians.

The facts are all there about what happened – you can watch the videos yourself.

Whether the factual records makes any difference, well, we will soon find out.

* Professor Jake Lynch is a lecturer at Sydney University, and an occasional contributor to New Matilda.
** Dr Nick Reimer is also an occasional contributor to New Matilda.


Unbalanced and distorted media coverage doesn’t help sensitive matters of free speech and international conflict

By Paul Duffill - 16 March 2015: Online Opinion

Disruption by students of a presentation by retired British army Colonel Richard Kemp on Wednesday at the University of Sydney, has been followed by some extremely unbalanced and distorted media coverage. This coverage omits key events that happened during the affair and makes inaccurate claims about what actually did happen. This disappointing reportage has appeared on sites such as J-Wire (Riot at Sydney University,Protest at Sydney University – the video and Sydney University: Violent protest under investigation) and the Australian Jewish News (Anti-Israel protesters run riot at Sydney uni).  

As someone who was present at the lecture and witnessed the affair, this reporting comes across as unhelpful and sheds far more heat than light on the sensitive issues around this event. I should also be clear as I write this, in the interests of full disclosure, that I witnessed events as a member of the audience and that I did not take part in nor support the students' protest.

Col. Kemp, while taking a break from an Australian fundraising tour for the United Israel Appeal, was set to give a public presentation titled Ethical Dilemmas of Military Tactics in Relation to Recent Conflicts in the ME: Dealing with non-stated armed groups. 

The advertisement of Kemp's lecture posted on J-Wire quotes Kemp as declaring: “during Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in the combat zones than any other army in the history of warfare” and noted that Kemp is “an outspoken supporter of Israeli conduct in its armed conflict with Hamas”.
Indeed during this lecture he remarked that “I was in Israel during the 2014 summer conflict and I do believe that the IDF in their attack on Hamas in Gaza… were doing everything they could to protect civilians.”

Israel’s most recent offensive on Gaza in July and August last year according to the UN  claimed the lives of over 1400 Palestinian civilians, including 521 children. One foreign national and five Israeli civilians also lost their lives in the conflict.

Several minutes into his presentation, a group of around a dozen students entered the room, chanting “Richard Kemp, you can’t hide, you support genocide”. The studentsthen proceeded to address the audience on their concerns about the lack of free speech at the University of Sydney and their criticism of Kemp’s support for the  Israeli military's practice in using military force against Palestinian civilians.

After a few minutes of chanting and heated arguments between the students and some audience members in the lecture theatre, University security staff proceeded to forcibly remove the students from the lecture theatre. Col. Kemp’s presentation resumed after this.

Understandably this is a sensitive and emotive topic. Thus is falls on respectable media to be even more scrupulous than usual in presenting an accurate and balanced picture of events. Unfortunately the hasty reportage by J-Wire and the Australian Jewish News of the affair has not lived up to these important journalistic standards.

Articles by Wire and the Australian Jewish News and J-Wire somehow fail to mention that at the event on Wednesdayone of Col. Kemp’s supporters physically assaulted two Sydney University staff members in the audience. The same individual also attempted to damage and seize the property of these two Sydney University staff members. This violence is of course a serious issue and these events were reported to NSW Police who arrived on the scene.

This serious omission is linked to a second serious problem in their reporting of this event. A photo has emerged, apparently taken during the Kemp lecture, posted by the Australian Jewish News whose caption claims that: “A shocking photo has emerged of Professor Jake Lynch holding money to the face of a Jewish student during yesterday's anti-Israel protest at Sydney University.”

Unfortunately the Australian Jewish News did not wait to hear and publish Prof. Lynch's account of what happened before publishing this claim. I have personally spoken to Lynch regarding this photo, and the Australian Jewish News' claim sharply contradicts Lynch's account. Lynch states: “There was, by this time, a great deal of anger in the room and a great many people standing up and moving around. One of them was a lady with dyed orange-red hair, probably in her 50s, who started to behave more and more violently. She threw water over people’s heads, used some pretty industrial language. I was recording some of the events on my iPhone and she seemed to take exception to this, kicking out and catching me (twice) in the groin.”
Lynch also confirmed that “she also attacked” another member of the audience who is also a colleague of his. (Note: I have omitted mention of this other person's name who was also the object of assault as I am unsure as to whether it is appropriate to publish their personal details online at this time).

Lynch continues: “In vain did I (a) tell her to stop and (b) try to get the security guards to intervene. Eventually I had the idea of showing her the banknotes I was carrying in my pocket to emphasise the point I then made to her, that she would leave me with no choice but to take out a private prosecution for assault, and that this could cost her a lot of money.”

The Australian and the Daily Telegraph has published similar accounts of Prof. Lynch's statement. Even Prof. Lynch's emotional critics on Facebook who have claimed to have also spoken to Lynch about the photo report a similar account from Lynch and admitted that after the photo in question was published that no hard evidence had emerged contradicting Lynch's account.

During the lecture I also observed this older lady -whose hair was dyed red and who was wearing a purple top, and who I would guess was in her 50s or 60- assaulting Lynch and his colleague. What's more The Daily Telegraph's description of video footage they have viewed also supports reports of the older lady's physical attacks  on Lynch: “Dr Lynch can be seen arguing with the woman before she throws out her right arm at him”. 

At this point even James Jeffrey, “Strewth Editor” in the Australian weighed in, in an effort to add some comic relief to the affair. Jeffrey offered “a small get-well message to the bollocks of University of Sydney academic Jake Lynch, which we gather got in the way of a pro-Israeli foot during a mid-lecture scuffle yesterday...His bits copped a kick from someone who felt differently to Lynch. Get well, boys.”

To their credit J-Wire have already broken with the Australian Jewish News' problematic description of the photo.  J-Wire now describes events around the photo as involving “Associate Professor Dr Jake Lynch,  Director of the Centre for Peace and ­Conflict Studies, who reportedly waved a $5 note in front of one of those attending the disrupted lecture”.

These accounts of events are very different from the claim by the Australian Jewish News of “A shocking photo has emerged of Professor Jake Lynch holding money to the face of a Jewish student during yesterday's anti-Israel protest at Sydney University.”And the older lady that attacked Lynch and his colleagues is not even shown in the photo posted by the Australian Jewish News. She also refused to give her name to audience members who observed her carrying out the assaults. Thus it is especially unfortunate that footage of these assaults and this older lady is not included in the material and photo that the Australian Jewish News reported.

We do see in the photo a young man in a grey shirt standing to Lynch's left. Presumably this is the individual who the Australian Jewish News' are claiming to be the “Jewish student” Lynch was “holding money to the face of” in the photo. In fact, during the lecture, and at the time this photo was taken this young man physically inserted himself between Lynch and the older lady that assaulted  Lynch and his colleague. When this photo was taken the older lady is to the left of the young man in the grey shirt, and not included in the image posted by the Australian Jewish News. 

The young man wearing the grey shirt also spent approximately 5 minutes talking quietly with the same older lady, trying to discourage the older lady from further attacking Lynch and other audience members. The older lady had unfortunately refused to listen to other audience members trying to dissuade her from her physical attacks. Unfortunately I also witnessed the older lady continuing to threaten audience members with violence even after they had left the event.

Despite this serious inaccuracy, the Australian Jewish News has yet to correct the sensational caption they first added to the photo: their original inaccurate caption remains as the supposed description of photo.

A third issue is that the students' protest was clearly not a “riot” (let along a “student riot”) or violent as the J-Wire and Australian Jewish News piecesargue. Being present during the whole event I did not observe any violence what-so-ever from the students protesting or from Lynch. This clear lack of violence is also shown in a video recording of thestudent demonstration posted by The Australian Jewish News.

Fourth, again as shown in the video, Lynch did not lead or even take part the protest, and was sitting in the audience listening to the lecture with other audience members when the students came in to protest the event. He did take video footage of University security staff forcefully removing the protesting students and video footage of the older lady who assaulted him, as did other members of the audience. Claims that he somehow lead or instigated the protest are entirely false. What's more, at no time did I observe Lynch acting in a violent manner and unsubstantiated claims that he did act violently amount to extremely irresponsible and possibly defamatory journalism.

Lastly, while arguing for Col. Kemp’s right to “free speech” the J-Wire and Australian Jewish News pieces articles also fail to mention that the University of Sydney unfortunately actually already has a history of barring, or trying to bar,  particular speakers from campus that do not align with the University’s private interests or for claimed security reasons. One recent example - widely reported by mainstream media including in the New York Times, Reuters, the Guardian, the Huffington Post and the ABC (a range of media links here are: was the University’s secret attempt to ban the Dalai Lama from speaking on campus in early 2013. Sydney University has also banned other groups from speaking on campus including Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesperson Uthman Badar. It should be noted that proposals to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir in Australia have been criticised, including by Dr. Adrian Cherney, Head of Criminology at Queensland University. 

Of course at Sydney Uni and more broadly in Australia speakers that engage in Holocaust denial are prohibited from speaking in public, as part of Australian legislation prohibiting hate speech and racial vilification.

Thus one would be naive to believe that the University does not restrict freedom of speech on campus. Whether one agrees that the University should restrict freedom of speech or not, or where along the spectrum people believe the correct balance lies, I think we can all agree that the result should be consistent and transparent.  Given Col. Kemp's outspoken support for the Israeli military’s record in killing civilians, one can’t help but wonder how consistent and transparent the University’s decision-making process was in allowing him a platform to speak at that respected public academic institution.


This statement is from Socialist Alternative concerning false accusations made about our student club at University of Sydney.'

In an article on J-Wire on 15 March entitled “Sydney University:
Violent protest under investigation”, you include the following untrue statement by former federal Labor MP Peter Baldwin: “The group primarily responsible for this outrage, a Trotskyist group calling itself the ‘Socialist Alternative’”.

No members of the Sydney University Socialist Alternative student club were present at this event. In fact, our club was hosting its own event at the same time in another building. Nor did we have any involvement in organising it.

Omar Hassan
President, Socialist Alternative Sydney University Student Club