AUJS Statement on Antisemitic incident at UNSW and an account of the incident

Statement from AUJS – Australasian Union of Jewish Students and an account of the incident, as reported in the Australian

On Friday, in the heat of an election campaign forum for the University of NSW student representative council, two drama club members, Stuart Maclaine and Dom Foffani, danced around a political opponent, Jake Campbell, doing Nazi salutes and singing Springtime for Hitler.

Mr Campbell, a prominent Jewish masters student on campus who is an office-holder in the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, had run unsuccessfully on the Stand Up ticket associated with the Labor Right.

Mr Maclaine, supported by Mr Foffani, won a seat on the council on the Voice ticket, associated with the Labor Left.

Mr Campbell was incensed, and took to social media.

“Today I had the worst experience of anti-Semitism in my life and it was in student politics,”

he posted on his Facebook page.

“Clearly, anti-Semitism is still sadly a problem and I would hope to never see this in a student election ever again.”

Mr Maclaine and Mr Foffani quickly issued apologies, explaining that they had both performed in a production of The Producers, a musical by the Jewish producer Mel Brooks, which among other songs features Springtime for Hitler.

They claimed they had no idea that Mr Campbell was Jewish.

“Today during the campaigning of the SRC elections at UNSW I partook in anti-Semitic actions thinking of them innocently and lighthearted, which were regarded as a personal attack on Jake Campbell . . . I must apologise for this conduct wholeheartedly and emphatically,”

Mr Foffani posted on his Facebook page.

Mr Maclaine similarly apologised unreservedly, and posted on Facebook:

“It has been suggested by friends of Jake that I participate in a volunteering program with a Jewish organisation and visit the Sydney Jewish Museum, something I will be making arrangements for and gladly undertake.”

“I did something inexcusably insensitive . . . if Jake and the Jewish community require . . . my resignation (from the SRC), I will act accordingly.”

Mr Campbell told The Australian he did want Mr Maclaine, who could not be reached yesterday, to resign from the SRC, but he was prepared to leave it at that and did not want to further publicise the affair.

He said he fully accepted the apologies, did not believe the act was racially inspired, and did not want to victimise Mr Maclaine.

“I am very happy with the way he has responded; I don’t want his life ruined,”

A UNSW spokeswoman said:

“The university does not condone any form of racist comment or behaviour on campus”,

and said the matter was under investigation.

Mr Jones and other Jewish leaders said the UNSW episode was particularly alarming because the perpetrators were not rednecks or racist extremists, but university-educated students who subscribed to the mainstream ALP.

A spokesman for AUJS, Dean Sherr, said:

“Student politics is supposed to be very liberal and progressive, (but) you don’t expect that people would be going around singing Springtime for Hitler and doing Nazi salutes.”

What also concerns Jewish leaders is that while Mr Maclaine and Mr Foffani have apologised and are clearly contrite, others in the social media sphere, many of them presumably university students, have backed them, made light of their antics, and urged Mr Maclaine to not resign from the SRC.

UNSW has been one of the hot-spots for the boycott, divestment, sanctions campaign against Israel, with protests against the establishment of a Max Brenner chocolate shop on campus, on the basis that the parent of the original Max Brenner chain in Israel had connections with the Israeli military.

Alexander Ryvchin, the public affairs officer for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said it was significant that the incident occurred at UNSW “just months after the anti-Israel Max Brenner protests there attracted appalling anti-Semitic hate-speech to social media”.

AUJS wishes to advise members that on Friday 25 October 2013, a member of the AUJS National Executive, Jake Campbell, complained of an incident of antisemitism during student council elections at the University of New South Wales.

Jake Campbell

Two students campaigning for the ‘Voice’ ticket danced around Mr Campbell while making Nazi salutes and singing ‘Springtime for Hitler’. Both campaigners, one of whom was standing for election, have since issued unequivocal public apologies. The elected Councillor has also offered his resignation to the student council. Mr Campbell has accepted the apologies of both campaigners and accepts that they did not intend to offend him or the Jewish community, but that their conduct was nonetheless antisemitic.

The song ‘Springtime for Hitler’ is taken from Mel Brooks’ 1968 musical film The Producers. When viewed in its proper context, the song forms a part of a historically significant film & stage production, written by a Jewish filmmaker. However, this does not excuse the conduct of the campaigners, whose crude rendition of the song, accompanied by dancing and Nazi salutes, was extremely offensive and humiliating to Mr Campbell and a discredit to multicultural Australia in 2013.

In the aftermath of apologies being issued by the two campaigners, a number of students and friends of the two campaigners have spoken out against Jake for taking offence, defending the conduct of their friends and blaming Jake for going public with the incident.

This belittles the seriousness of the incident and has led to even more serious antisemitic comments online.

The Holocaust remains one of the great moral evils of our time and, with Holocaust survivors ageing rapidly, we bear a responsibility to ensure it is not forgotten, denied or belittled in any way. There cannot possibly be any acceptable circumstances for a Jewish student to be subjected to Nazi salutes in public. This incident, on the same day as a Jewish family were brutally assaulted and hospitalised by antisemitic thugs while walking home from a Shabbat dinner, underlines that racism and bigotry still exist in Australia, and that antisemitism poses a very real threat to Jewish Australians.

AUJS commends the two campaigners for handling the situation in a mature and responsible fashion. What concerns us more than the original incident, however, is the reaction of their friends. It is not acceptable to remonstrate against a victim of antisemitism for making his hurt public. It sends a dangerous message to students to justify such racially insensitive conduct, and it is surprising that this conduct has come from a progressive political ticket, to which Jewish students and AUJS members belonged and campaigned for. AUJS is committed to fighting all incidents of antisemitism, racism and bigotry against students.

We welcome the apologies of these students and encourage them and all students who cannot recognise its offensiveness to visit their local Holocaust museum to gain a better understanding of its enduring significance. AUJS is willing to assist any students who wish to do so.

For further information or media enquiries, please contact dean@aujs.com.au

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12 comments

  1. Something wrong here, dear AUJS ingele.

    I don’t think that you should rush to “commend” the “remonstration” of what was a clearly a conscious manifestation of antisemitism.

    If two idiots realise that they goofed and were politically incorrect, it does not mean that they have changed their mindset in the few hours that it took to be advised that in a civilised society their actions were unacceptable.

    They did not go to the trouble of making antisemitic parades out of a non-existent basis.

    The not so funny “Producers” gag they have indulged into was not a comedy act , but a racist act and racism is not treated like a mild headache or a runny nose. It is always solidly imbedded in one’s personality. The very gesture of “forgiveness” and even “commendation” rendered the incident a very light character and THIS IS WHY subsequent antisemitic attacks were seen on the social media.

    The syndrome of ” move on” or “get on with it” or the imputation that the “offended” party lost the plot HIMSELF, formed the basis for the subsequent attacks.
    The idiot(s) who lost the plot themselves should resign and AUJS should demand it !!

    Here we see the classic turn of the other cheek, who knows, for the fear of losing friends among those morons!

    • Otto these young people don’t see it as being antisemitic. They don’t know what it is or indeed anything about Jewish history

      • Well, Shirlee, I reckon that these young people who are doing tertiary education, all over the age of 19, all presumed educated, knowledgeable, trusted to form their own unions, political and para political organisations, administer their own affairs within those complex organisations, are also expected to fathom the difference between what is good and what is bad, what is wrong and what is right.

        I will agree that lapses in education and perhaps family environment would instill a sense of “indifference” to such notions as antisemitism. I expect though, that Uni. students would know what is offensive to a decent person and that anything associated with Nazism cannot possibly be acceptable, regardless if the person addressed is Jewish or not.

        One of the reflections was that the young idiot did not know that our friend was Jewish. How is that acceptable an excuse?

        We must promote a concept and practice of correction, of betterment of an individual who erred, help that individual better adjust to civilised norms. We must also render justice through forms of penalised correction.

        This is why I considered that AUJS should insist on the dismissal of the elected offender. There is nothing wrong with penalising someone who transgresses. Forgiveness and acceptance of apologies is not a penalty. They will, however, lower the esteem Jews should expect. Our Jewish student should make a clear statement by standing firm and proud on their identity.
        Here I will agree that our own kids at Uni. could use a bit of parental advice.

    • Otto, I agree with you. Racism is never funny and very rarely is it accidental. The student council should ban these two goons from every standing for office, making it clear that racism is NEVER acceptable. Just apologising is not enough: there have to be consequences.

      Sadly, a lot of anti-Semitism comes from supposedly highly educated young people, who often form the bulk of the BDS movement.

  2. Sad, sad, the seat of higher education does need basic education in a vile history that took place not so long ago. Where millions were murdered. Humanities is not part of Uni. curriculum
    one sided “correctness” is. There seem to be also the BDS against Israel yet, no protestation about the persecution of Christians * burning of churches in Egypt & Syria, the weekly wholesale sectarian murders in Iraq. Higher education that has no values. Sad, very sad.

    • Yes, it’s funny there are very few, if any, protests against the widespread persecution of Christians and other minorities worldwide. Time was that students understood about human rights; now they just seem to run with the human rights denying propagandists.

  3. It’s at universities – the seat of intellectualism – where the most anti-Israel sentiment festers. Look at academics worldwide just to see what’s happening, led no less than by the Chomskys, Jake Lynches, Rees’s et al.

    The problem with this is that the universities are creating the citizens of the future — racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel intellectuals who will then sit for Parliament and represent the rest of the ignorant, ill-informed majority.

    Where will it end? With the demise of Israel and the loss of a home (or escape) for the rest of the Jews when the whole world rampages in unbridled anti-Semitism once again…….

    Oops! Did I get carried away? Forgive me .. silly me. That must be some other era, some other world. Couldn’t possibly happen in the 21st century, only 75 years after the worst genocide the world has ever known, could it?? By the way, didn’t the Holocaust take place in the ‘Age of Enlightenment’?

  4. Sabra2010 excellent ! I agree with you 100%…

  5. I suggest the following:

    AUJS move that Jake Campbel, the Jewish student at the centre of it, shares the position won by one of the two clowns who offended him . Jake should serve the 1st half of the o term and the other guy one the other half.
    This way the offenders will demonstrate genunine contrition.

  6. No Sabra, the Shoah occurred over a century after the enlightenment, if you take that as theFrench Revolution.

    What happened at UNSW is frightening for two reasons. The utter stupidity and vile shallowness of student leaders and the gross neglect or malevolence of their educators. The fact that the vilest Nazis were the intellecuals, the sour(ed) cream of the foremost universities of the 20th century.

    Nothing will iimprove until we act to ensure that the sensitivy shown to Aborigines, women, homosexuals is shown to all people which includes Jews. That will not occur until we get rid of our all talk and no action leadership.

  7. LJ Whiteson-Glass

    As both a student and a Jew, I feel that many people are rushing to conclusions of great racism stirring in the educational system when there is none. Yes these two youths acted inappropriately and should know that full weight of their actions. Yes they should (and have) apologised to Mr Campbell for the pain he has suffered, and the jewish community at large for their insensitive actions. But to undermine a student election because someone acted stupidly is undermining the reason for said election, which to represent the student body.
    Such actions would only fuel anti-jewish and anti-semitic sentiment in the student population. Justifying any hatred, and causing others to question their own approach to groups who call for such actions because they call for an excessive response to poorly thought out actions.
    Instead, educating that individual on how they acted wrongly would be far more appropriate. Thus. resentment is not encouraged and understanding and respect can grow.

    • It’s not only the Jewish Community hurt by these two young men . They also hurt the relatives of 12 million people who the Nazi war machine murdered.

      6 million Jews and another 6 who were seen as imperfect and undesirable. Gypsies, homosexuals, people with mental and physical disabilities and more.

      Our universities I don’t think are a hotbed of racism but I do think they are a breeding ground thanks to a good many of their educators being Far Left thinkers