A troubling series of events involving The Australian newspaper and coverage of a supposedly “anti-Semitic attack” have left University of NSW political rivals sickened.
The supposed student victim of an “anti-Semitic attack” deliberately set out to publicise a story to punish a campus political rival. But once the story was out the consequences were awful for all concerned.
Yesterday, The Australian published on its front page a bizarre story linking two unrelated events — the serious bashing of a Jewish group at Sydney’s Bondi Beach and a re-enactment of the Springtime for Hitler scene from Mel Brooks’ musical The Producers during student elections at the University of New South Wales last week.
In a Sunday morning Facebook post, uncovered by Crikey, the alleged victim of the dance, Labor Right-aligned Australian Union of Jewish Students office bearer Jake Campbell, taps Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council policy analyst and Australian op-ed contributor Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz for assistance in publicising the spat involving independent candidates Stuart Maclaine, 19, and Dom Foffani, 20. Both had unreservedly apologised for the incident, had recently starred in a production of The Producers and were completely unaware of Campbell’s religious beliefs. Campbell wrote:
“Daniel Emkay [Meyerowitz-Katz] — As Stuart Maclaine did not promise to step down I would be very appreciative if you could help me put the story on the public record. Stuart needs to know that there are consequences for his actions”
He then sinks the boot into Maclaine, who he believes should resign from office:
“People like Stuart clearly need to be reminded that racism of any sort is not ok and that there will be consequences that will follow him.”
The next day AUJS published a public statement on its website drawing attention to the incident and linking it to the Bondi bashing:
“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.”
Thirty hours later, Australian hacks Ean Higgins and Jared Owens had published their piece — headlined “To Jewish leaders, incidents prove you can never top fighting anti-Semitism” — online. An accompanying editorial again named Maclaine and Foffani and stated erroneously that the “culprits” were “Young Labor activists from the Left”.
In a statement provided to Crikey this morning, Campbell denied point blank that he had ever made the request to Meyerowitz-Katz, despite evidence demonstrating exactly that: “I will say this, I did not request Daniel’s help in putting the incident on the public record. He had nothing to do with anything.”
When questioned about the disparity, Campbell said he was using “implied language”. He claims he urged Higgins not to run the story, but his pleas were ignored. He also urges Crikey not to follow it up: “I really don’t want to publicise this event any further. I did not want The Australian to run the article and begged Ean Higgins not to. Please don’t be guilty of the same nihlism as The Australian.
“If you do run the article — although, please, please do not — please do not mention Stuart and Dom’s names. AUJS took every pain possible in our public statement not to mention their names, I am angry at The Australian for their lack of journalistic conscience, please do not be guilty of the same.
“That being said, Stuart and Dom’s initial actions affected me greatly, and I consider those actions anti-Semitic. However, they publicly apologised, agreed to a statement being issued and Stuart resigned. “
Maclaine told Crikey this morning the incident had snowballed but he did not feel any ill will to Campbell: “I’m not confident that Jake Campbell intended it to go as publicly as it did. I think he may have been genuinely offended at the time, but after I apologised, and complied with his requests for my resignation and a statement in the campus newspaper, he assured us that the issue was closed. In our correspondences, and looking at Jake’s Facebook page, it looks like his own rhetoric and haste got the better of him, and it had rapidly spiraled out of control.
“I don’t bear Jake any ill-will, and after meeting with him and shaking his hand, I don’t think bears me any either.”
He slammed The Australian’s link with the unrelated Bondi incident: “I am now permanently associated with such an incident is very concerning. I don’t know why The Australian would seek to dilute the terribleness of those events in Bondi by linking them to a mistake and misunderstanding on a university campus, but it does no service to anyone — not us, not Jake, and not the Jewish community.
“To be honest this is the worst week I’ve ever been through. The demonisation of me in the Oz and other media is very hurtful, and made worse by the fact that I was not contacted or warned it was being published. The emotional effects of the harassment I have received have deeply affected me and my family who feel that the treatment of this situation was unfair given my apology and humility after the incident.”
The 2013 Student Representative Council elections at UNSW will go down as one of the dirtiest on record. Last week Crikey revealed that Campbell’s Stand Up! grouping had hatched a dubious preference deal with the controversial Overseas Students Association, controlled by mysterious Chinese millionaire Jan “Master” Shang.