Friday, May 9, 2014

Viva Australian Student Activism 3

Continued from my previous post:


"Although the criticism of AUS increased in the 1975 debate, the arguments changed on the substance of the questions. Most of the debate rested on whether or not a democratic secular state was viable and whether or not the PLO was sincere in calling for one.

"The outcry over AUS involvement in this issue a second time was best expressed by the extraordinary Mungo MacCallum in Nation Review, in a virtual reprint of his 1974 article. The article was reprinted in an AUJS leaflet...: 'Last year the AUS Council sought ratification of motions designed to align Australia with the PLO and against Israel. In spite of the scandalous abuse of AUS resources in almost exclusively promoting the 'yes' case, student meetings around the country overwhelmingly rejected the council position... But... the AUS heavies have refused to accept the democratic verdict of the people they claim to represent and it's all on again.' (AUS's unofficial anti-Israel line, Nation Review, April 4-10, 1975) MacCallum went on to make startling allegations about the appointment of [Victorian left ALP activist] Bill Hartley as Education Research Officer on 'an unprecedented salary', and questioned whether AUS ought to meddle in affairs in which it has no influence. MacCallum was enthusiastically quoted and embroidered upon in a number of places. In every new leaflet and article, Bill Hartley's salary and conditions improved. By the time he reached the pages of Arena in May 1975, Hartley's salary had jumped $2,000 and he had a car and expenses as well.

"Two unauthorised leaflets distributed on Melbourne campuses attempted to win support by characterising the 1975 motions as a deliberate affront to the 'stupid' AUS membership. The leaflets posed the threat that support for the PLO '... means the Executive of AUS would have the right to give part of your membership money to the PLO to finance such activities as the murder of civilians...' Graffiti at [Sydney's] Macquarie [University] put it more simply: 'YOU WASTE HALF A MILLION STUDENT DOLLARS ON YOUR FILTH AND LIES.' (The leaflets were titled: 'At it Again!' and 'You Are Stupid (Says AUS)'. [A photograph of] the graffiti [can be seen] in Arena 23/4/75.)

"The crux of the debate, however, lay in the issue of the democratic secular state [of Palestine] raised in the first motion. As Simon Marginson points out, it was difficult for AUJS to oppose the concept of a democratic secular state or support for the UN resolution since they had used the UN to legitimise their own claims to occupied Palestine the year before. The main aim of their opposition was to discredit the notion of the democratic secular state by pointing to the Arab regimes and places such as Cyprus and Northern Ireland. Attempts were also made to discredit the UN itself, a move which placed AUJS members on the same par with the establishment which claims the UN has never really been useful since it became dominated by third world countries.

"The motions were defeated again but by a greatly decreased majority. Motion 1 [the democratic secular state of Palestine] was supported by 19% of campuses and by 25% of students voting. [Motion 2, AUS recognition of PLO] was supported by 16% of campuses and 20% of students. (Alternate News Service No 43 August 4, 1975) The fourfold increase in student support was due to several factors.


"1976 was a good year for Zionist students and their allies, the Liberals and the Murdoch press. It was just like having the Middle East debate in 1974 and 1975 without the hoary questions of Israel and the Palestinians intruding. Most delegates will be aware of the scope of the attacks specifically from Zionist quarters in 1976 and we may be sure they will come up again during Council. They included:

1. The hounding of employees, former officers and... employees of AUS and its subsidiary service companies.
2. Ludicrous attacks on any officer if any bias was shown towards the Palestinian people. Of course, since most of the incoming officers had supported the gag motion it might be argued they could not have their cake and eat it too. However, AUS's only policy on the Middle East supported the right of the Palestinians to be heard in Australia so it could also be argued that as officers and individuals they had the right to attend demonstrations against Moshe Dayan and to generally be critical of Israel. However, at the anti-Dayan demonstration in Sydney, an Arab woman, unknown to any of the students present, was carrying a sign reading 'AUS for Palestine'. Outraged Zionists demanded that Macquarie [University's] AUS secretary or the NSW RO Sarah Sheehan remove the sign from the woman. Anonymous letters were printed in student papers accusing Sheehan of standing near the sign. One such letter, in Cautisone, even criticised Rodd Webb, former FCC and no longer even a member of the Union, for standing near the sign.
3. An unauthorised leaflet alleging close contacts between present AUS officers and Henri Fischer.
4. Continual attacks in the daily press from such people as [Frank] Knopfelmacher alleging AUS supports terrorism.
5. Most important [were Michael] Danby's proposals for wiping out left-wing influence in AUS.

"Ironically, 1976, of all years, was the year during which Israel's international image was severely tarnished. The West Bank riots and their brutal suppression; the closer connections with South Africa; the growing right-wing within Israel; the public service report attempting to further disadvantage Arabs in Israeli society; and the plight of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon expressed in the massacre of Tel-az-Zaatar are just a few of the ways in which Israel and the Palestinians were talking points. The only high point for the West in this dismal year for Israel was the raid at Entebbe, complete in paperback and 70mm. It says something about the nature of a country that it regards as its public relations high point the invasion of another country.

"The reaction of the Zionists and the repercussions for AUS made the Middle East debate one with wider implications. Obviously, as a students' union, AUS must involve itself in concerns related to education and students, but even policies in those areas may be compromised by the refusal of AUS leaders to debate Palestine in 1976. What use is our policy on Southern Africa; our policy against Fraser and cuts in spending; our policy for the repeal of all abortion laws if, as soon as a well-organised, noisy and unprincipled opposition emerges, we immediately back down? The policy AUS passed relating to the rights of the Palestinian people to put their case to the Australian people is just so much humbug when we consider that the leaders of AUS would not even allow their own membership to debate the question of Israel. To claim, as right-wingers and Zionists do, that the vote in both [1974 and 1975] just showed how unrepresentative the leadership of AUS misses the point. As Rodd Webb put it in an analysis of the 1974 debate in Arena: 'None of their sponsors really expected [the 1974 motions] to receive majority support [but]... it was a heartening demonstration of the operation of a wider democracy (in AUS) than had been practised before'."

Points of interest arising:

1) Journalist David Marr's observation on Julia Gillard as a student politician: "She wanted to take Palestine out of the AUS." (See my 14/8/10 post The Real Julia Gillard.)

2) For Tony Abbott, the AUS, and Palestine, I refer you to my 13/9/12 post Greg & Tony Do Monash.

3) Someone really ought to research the AUS's 1970s Palestine campaign thoroughly and examine its impact on our current crop of political suckholes for USrael.

4) And also for what light it sheds on the evolution of Zionist propaganda. You'll notice, for example, that one of the most common of contemporary Zionist talking points, the deflective, 'Why single out Israel? What about X, Y, and Z? ', had yet to be spun in the 70s.

Maybe I'll return to the subject of this campaign later on.


Anonymous said...

Your continued attempts to whitewash Arab/palestinian actions whilst blackening zionist/jewish aims only serve to push you so far out of the pausible and acceptable bell curve of humanity, that you end up with much less credibility than if you stuck to the truth.

I was there during the 1974-1977 PLO/Israel university conflict.


Wonderful adverisement for open student dialogue.......that attack went viral on the newspapers, and disgusted most of the neutral students who otherwise had sympathy for palestinian rights.

stop trying to play a 100% v 0 game.
Life is not so in australia, and your credibility suffers.

MERC said...

I love that formulation: "went viral on the newspapers." Very 70s I must say.

O Chosen One from the Very Height of the Bell Curve of Humanity would you mind citing one of those newspaper reports for me?

Anonymous said...

how typical.
instead of addressing the disgusting unprovoked assaults by armed coward plo thugs, you try and use the very diversion tactics you always accuse zionists of using.

if its so important for you, look it up yourself.

if you cannot acknowledge your own dark moments dont expect to ever do more than talk to your owm already converted, and ofcourse, your large mirror

MERC said...

Hey, troll, you made the accusation. If you can't document it, pull your head in. BTW, how much do you get paid for your emissions?