Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

Opposition challenges government to tear up student visas over alleged antisemitism

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun2,2024
Key Points
  • The Opposition has challenged the government to revoke international student visas if people engage in antisemitism.
  • Senator James Paterson claims the contentious “from the river to the sea” chant could be grounds for cancellation.
  • Student advocacy groups argue domestic and international students should not be treated differently.
The federal Opposition has challenged the government to cancel the visas of international students demonstrating antisemitism, suggesting this includes some of those participating in pro-Palestinian encampments.
Some pro-Palestinian encampments have been established at universities across Australia, with students demanding institutions cut ties with weapons manufacturing companies, disclose and divest from all entities involved in Israel’s military operation in Gaza, and cut academic ties with Israel.

The Opposition has accused Labor of failing to combat antisemitism on campuses.

Liberal senator James Paterson suggested partaking in chants such as could be grounds for international students to lose their visas.
“The immigration minister and the home affairs minister have very significant powers to cancel people’s visas on character grounds,” he said on Tuesday morning.
“And some of those character grounds include inciting discord in our community, engaging in racial and religious intolerance, political extremism and support for terrorism.
“All of those are grounds for some of these student protesters to have their visas cancelled. We have seen horrific antisemitism from those protesters.”

The Opposition said it would use section 116 of the Migration Act to cancel the visas of any person “who is or may be a risk to the health, safety or good order of the Australian community or segment of the Australian community”.

Close up of a politician with blue glasses, wearing a suit.

Opposition spokesperson for home affairs James Paterson says Labor has failed to curb antisemitism at university campuses. Source: AAP / MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

Responding to Paterson’s comments, Greens leader Adam Bandt said it was “not right” to label the “river to the sea chant” as antisemitic.

“For many people who were chanting that, it means freedom for all people who live in that area,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“Now, that is a legitimate aspiration and one that even members of the government say that they support.”
The phrase is considered by some Jewish communities as a call for the destruction of Israel, while Palestinians consider it a call for freedom.

Bandt said Paterson’s comments deflected attention from the Gaza conflict and the alleged war crimes being committed by Israel.

Both Labor and the Opposition have repeatedly condemned antisemitic comments and acts in the community.

On Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said there was “no place in our society” for acts such as the vandalism of a Jewish school in Melbourne over the weekend.

Protecting students right to free speech

Belle Lim, former president of the Council of International Students Australia, said it was important for students to maintain their rights to free speech.
“While we condemn racism in no uncertain terms, including both antisemitism and Islamophobia, the Opposition should be careful not to infringe on international students’ rights to free thoughts and speech, which is precisely a key reason why students pursue higher education at Australian universities,” she told SBS News.
“Governments and universities should treat domestic and international students equally on this matter.”

Lim said the Opposition risked inciting division with such threats and called on the “support of international students from Palestine and Israel during this challenging time”.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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