Organisations representing the Jewish community have accused the University of Sydney’s student-run newspaper of “textbook anti-Semitism” over a satirical photograph in its weekly publication.

By Natassia Chrysanthos
The Sydney Morning Herald
March 2, 2020

An image published in a satire section of Honi Soit last week shows a blackboard with the words: “Should we get the Jews back for what they did to our absolute boy [Jesus]? Yes or No?“. Pictured next to the blackboard are containers where students can vote for an answer with paddle-pop sticks.

The satirical section of Honi Soit which has been criticised as anti-Semitic by groups representing the Jewish community.
The satirical section of Honi Soit which has been criticised as anti-Semitic by groups representing the Jewish community.CREDIT:HONI SOIT

The Australian Union of Jewish Students political affairs director Gabi Stricker-Phelps, daughter of former Wentworth MP Kerryn Phelps, said the image was “an instance of a student newspaper openly laughing about taking retribution against Jews”, while her colleague Daniel Elberg labelled it “textbook anti-Semitism”.

“As a student at the University of Sydney I hope that there will be serious consequences for such irresponsible and reckless writing,” Ms Stricker-Phelps said.

But the student editors of Honi Soit, which is published independently by the university’s student council, defended their publication against allegations of anti-semitism.

The image imitates polls conducted by the university’s Catholic society, which stations blackboards around the university campus and invites students to answer ethical questions by placing an object in a container marked yes or no.

“We think it’s quite clearly satirical. It’s the Catholic society we’re making fun of. We reject the idea it was antisemitic to publish, because we’re making fun of antisemitism within the Catholic church,” the editors said.

“We won’t be apologising. It’s important to mention the person who wrote the joke is a left-wing Jewish student and a member of our editorial team. Honi Soit believes in punching up with our humour. It’s a central part of our ethos. Any reasonable person reading this would take it as a joke.”

A University of Sydney spokeswoman said they were investigating the complaint raised by the Jewish students union.

“We do not condone the use of this image,” the spokeswoman said. “We believe Honi Soit has a duty of care to their fellow students to ensure our campus remains one where racist, intimidating, abusive or threatening behaviours are not tolerated.”
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff backed the Jewish students union. “The fact that this message is contained in a supposedly satirical publication does nothing to mitigate its potential harmful fallout,” he said.
“It is disgraceful that the student newspaper of one of our respected universities would publish the reprehensible allegation that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus – a false claim which has been the single biggest cause of antisemitism … [This], exacerbated by an open threat of violence, can only create divisiveness and fear on campus.”