Friday, 3 May 2013

Letters The OZ 3/5 UNSW condemns views

UNSW condemns views

  • The Australian 
  • May 03, 2013 12:00AM

  • YOUR editorial ("Unis tolerating intolerance", 1/5) ignores the fact that UNSW released a statement on Tuesday strongly condemning anti-Semitic views posted on social media in relation to the BDS campaign against the opening of a Max Brenner shop on our campus.
    The fact that The Australian omitted to mention the statement in its otherwise comprehensive coverage of the protest, which in the event attracted no more than 50 supporters, did no service to your readers, some of whom are obviously under the impression that the university was silent on the matter (Letters, 1/5).
    That said, the editorial makes a number of claims that must be challenged. The anti-Semitic comments in question were made on external social media sites - sites over which this university has no control. More seriously, to suggest as the editorial does that the university should not tolerate a protest on campus on this or any other issue totally misconstrues the role and responsibilities of universities in a democratic society. To use the words of the editorial, we do not support any action that would ban the exchange of ideas between people in liberal democracies.
    That is why we do not accept the limitations on the free exchange of ideas demanded by the BDS movement, and why the Max Brenner shop will open as scheduled on our campus in early June. But it is also why, on the same principle, we support and encourage the free expression of diverse views on campus - as long as it is lawful, respectful and responsible.
    Professor Fred Hilmer, vice-chancellor, UNSW
    AS a strong supporter of the Palestinian people, I believe that BDS is a peaceful and ultimately effective way of pressuring the Israeli government to stop its illegal settlements, to temper its arrogance and negotiate a just settlement with the Palestinian people.
    I have, therefore, watched with dismay as the local BDS campaigners have continually targeted the "soft touch" chocolate franchise Max Brenner while ignoring other much larger companies.
    The local BDS campaigners are doing the Palestinian cause a disservice.
    Alastair Harris, Braidwood, NSW

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