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University of Sydney political science professor John Keane. Picture: Supplied

Doxxing accusation amid University of Sydney anti-Semitism warnings

The University of Sydney is facing its second anti-Semitism crisis in as many days, as a leading Jewish group accuses one of its professors of putting out the names of dozens of Jewish colleagues on social media.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) alleges political scientist John Keane engaged in doxxing – the malicious release of a person’s information without their consent, which is an abbreviation of “dropping documents” – by publishing an internal email from a group of mostly Jewish ­academics on social media platform X (formerly Twitter).

The accusation comes amid a surge in pro-Palestinian activism on campuses that culminated in the recent establishment of protest encampments at the univer­sities of Sydney and Melbourne, following similar demonstrations in the US.

Footage of young children chanting “intifada” and calling Israel a “terrorist state” have emerged from a “kids excursion” organised by Macquarie University academic Randa Abdel-Fattah and the Families for Palestine group at the University of Sydney.

Dr Abdel-Fattah defended the protest, saying the children were offered a megaphone to “lead chants of their choosing”, ­accusing the ECAJ of “truly panicking, clutching at every racist, Islamophobic, anti-Palestinian trope” after the group condemned the event for indoctrinating the youngsters.

An alliance of concerned academics wrote to the University Chancellors Council on Friday to warn of an “alarming” rise in anti-Semitism on campuses, which was curtailing academic freedoms due to lectures by Israeli scholars being cancelled and events being disrupted. 

Tensions over where to draw the line on free speech have simmered at USyd since the Hamas terror attack on October 7, with one academic ­declaring the institution had ­“failed to rein in these very dark elements”.

Vice-chancellor Mark Scott wrote to staff in late October to ban a protest event called Palestine: The Case for a Global Intifada, warning that the university would not tolerate support for terrorists such as Hamas.

In an open letter to Professor Scott sent on November 6, Professor Keane said he did not welcome the direction to be tolerant in the face of “non-stop aerial bombardment, the illegal use of white phosphorus bombs on civilians, settler violence”. He also launched into an explanation of the origins of the word tolerance, concluding that it was a “form of colonialism”.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim. Picture: NCA Newswire/John Feder

“That’s why the silent double standard within your call for toleration is unwelcome and unwanted; and why, in these circumstances of war our university community must be free to say the unsayable, to speak more honestly about how it came to pass that a state born of the ashes of genocide is now hellbent on the ‘physical destruction in whole or in part’ (Genocide Convention Article II c) of a people known as Palestinians,” he said.

Seventeen academics responded in a mass email criticising Professor Keane – which he published on X – for failing to mention the atrocities of October 7 and his “repulsive reversal of victims and perpetrators in which you liken the actions of Israel to those of the Nazis”.

“There is also not one mention of the atrocities of October 7, which is not only deeply disappointing, but also a shockingly ­inhumane omission,” they said.

Campus Review understands that the matter was reported to the university, but those involved were not informed of an outcome of a review.

USyd was also found to have unlawfully dismissed lecturer Tim Anderson because of his comments on Israel and for superimposing a swastika on the Israeli flag in a lecture slide, after the Federal Court upheld his right to intellectual freedom in 2022.

In a submission to the Albanese government’s consultation on privacy reforms, the ECAJ ­argued the incident reached the threshold of doxxing, which has no specific legal definition.

“On 8 November 2023 the academic in question copied messages from other authorised users (Jewish academics at the university), including personal identifying information of those other authorised users, and without their consent republished that content on a social media ­platform accessible to members of the public at large, namely X (formerly Twitter),” the submission says.

“This resulted in those other authorised users becoming subjected to threatening, hateful and abusive messages from members of the public.”

The push to criminalise doxxing came after the publication of the details of about 600 Jewish creatives from a WhatsApp group by pro-Palestinian activists in February. ECAJ co-chief executive Peter Wertheim said he was pushing for doxxing to become a criminal offence rather than a civil tort when it “meets that threshold of seriousness should be criminally proscribed”.

Professor Keane was sent an ultimatum from the WZB Berlin Social Science Centre in November after publishing a picture that appears to show Hamas flags on October 8 on X.

A letter from WZB president Jutta Allmendinger, which Professor Keane posted on X, showed the social science institution had written to him threatening to “revoke” his fellowship if he did not condemn Hamas.

Professor Keane told his followers on X on November 29 that he had resigned from WZB after 25 years, saying he “condemns all acts of violence” and that he had published the post when in Berlin before news of October 7 “reached the world”, in another open letter on the dispute.

Professor Keane was contacted for comment. The University of Sydney said it could not comment on staff matters.

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