Senator Jacqui Lambie – criticising some educators and unions for some Palestinian solidarity actions and calling for protests to be peaceful

November 29, 2023

According to the Age newspaper, these union teachers took pro-Palestinian badges and flags to give to their kids and they also encouraged the kids to march to attend an organised protest.

Senator LAMBIE (Tasmania) (19:54): Last week my office was called by a Melbourne mother in absolute distress. This mother lives in Caulfield and she had just been told that her children’s school had been advised not to wear their school uniforms until further notice. This mother is a Jewish Australia, and the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She remembers her mum and dad telling her about the Hitler Youth marches in German streets in the 1930s—how terrified they were and how glad they were to be in Australia, where they thought it was safe for Jewish people. Then she said that for the first time in her life she felt unsafe in Australia. That made me feel not only ashamed but angry.

Australia has one of the highest number of Holocaust survivors in the world, and many of those families are in Melbourne. At a pro-Palestinian rally in Melbourne last weekend there were chants, ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.’ In other words, the eradication of Israel. To Jewish Australians these marches are deeply hurtful. People marching and chanting for the eradication of Jews once again is absolutely terrifying.

I support Australians’ right to protest, but that protest has to be peaceful and not with the violence of language. Political and community leaders who attend these protests have a responsibility to lower the temperature where they can, not to dial it up. Palestinians are suffering terribly, but hate speech doesn’t help Palestinians. Hate speech divides us and causes more pain on all sides. Hate speech and division in our society are just what the terrorists want, and you’re playing right into their hands. Good for you!

What example does it set for our Aussie kids, that when we protest we have to call for the eradication or killing of others? My goodness! Is that what we want to teach them? It is important at times like these that leaders don’t take the easy path. It’s important at times like these that great leaders take the harder path and are able to see and hear the pain of all the people. But leaders in parts of our community are not choosing the hard path; on, no, they’re only choosing sides. They’re not only choosing sides but they’re ramping up the feelings of despair and failing to call out war crimes.

There are, perhaps, no more influential leaders in our communities than our teachers. Whether they are teaching our kids or our young people, they have a responsibility to set an example. On 13 October, just six days after the mass slaughter of 1,400 people, and before Israel had even launched any attack on Gaza, the National Tertiary Education Union, the union whose members are uni lecturers and academics, as they call themselves, passed a motion expressing unwavering support for Palestine and calling on members to join the pro-Palestinian rally the following Sunday. Remember that this was just six days after the Hamas terror attacks, and not a word of condemnation out of these academics about the evil and criminal acts committed by Hamas—oh, no! And then on 8 November, Lee Kofman, a Melbourne writer, organised an open letter signed by hundreds of Australian Jewish scholars, journalists and workers in the creative industries, who said that they felt unsafe in their workplaces and abandoned by their work colleagues. She said:

It really shook us to the core of our identity. We belong to this progressive tribe, but the progressive tribe doesn’t seem to have very progressive values when it comes to us Jews.

Another group of progressives who also don’t seem to be living up to their progressive values is the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union. This week they sent flyers to Victorian schools asking teachers and kids to join what they called a ‘week of action in solidarity with Palestine’. The flyers have a raised fist in the Palestinian colours and an invitation for teachers and school staff to take part. Attached to the flyer was a list of reasons in calling for this action, including, ‘As teachers, we teach history so that mistakes are not repeated’. Really? I’ll ask you bloody teachers this: is one of the subjects you teach the history of antisemitism and the Holocaust? Do you teach 3,000 years of antisemitism?

According to the Age newspaper, these union teachers took pro-Palestinian badges and flags to give to their kids and they also encouraged the kids to march to attend an organised protest. The Deputy Premier of Victoria and Minister for Education, Ben Carroll, condemned the Australian Education Union for this, and he was right to do so. What these union teachers did is completely wrong; their leadership is absolutely disgusting and they should be bloody ashamed of themselves. I thank God every day that they aren’t teaching my kids. Apparently, you’re the lecturers and the academics that are leading this fight. You’re leading this! You’re causing more harm than good, and if you can’t see that then you should not be teaching. I’ll tell you right now: you are shameful. You are leaders and you have no right to abuse your power, but that is exactly what you have done—you have abused your power. It is possible to have sympathy and show kindness to all people affected by war and conflict. That is the leadership that our Aussie kids need to see.

Link to Parliamentary Hansard