Blaming The Victims: What Really Happened At The Colonel Kemp USyd Protest

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If it weren’t for the video footage which I have in my possession, I would probably find it hard to believe the story I am about to tell. Anyone interested can trace the development of contradictions and exaggerations from one source to the next. I will simply point out that the four videos which I will include in this story give us a pretty good idea of what actually happened.

Readers can draw their own conclusions about whose claims are flatly contradicted by the video footage.

So let us start with the first account of what happened during the protest against Colonel Richard Kemp at the University of Sydney last week.

Glen Falkenstenstein, from the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) wrote an article, under the suitably dramatic headline “Riot at Sydney University”. It explained that Kemp was giving a talk on military tactics, when a group of over a dozen students came into the hall, chanting “Richard Kemp, you can’t hide, you support genocide”. One of them utilised a megaphone.

Falkenstein’s account then got… interesting. He claimed that “Protestors wrestled with security guards who had asked them to leave and were then forced to remove them. Protestors stood on chairs, began to push students and shout loudly at those who objected to their behaviour.”

Furthermore, Jake Lynch allegedly “shouted in the faces of students, including at a senior officer of the Jewish student union. He then proceeded to stand on chairs and film attendees. Lynch screamed that attempts to remove the protestors was a violent attack on freedom of speech by security guards.”

It took “20 minutes of shouting” for the protesters to be “finally removed”, having “objected loudly” to their treatment by the security guards for some reason.

Professor Suzanne Rutland from University of Sydney was then quoted explaining that “when they stand there chanting, ‘free Palestine’ what they mean is the dismantling of the Zionist entity which means genocide against Israel’s Jewish population”.

Peter Wertheim, the Executive Director of the Executive Council of Jewry – the national body representing Australian Jews – commented that the protester’s “attempts to bully campus security personnel who restored order was also shameful”.

Then came the account by the Australian Jewish News. It featured a video – more on that soon – and more of the same.

AJN paraphrased the account of Falkenstein: “Protesters stood on chairs, began to push students and shout loudly at those who objected to their behaviour.” It then repeated, without credit, his claim that Lynch “shouted in the face of students”, and “screamed” that this was “a violent attack on freedom of speech”.

It then added this claim: “He was also seen holding money to the face of a Jewish student and filmed students in attendance without their consent.”

There is a photo of him holding what looks like five dollars, though it is not entirely clear if it’s to a man in the photo, or someone not in the frame (which, as we will see, is far more likely).

The Australasian Union of Jewish Students decided to step up the rhetoric. AUJS national political director Julian Kowal explained in the Jewish News that they condemn “the highly aggressive tactics” of the protestors used to “intimidate audience members”. It was “undoubtedly intended to intimidate the largely Jewish student audience and make them feel unwelcome at the University of Sydney”.

He claimed that Lynch intimidated Jewish students by hurling verbal abuse and filming them without their permission “after he was repeatedly asked to stop”.

Furthermore, “Many of the Jewish students were traumatised by the highly confronting and violent experience, and will feel unsafe to attend future public lectures and events with the fear of further abuse”.

Helpfully, AUJS offered support and guidance to those who needed it from this terrible and traumatic experience of violent intimidation.

And then came the petition – with almost 4500 signatories at the time of writing. It repeats the claims already made, and calls on the University of Sydney to fire Lynch.

Naturally, the Murdoch press also picked up the story. Ean Higgins in the Australian said Lynch was under “renewed pressure” over the petition. Kemp denounced him, as did AUJS, again.

The national chairman of AUJS, Dean Sherr explained that “Waving money in the face of Jewish people screams of the classical anti-Semitic falsehood that Jews are obsessed with money”. Higgins reported that Lynch denied the allegations, but didn’t bother to explain if either side was right or wrong.

Strangely enough, Gerard Henderson came the closest to an accurate account. He explained that he had corresponded with Lynch, who provided him with footage of the protest. Henderson acknowledged that “Lynch’s iPhone video indicates that a middle-aged woman threw water at some demonstrators”.

However, Henderson also claimed that Lynch threatening to sue her – which he somehow didn’t pick up from Lynch’s videos – was “of no moment. As Lynch conceded in his correspondence with me, he ‘emerged without injury’ from the occasion.”

Apparently, Henderson believes that assault is legal if it doesn’t cause injury.

If we turn to the more highbrow Murdoch press, the Daily Telegraph reported on Lynch’s claim that the “elderly Jewish woman… believed to be 75 years old” assaulted him.

He threatened to sue her, which was where the photo of the five-dollar note came from. Also reported: “In a video viewed by The Saturday Telegraph, Dr Lynch can be seen arguing with the woman before she throws out her right arm at him.”

So the Telegraph admitted that Lynch was assaulted by this woman. Now, let us turn to the facts of what happened.

Here’s the video featured at the AJN.

It begins with the protesters coming in chanting about genocide. Kemp smiles at the entrance, apparently not too traumatised yet. They begin by saying the University of Sydney was being hypocritical in letting Kemp speak, after banning Hizb ut Tahrir. Within 50 seconds of the protest the audience starts booing as the speaker with the megaphone denounces the attack on Gaza last year.

The rest of the protesters stand around, as security guards start filing in.

UTS academic at Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, Paddy Gibson – who I know from my days of involvement with Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney – can be seen towards the front of the protest. As the speaker is getting drowned out, she seems to give up and they start chanting again.

At 1:15 you can see a woman in a maroon top get up, as she throws water from her water bottle at people off-screen – presumably protesters. 

A still of the video, showing water being thrown on protestors by the 'red-haired woman' (in the bottom right of the photo).

The camera cuts to the audience. A young woman watches with a smile, seemingly amused. Several others in the audience appear to be filming the incident with their phones, one is taking a photo with a fancy looking camera.

The young woman turns to the camera seemingly laughing.

By 1:31, the guards are already pushing the protesters, their patience apparently exhausted. The woman with the loudspeaker goes with the tide, but a young man struggles a bit, as a guard holds him around the body from behind and tries to push him out of the venue.

The students now chant “Free Free Palestine”. Paddy Gibson can now also be seen becoming more prominent in the protest, chanting and clapping “Free Free”. The lights go out, presumably during the struggle to expel the protesters. It’s mostly the one young man who struggles and gives the security guards difficulties.

It should be noted that the entirety of his resistance is trying to prevent himself from being forcibly removed by them. The AJN featured a still image of him in a full nelson hold by the guards. Whatever one thinks about his resistance, he is clearly not the one being aggressive.

At 2:42, the lights are back on and you can see Jake Lynch filming the protesters (like many others in the audience, as noted). A young male protester standing by the side criticises Israel for suppressing free speech.

Lynch quietly speaks to people near him, who allow him to walk past, where he goes to talk to the guards. Their discussions are quiet, and civil, which is slightly different to what was claimed about him – and remember, this is the video featured on the Jewish News website.

How exactly this is supposed to have traumatised Jewish students – well, you can judge for yourselves. And that’s the footage the AJN was willing to publish.

Then there’s Lynch’s videos. He filmed three of them.

 

VIDEO 1 begins with the students in their “genocide” chanting phase. A woman with red hair and a pink top can be seen throwing water at someone off screen, first at the 7 second mark, then at 0:11.

At about 0:14 someone appears to be trying to block her, and a voice says twice “sit down”. A young protester with luridly pink or red hair – now soaking wet – leans towards her, and conversationally asks her her name. She leans in closer to respond.

Meanwhile, the protesters are being pushed, whilst Gibson stands nearby, making himself a minor nuisance, but not doing much to actively resist, beyond putting his arm in the way.

Three guards manhandle the young actively resisting protester. The wet-hair protester can be seen trying to resist expulsion too, to little effect.

There is more struggling, before a protester is dragged away by his legs.

 

VIDEO 2 begins with the red-haired woman, who I would estimate to be elderly, as the Telegraph said, rather than middle aged, as Henderson said. If there is any evidence in her appearance that she is a student, as claimed by the AJN, AIJAC and AUJS, it is not readily apparent.

At about the two-second mark, her hand comes toward and appears to strike the camera.

Lynch can be heard explaining, “This is the woman who has assaulted me by kicking me and who has thrown water over me”.

As he says this, at the 6-second mark, she reaches for water. She unscrews the top, and then moves to throw water. The camera jerks away, but water still seems to be seen striking the person next to Lynch.

The camera moves to show water on a green surface nearby. Lynch explains that that’s what she’s done, and says to someone that “this is what you should be stopping”.

 

IN VIDEO 3 the red-haired woman is talking to some security guards. Someone says “we have it on camera”. She sees the camera, and rushes towards it at around 0:12. The camera jerks around, and we can then see her hand moving, and she is nearby the camera.

Lynch says: “Yep, again. See? This is going to cost you a lot of money”. Which he repeats a few times.

Some men stand between the two. Eventually the camera shows another guard is talking to Lynch too. Lynch says “I was in the audience”, and the guard moves his head with newfound understanding and moves away.

The woman looks at the camera again, and gestures at it with her arm. She seems to strike at it again, the camera jerks (1:05), and Lynch says “It’s going to cost you a lot of money”.

At about 1:11, her body moves a bit, the camera moves down towards her legs, and he says “keep going”. It may be at this moment that she kicked him, but the camera doesn’t catch it.

Lynch keeps saying “keep going”, and then “get your money out”. Which was what he kept saying – threatening her with legal action for assaulting him.

“It’s going to cost you a lot of money”, and he makes a money gesture with his hand. A woman nearby tells him “please leave”, and says he’s being anti-Semitic, which she repeated a few times. He said that he’s a professor at the University and had a right to be there. Which he also repeated, then asked how he was being anti-Semitic.

She then walked away, as he turned the camera on her and said the other woman would owe him “a lot of money for assaulting me”. Another man said that the red-haired woman “needs to be removed from the event”. She then says “I’m going to sit down”.

Veteran Jewish activist Vivienne Porzsolt can be seen speaking to her, pointing her finger at her. She ignores Vivienne, then appears to stand with her body in front of Vivienne for an extended period, her back turned to Vivienne.

The red haired woman then appears to threaten to throw water at Lynch again, he threatens to sue her again. A man says he’s provoking her, Lynch says she doesn’t need to be provoked.

As to the factual questions, this doesn’t entirely prove everything claimed by Lynch. As it happens, it also doesn’t disprove everything claimed by AIJAC, AUJS and so on.

Lynch has claimed that the red-haired woman repeatedly kicked him in the groin, and that she also assaulted his wife, Dr Annabel McGoldrick.

The video footage does not prove any of the kicking, but is strongly suggestive of at least one attempt to strike the camera, and numerous instances of throwing water on people.

As for Lynch waving money at someone, it seems highly likely that in one of the instances when he said the assaults would cost the woman “a lot of money”, that was the occasion that included the gesture with money.

As for Lynch shouting in the face of students, as alleged by AIJAC, the AJN and AUJS?

Protesters standing on chairs and pushing students?

ECAJ’s claim that the protester’s “attempts to bully campus security personnel”?

AUJS claims about the “highly aggressive” tactics of the protesters?

The attempt to “intimidate” the largely Jewish audience?

Well, readers can draw their own conclusions about the factual claims they’ve made.

What actually happened was a group of protesters disrupted a speech by a man who has distinguished himself with his shameless defences of Israeli massacres. You can get a sense of his moral and factual compass by this story in the AJN: “Kemp: Hamas tunnels like Auschwitz”.

I don’t agree with their decision to try to prevent Kemp from speaking, but I understand why they didn’t admire him.

Security guards almost immediately responded by aggressively manhandling the protesters to push and drag them out of the lecture theatre. As this met with some resistance, it took a while to kick them out.

AUJS and AIJAC then reported that the Jewish audience was “traumatised” by this aggression – not by the guards, but by the protesters, who at most resisted being shoved out of the room.

One elderly woman repeatedly threw water on protesters and Jake Lynch, and allegedly kicked him and his wife repeatedly. Video evidence suggests she struck at him or his camera. He responded by threatening to sue her if she continued, and he started trying to film her and her assaults.

Neither did much good in deterring her. This then became proof of his depravity – it was alleged that he made an anti-Semitic gesture at a student (no-one has made any suggestion as to how anyone, let alone Lynch, would know that she’s Jewish or a student). And shouted at students. And screamed about what the guards were doing.

Now the university is reportedly investigating whether they should fire Lynch. How the Jewish students were traumatised has not yet been explained. Perhaps they can’t handle being in the presence of people with different political opinions.

Obviously, they weren’t upset by seeing protesters forcibly removed without any attempt at negotiation. They don’t seem to have been troubled by the apparent assaults by the red-haired woman. The numerous people filming the protesters also didn’t trouble anyone – nor did the AJN publishing a video of the protest, without gaining the consent of everyone filmed.

But Lynch doing so apparently was offensive: filming someone assaulting him apparently was deeply offensive. Presumably because it may have provided a counter-argument for all the claims of anti-Semitism and misconduct levelled against him.

Which brings me to the perhaps funniest part of this incident: the letter by Colonel Kemp about the protest. I encourage everyone to read it. He claims that the “aggression” of the protesters “intimidated” the audience, including its elderly members.

The audience “appeal[ing]” to the protesters to leave resulted in “even greater aggression, including personal verbal abuse”.

In “some cases I saw the protestors deliberately and aggressively invade the personal space of members of the audience, including at least one elderly woman.”

He claimed that Dr Nicholas Riemer** and Jake Lynch “who were both apparently leading and encouraging the protesters, screamed at the security officers to desist”, and otherwise tried to “intimidate” them (note that neither were part of the protest which they allegedly led – and we can only speculate how Colonel Kemp could possibly recognise either of them).

Colonel Kemp had no doubt the audience was “greatly and understandably traumatised”. He “observed” Lynch “waving money in the face of a Jewish student”, and drew the conclusions seen above. The point of the protest was anti-Semitism and “intimidating Jews” at the University. Kemp concluded that this was “racially-motivated aggression, intimidation and abuse”.

When you consider that Colonel Kemp has distinguished himself in his defence of Israeli massacres, this becomes deeply enlightening. If anyone was aggressive in this story, it is those who used violence – the security guards, who used it as a first resort, and the woman who assaulted Lynch, and perhaps his wife too.

The real story here is yet another attempt to smear opponents of Israeli massacres as anti-Semites, and the ongoing campaign to destroy Jake Lynch’s career for his principled opposition to how Israel treats the Palestinians.

The facts are all there about what happened – you can watch the videos yourself.

Whether the factual records makes any difference, well, we will soon find out.

* Professor Jake Lynch is a lecturer at Sydney University, and an occasional contributor to New Matilda.

** Dr Nick Reimer is also an occasional contributor to New Matilda.

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.

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