THE intolerant Left was at it again on Wednesday, this time at the taxpayer-subsidised University of Sydney where a group of demonstrators attempted to disrupt a lunchtime lecture by Richard Kemp on ethical dilemmas of military tactics.
Kemp, a retired British military officer and security consultant, is a former commander of British armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was the subject of a tough but fair interview by Fran Kelly on Radio National Breakfast on Wednesday before proceeding to Sydney University for a public event hosted by a couple of academics.
During his Radio National interview, Kemp supported the tactics used by the Israel Defence Forces in its recent war with Hamas-led Gaza.
Kemp’s point was that, by placing its rocket launchers and building its attack tunnels in heavily populated areas, Hamas essentially used the citizens of Gaza as human shields. Consequently, the legitimate actions of the IDF, in stopping the rockets and destroying the attack tunnels, inevitably would have the unintended consequence of killing and injuring civilians.
This was a tough-minded but valid point. No democratically elected government — whether based in London, Paris, Washington or Canberra — would do nothing while a declared enemy across a border fired rockets and planned military raids aimed at killing and kidnapping. Why should the democratically elected leaders of Israel be expected to act differently?
According to the report by Glen Falkenstein on the J-Wire website, Kemp had covered only non-state militant groups in Ireland and Afghanistan when a small group of demonstrators entered the lecture theatre. As is common with the extremes of Left and Right, demonstrators prefer slogans to argument. So this lot chanted in unison: “Richard Kemp / You can’t hide / You support genocide.”
Of course, Kemp has never advocated genocide. And he was not trying to hide. To the radical Left, however, such facts are of no moment. After all, “hide” rhymes with “genocide” and there was a lecture to disrupt.
A demonstrator, equipped with a megaphone, drowned out Kemp and the academic moderator.
Enter Jake Lynch, director of Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. He happens to be one of the leading activists in the Australian chapter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign aimed at disabling the Israeli economy. Lynch was present in the audience when the attempted disruption began.
On Thursday, I engaged in correspondence with Lynch and he provided me with some brief iPhone videos of the occasion, which he had filmed. The footage indicates that protesters physically resisted attempts by security to remove them.
Lynch’s iPhone video indicates that a middle-aged woman threw water at some demonstrators. A still photo of the occasion shows Lynch thrusting a $5 note in the face of a person he called the “older lady”.
Lynch advised me that he did this to warn the woman in question that he “would have no option but to sue her for assault if she carried on — which would cost her a lot of money”.
This seems highly unprofessional behaviour on the part of one of Sydney University’s associate professors with respect to a member of the public visiting the campus.
You wonder what the vice-chancellor thinks about such action on the part of one of his senior academics.
In the event, Lynch’s legal threat was of no moment.
As Lynch conceded in his correspondence with me, he “emerged without injury” from the occasion.
But not without involvement. Lynch did not object to the attempt by the left-wing radicals to disrupt Kemp’s address.
In Lynch’s words: “I took a seat at the meeting, and left it only to remonstrate with University security guards when they used force to eject the demonstrators.”
In other words, Lynch’s position is that the demonstrators should have been allowed to prevent Kemp from speaking. According to Lynch, “The security guards’ sole remit in such circumstances should be to prevent harm being done.”
I asked Lynch whether he would accept protesters attempting to disrupt speeches at his Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies by opponents of Israel such as John Pilger and Hanan Ashrawi.
His response was the familiar “that’s different” argument.
Lynch wrote to me as follows: “I would dispute the parallel with John Pilger or Hanan Ashrawi. I have never heard either of them deliver a speech that was disingenuous or deceitful in the way of the remarks by Colonel Kemp.”
This rationalisation of intolerance overlooks the fact Kemp’s speech was disrupted before he even discussed Israel or the Hamas Islamists who run Gaza.
Lynch uses his influence to run campaigns against Israel. He is the poster-boy for the Left’s dominance of so many social science departments at so many Australian universities.
Born in 1965 to members of the British Communist Party, Lynch joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament when the middle-class radicals who comprised the CND believed the West should disarm.
This would have left the communist dictatorship in Moscow victorious in the Cold War.
As Lynch revealed in an ABC Classic FM interview with Margaret Throsby in April 2009, he criticises all Western leaders, but always from the Left. His targets include Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and Kevin Rudd, in addition to political conservatives.
The evidence suggests that what takes place at Lynch’s centre is little more than a left-wing stack. He believes that anti-Israel demonstrators have a right to disrupt lectures provided no physical harm is caused, but does not advocate such behaviour for his own functions.
This is a manifestation of what left-wing Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse once advocated. Marcuse called for tolerance for the Left but “intolerance towards the self-styled conservatives”.
It’s unlikely that the student demonstrators today have heard of Marcuse, but they practise his teachings, nevertheless.