On February 19 2020, student newspaper Honi Soit plunged into controversy after publishing material most would consider anti-semitic and anti-catholic. Just as new students were starting their journeys at University and looking for a place to belong, they were met with an abhorrent display of disrespect in their student paper. The satirical pullout featured a doctored image of a blackboard depicting the question “Should we get the Jews back for what they did to our absolute boy? Yes or No?”. The ‘Yes’ container was full. NSW Political Affairs Director for the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) Gabi Stricker-Phelps asked the Honi Soit Editors who “absolute boy” was referring. She was met with the cordial reply “It’s Jesus you fucking fool.”
The anti-semitic trope that Jews are “Christ killers” and collectively bear responsibility for Jesus’ death has a long and painful history, with its impacts still having significant effects on people today. It can be dated as far back as the 4th century, and was employed during the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust.
The doctored image was “satirically” attributed to the Catholic Society, as one of the polls they were conducting on campus about the ‘big moral questions’.
In response, the Honi Editors dug their heels in. The following issue of Honi featured a fictional dialogue between a Jew and a Catholic, mocking those students who had been offended by the material.
These ‘satirical’ pieces targeting Jewish and Catholic students alike are not out of character for the student rag. Honi Soit is a serial offender. Whether it’s the 2018 Honi Soit Cover glorifying suicide-bomber Hamida Mustafa al-Tahir as a “martyr”, or the relentless mocking of individual students in the 2019 ‘Burn Book’ series, what is clear is that the Honi Soit is an agent for bullying and bigotry.
Enough is enough. Honi Soit has been weaponised to target minorities and bully students for far too long, and the lack of remorse displayed by the team only suggests that this issue will not be resolved any time soon.
What has been revealed through this saga is the clear hypocrisy and double standards that are exercised by the radical left every day, and increasingly so by the student media at Sydney University. This initial attack of anti-semitism, followed by the mockery of students in distress after expressing their concerns over the comment, displays a dismissal of the feelings of minority students and furthermore a complete lack of responsibility for the harm that their actions caused.
For a newspaper such as Honi Soit that is published by Students’ Representative Council, and therefore is tasked with informing and serving students, it is difficult to find a case in which all students experience the same level of respect and support. Honi is notorious for picking ‘favourites’ and ‘least favourites’ when it comes to who is being portrayed in student media and the nature of that representation.
Looking at national public media groups, it would be extremely unlikely to see a body such as the ABC publish content that is directly attacking a group of society, and then, when one of those members express concern over the content, continue the attack in a later article. If a national broadcaster were to be charged with such behaviour, it would result in a formal apology and in some cases, the removal of whoever was responsible for that original publication. This is a result of the standards that all publicly funded organisations are expected to meet by virtue of being publicly funded. If the source of their funding is coming from the very people they report on, there is an expectation that those reports are created with a level of respect and dignity.
Likewise, because it is students who pay for Honi Soit (through the SSAF fee), all students should be afforded respect in the paper. This does not diminish the role of the media to hold power to account, or to report with integrity. However it is difficult to see how calling for racial retribution and then mocking anyone who expresses concern is fulfilling the mandate of the media.
So we say to the 2020 Editorial team of Honi Soit, who ran under ‘Fit for Honi’ in the student elections. You ran on a platform stating that “Honi is for everyone”. And while only two editions have been printed so far this Semester, it is clear that it is your Honi Soit, not ours. It represents the fringe radical left, and marginalises the majority of Sydney University students.
Fit for Honi? We call bluff. You are Unfit for Honi.
Laura Glase & Julia Kokic
Laura Glase is President of the Sydney University Conservative Club
Julia Kokic is Secretary of the Sydney University Conservative Club.