(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A Sydney professor accused of anti-Semitism will be able to keep his job following an internal university investigation, The Australian Jewish News reported Tuesday.
Officials at the University of Sydney began investigating Jake Lynch, who heads the university’s Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, after a March incident in which he and a group of students burst into a lecture by Col. Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, and accused him of supporting genocide.
As they were removed from the room, Lynch hurled verbal abuse at pro-Israel students, accusing them of stifling the protesters’ free speech. One elderly member of the audience physically attacked Lynch over the disruption, prompting him to wave cash in her face and scream “it’s going to cost you a lot of money,” according to AJN.
While many Australian Jews considered his response to be anti-Semitic, Lynch has denied harboring any such sentiments.
“Following this sequence of events, I and my wife were subjected to a series of physical attacks by a member of the audience, whom I ultimately felt it justified to threaten to sue for assault. At one point, I produced a banknote from my shirt pocket, to lend emphasis to my point,” he explained in a statement on his website.
“I was horrified when it was put to me that, in doing so, I had inadvertently featured in an image that others then used to invoke a vile stereotype, connected with the persecution of Jews in Europe. I can appreciate the hurtfulness, to members of the Jewish community, of having that stereotype re-activated in our modern society.”
Lynch, who supports boycotting Israel over its policies regarding the Palestinians, also said he was not part of the protest and only “left my seat solely out of concern for the health and safety of protesters who were being forcefully ejected.”
Peter Wertheim, the executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, expressed regret that Lynch was able to retain his position.
“The university statement makes reference only to disciplinary action that includes ‘counseling, warning and suspension of access rights to the university grounds’. There is no mention of dismissals or reprimands,” he was quoted as saying by AJN.
“If the disciplinary action does not include the latter, it would be very disappointing, and would reflect poorly on the university in the enforcement of its own standards.”
A separate and earlier university investigation determined that Lynch’s actions did not constitute anti-Semitism.
The incident has opened up a campus debate regarding free speech, with one instructor being quoted as saying that supporters of Islamic State have the right to “express their anti-Semitism.”