Australian professor: Law group sued me because BDS works

Shurat Hadin is suing Sydney U. professor, saying he had garnered student body's support in an academic boycott of Israel.

August 27, 2013 22:29
2 minute read.
Pro-Palestinian protesters hold a banner

PRO-PALESTINIAN protesters hold a banner 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Sydney University Prof. Jake Lynch said Tuesday that the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel is working, and that is why the Shurat Hadin Legal Action Center has taken a lawsuit against him alleging anti- Semitism and discrimination.

“The complaint to the AHRC [Australian Human Rights Commission] is without merit,” Lynch told The Jerusalem Post, speaking for the first time since the lawsuit was announced. “Supporters of the military-security lobby in Israel are stepping up their attacks on BDS because it is beginning to take effect.”

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In the class action complaint filed with the AHRC by Shurat Hadin in July, the legal NGO said that Lynch had garnered the support of the university’s student body in an academic boycott of Israel during the Spring 2013 semester. According to a Shurat Hadin statement, Lynch had publicly announced his refusal to work with Dan Avnon of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and also called for a boycott of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

Shurat Hadin’s Australian solicitor Alexander Hamilton filed the complaint under Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 and had warned Lynch last month to cease participation “in unlawful, and racist, boycott activity.”

Lynch called the allegations “nonsense” and that it is the “revival of the tired old smear: Any criticism of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians must be anti-Semitic.”

Hamilton called the BDS movement “racist by its own definition” in that it is discriminating “based on Israeli national origin and Jewish racial and ethnic origin of people and organization.”

Faculty and students at Sydney University had called for severing links with Israeli institutions, “actions that would be deemed racist and in violation of Australian Federal anti-discrimination laws,” Shurat Hadin said in a statement.

“The University of Sydney does not consider [BDS] policy appropriate and it is not [university] policy,” Dean Duncan Ivision of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences previously responded regarding inquiries on the lawsuit. But further action will not be taken on the matter, he said, because the university encourages “academics to contribute to public debate... on issues spanning local, national and international boundaries within their area of expertise, in conformity with the law and policies and obligations of the university.”

According to Shurat Hadin, this is the “first time that a Racial Discrimination Act action has been launched in Australia against those promoting [BDS] against the Jewish State.”

In its letter to the Australian commission, Shurat Hadin pointed out that the Racial Discrimination Act made it unlawful for anyone “to do any act involving a distinction, exclusion... or preference based on race... or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose... of nullifying or impairing... fundamental freedom in the... economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”

The complaint also noted that any boycott of Israeli “settlement products,” such as SodaStream and Ahava, harmed Palestinian economic interests, since the factories employed many Palestinian workers and provided an important source of income for local families and villages.

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