NGO files racism case against Australian academic for BDS

Students at Sydney University recently called for severing links with Israeli institutions; action deemed violation of federal law.

By
July 31, 2013 20:18
2 minute read.
Ben-Gurion University campus in Beersheba

Ben-Gurion University campus in Beersheba 370. (photo credit: BGU)

The Shurat Hadin Legal Action Center filed a class action complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission on Tuesday over a Sydney professor’s participation in and public support of Israel boycotts.

According to a press release, faculty and students at Sydney University recently called for severing links with Israeli institutions, “actions that would be deemed racist and in violation of Australian Federal anti-discrimination laws.”

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The statement said the complaint – which Shurat Hadin’s Australian solicitor Alexander Hamilton filed under Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act 1975 – is the “first time that a Racial Discrimination Act action has been launched in Australia against those promoting boycotts, sanctions and divestment (BDS) against the Jewish State.”

Further, the statement went on, “it is the first time that Australia’s anti-racism laws have been utilized against those seeking to harm Israeli academics or businesses because of their national origin.”

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.

This past semester, the university’s student body endorsed associate Prof. Jake Lynch’s academic boycott of Israel, Shurat Hadin said.

The statement said that Lynch had publicly announced his refusal to work with Dan Avnon of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and also called for a boycott of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

Shurat Hadin said it had warned Lynch last month to cease participation “in unlawful, and racist, boycott activity.”

The legal NGO added that Lynch had ignored its warning.

It also noted that “although widely condemned by mainstream politicians and community figures, Lynch has also been publicly supported by notorious Holocaust denier Fredrick Toben.”

Next, the NGO stated that authorities such as the Anti- Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center had recognized the BDS movement as anti-Semitic.

Hamilton called the BDS movement “racist by its own definition because it seeks to discriminate and impose adverse preference based on Israeli national origin and Jewish racial and ethnic origin of people and organizations.”

He stressed that the movement “does nothing to help Palestinians and indeed harms them. It is merely an excuse for the vilest public anti-Semitic campaign the Western world has seen since the Holocaust.”

Shurat Hadin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner expressed hope that “this historic proceeding against the BDS movement will serve as a model for battling it in other jurisdictions worldwide.”


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