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Issue #1617      November 6, 2013

Australian academic faces lawfare attack

The right to criticise the policies of another country is at stake

An Israeli based law centre, Shurat HaDin, filed a case in the Federal Court of Australia, against Professor Jake Lynch from the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. They claim that he has supported policies which are racist and discriminatory by his specific endorsement of an academic boycott of Israeli institutions and individuals within them, because of these institutions’ support of the illegal occupation of Palestine and their close connections with the Israeli armament industry.

This lawfare attack against academic freedom and freedom of speech has been condemned by over 2,000 Australian and international human rights advocates from some 60 countries, who have all signed a pledge supporting BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and offering to be co-defendants in any legal action taken against Lynch.

Shurat HaDin has taken many similar actions internationally against groups who supported the BDS movement. Professor Stuart Rees, Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation, commented, “It seems that this firm, Shurat HaDin works in the civil courts as a proxy for the Israeli government and security forces, seeking to shut down any criticism of the state and its ongoing human rights abuses and violations of international law.”

In August, Shurat HaDin lodged a complaint in the Human Rights Commission against Jake Lynch’s refusal to sponsor an Israeli academic from the Hebrew University because of that institution’s links to the Israeli military and the ongoing Occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza.

This overseas firm now wants to silence this highly regarded academic, by taking their complaint to the Federal Court. This challenges the right to take non-violent action in support of international human rights law and the rights of the dispossessed Palestinians. Australians for BDS condemns racism in all forms, and specifically anti-Semitism.

“Israel’s occupation and ethnic cleansing machinery continue unabated but the moral force that used to drive that process is fast eroding and, as out of touch as the Abbott government and anti-BDS activists in Australia may be, there is an undeniable shift in the balance of moral power. International civil society is holding Israel to account in a way no government has ever been able to do”: Randa Abdul Fattah, Palestinian lawyer and writer, resident in Sydney.

Next article – Call for urgent action on adult literacy

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