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Israeli civil rights group files class action racism complaint against Australian Professor

by Noga Gur-Arieh

August 7, 2013 | 12:24 pm

On July 31, 2013, an Israeli civil rights group, Shurat HaDin, has filed a class action complaint under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 with the Australian Human Rights Commission over a Sydney professor's participation and public support of boycotts of Israel including an academic boycott of Israeli universities.  Recently, faculty and students at Sydney University called for the severing of links with Israeli institutions, actions that according to Shurat Harding would be deemed racist and in violation of Australian Federal anti-discrimination laws.

The complaint filed by Shurat HaDin's Australian solicitor Alexander Hamilton 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. It is the first time that Australia's anti-racism laws have been utilized against people who are claimed to seeking to harm Israeli academics or businesses because of their
national origin.

In its letter sent to the Australian commission, Shurat HaDin pointed out that the Federal Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 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 Shurat HaDin complaint also noted that any boycott of Israeli “settlement products,” such as SodaStream and Ahava, harms Palestinian economic interests due to the fact the factories employ many Palestinian workers and provide an important source of income for local families and villages.

This past semester, the university's student body endorsed Associate Professor Jake Lynch's academic boycott of Israel. According to Shurat HaDin, Lynch had publicly announced his refusal to work with Dan Avnon, an Israeli professor from the prestigious Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which promotes Israeli-Arab coexistence, and also called for a boycott of Technion University in Haifa. It has also been stated that last month, Lynch refused to heed the Tel Aviv-based rights group's warning that he must cease participation in unlawful, and racist, boycott activity. Shurat HaDin also added that although widely condemned by mainstream politicians and community figures, Lynch has also been publically supported by notorious Holocaust denier Fredrick Toben.

According to solicitor Andrew Hamilton: "The BDS movement is 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 organisations. It 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." According to Shurat Hadin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner: "Lynch and his ilk seek to boycott Israeli and Jewish national products, whether its goods, services, performers or professors. By singling out Israel and no other country the BDS extremists expose the anti-Semitism that motivates them. We are hopeful that this historic proceeding against the BDS movement will serve as a model for battling it in other jurisdictions worldwide."

The Australian Human Rights Commission is currently investigating the complaint and provided Professor Lynch 21 days to reply. Israelife will follow this story and inform you on any development. I have yet to recieve any response from Professor Lynch. 

The text of the complaint can be found here.
 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

My name is Noga Gur-Arieh, and I’m an Israeli Journalist, currently studying for my B.A degree in Media and Political Science, at Tel Aviv University.

I am very socially...

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