A Jewish association has branded the racial discrimination case against University of Sydney’s Jake Lynch counter-productive, saying it has only raised the profile of his support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign against Israel.
Since the Israeli legal activist group Shurat HaDin launched the lawsuit in the Federal Court, Professor Lynch’s stand has become a cause celebre in sections of the academic community, claiming the right to freedom of speech and academic expression is under attack.
In the Federal Court in Sydney on Thursday, judge Alan Robertson rejected allegations Professor Lynch was a leader of the global boycott campaign in Australia.
Two new groups have been established to support him and the global BDS movement, including one among university staff. One of the organisers of the Sydney Staff for BDS group, lecturer Nick Riemer, said he and other staff decided to create it “because of what’s happened to Jake’’.
The groups have helped raise about $20,000 towards Professor Lynch’s legal defence, he has been invited to address BDS public meetings around the country, and one recent BDS event in Sydney in his support drew about 200 people.
One of the pro-Lynch speakers at the Sydney fundraiser, Jewish Israeli academic Marcelo Svirsky who is a lecturer at the University of Wollongong, says he will walk from Sydney to Canberra later this year to raise awareness of the BDS campaign.
Dr Svirsky said he would stop in towns along the way to deliver public addresses and then lodge a submission in parliament calling on the government to back BDS.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim said Shurat HaDin’s legal action against Professor Lynch was “the wrong way to oppose BDS”.
“Regardless of the outcome, the Shurat HaDin court case would give a very marginal BDS campaign in Australia undeserved exposure and a shot in the arm,” Mr Wertheim said. “Our organisation’s strategy has been to expose the aims and methods of the BDS campaign in the marketplace of ideas.”
Shurat HaDin launched the lawsuit against Professor Lynch after he declined to support an application from Israeli academic Dan Avnon for a visiting fellowship at the university.
It claims his action and BDS generally breach the Racial Discrimination Act and the Human Rights Act because they discriminate against a class of people — Jewish Israelis.
Dr Svirsky, a political scientist who grew up in Argentina but moved to Israel after being conscripted during the Falklands War, said “there is increasing support for Lynch because of this particular case in court”.
“For me the BDS is about not just ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, but also the rules of the apartheid in Israel,” he said.