October 30, 2013:
An Israeli civil rights group, Shurat HaDin, has filed a class action lawsuit under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 with the Federal Court of Australia over a Sydney University Associate Professor Jake Lynch’s participation and public support of boycotts of Israel including an academic boycott of Israeli universities.
Earlier this year, faculty and students at Sydney University called for the severing of links with Israeli institutions, actions that would be deemed racist and in violation of Australian Federal anti-discrimination laws. This lawsuit follows up Shurat HaDin’s complaint against Associate Professor Lynch filed with the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in late July. Lynch effectively refused to mediate this complaint and thus the AHRC was unable to resolve it. The complaint was terminated by the AHRC allowing Shurat HaDin to pursue the matter in Federal Court.
The lawsuit filed by Shurat HaDin's Australian solicitor Andrew Hamilton is the first time that a Federal Court lawsuit under the Racial Discrimination Act 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 those seeking to harm Israeli academics or businesses because of their national origin.
In its Federal lawsuit, Shurat HaDin relies on the Federal Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 which makes 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."
Earlier this year, the university's student body endorsed Associate Professor Jake Lynch's academic boycott of Israel. 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.
Lynch has consistently refused to heed the Tel Aviv-based rights group's warnings that he must cease participation in unlawful, and racist, boycott activity. Although widely condemned by mainstream politicians and community figures, Lynch has also been publicly supported by notorious Holocaust denier Fredrick Toben.
The BDS movement has been recognized as anti-Semitic by leading authorities such as the Anti-Defamation League in the United States, and in a report recently released by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
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."
Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center is an organization dedicated to enforcing basic human rights through the legal system and represents victims of terrorism in courtrooms around the world. The group was founded on the model of the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center - a non-profit legal center that over the last four decades has successfully confronted racist groups across the United States.