The global Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement scored a major victory Monday when an Australian court threw out a lawsuit claiming a Sydney University professor had violated Australian anti-discrimination laws by refusing to host an Israeli professor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The lawsuit was filed by an Australian member of Shurat HaDin, an Israeli legal aid group dedicated to “combating the terrorist organizations and the regimes that support them through lawsuits litigated in courtrooms around the world, fighting for the rights of hundreds of terror victims, bankrupt(ing) the terror groups and grind(ing) their criminal activities to a halt – one lawsuit at a time.”
At issue was an application by Dr Dan Avnon for a fellowship at Sydney University. Avnon had asked Prof. Jake Lynch, chairman of the University Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and an avowed supporter of the academic boycott against Israel to support the application, but the latter snubbed the request, saying he supports the BDS movement and would not collaborate with scholars from an Israeli institution.
Lawyers for Avnon said the blanket boycott against Israeli academics is a violation of Australia’s ban against discrimination.
“By refusing employment to an Israeli professor simply because he is Israeli, Lynch plainly violated Australia’s anti-racism law, which was legislated to protect against discrimination based on national origin and religion,” said Robert Tolchin, a US-based lawyer for Shurat Hadin.
“There are only two questions to be answered. Did Lynch discriminate against an Israeli professor based on his national origin and, secondly, is such conduct a violation of Australia’s anti-racism laws?”
However, Federal Court Justice Alan Robertson rejected the allegations, which included charges that Lynch is a leader of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign in Australia. Earlier this year, the Australian Jewish News reported that Robertson said Shurat HaDin’s case “often lacked clear facts linking Lynch’s support of BDS with specific acts of racial discrimination.
“You’ll have to do a lot of work to persuade me of the correctness of that position,” Robertson said.
Robertson also threw out Shurat HaDin’s allegation that “a purpose of BDS movement campaigns is to inflict harm on Israeli persons or organisations’.
The case will likely have implications for legal understanding of academic freedom in Australia and abroad. Prof. Lynch says Shurat Hadin is trying to breach his freedom by forcing him to work with scholars he rejects, whereas Prof. Avnon says that Lynch is trying to breach his rights by preventing him from teaching in Sydney.
Shurat HaDin has been ordered to put up a $100,000 bond to cover Professor Lynch’s court costs. But the group said in a statement that the case would proceed under the guidelines set forth by Justice Robertson.
“The new statement of claims will be sharply streamlined to include only the uncontested allegation that Lynch refused employment to Professor Avnon solely based on his citizenship,” Shurat HaDin said.