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Jake Lynch: my year of fighting anti-Semitism charges

Shurat HaDin took Associate Professor Jake Lynch to court to claim he was an anti-Semite. Now that the case has collapsed, Lynch explains the strategy of Israeli “lawfare”.

“This is not war — it’s a massacre”. The slogan has appeared on placards at demonstrations around the world, calling for an Israeli ceasefire in Gaza. Both Israel’s destruction of civilian lives and infrastructure, and the indiscriminate peashooter rockets of Hamas, are war crimes.

There has to be a better way, and it can be glimpsed in the twin tracks of diplomacy and nonviolent resistance. These principles are the heart of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement — and it is for defending BDS that I ended up in Federal Court, facing allegations of racism and anti-Semitism.

For the past year I have been defending my right not to take part in fellowship schemes that link the University of Sydney, where I direct the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, and two institutions from Israel. Last week, Judge Alan Robertson was asked by lawyers from both sides to dismiss the case against me.

It will mark the termination of a complaint by Israeli legal centre Shurat HaDin that boycotting such links amounts to a form of anti-Semitism, and should therefore be ruled in breach of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act.

Shurat HaDin is the last of five original claimants still standing and wanted the court to order me to apologise and recant. It was joined in bringing the original statement of claim by others including Israeli tour operators catering for international visitors. They sought to blame me for decisions by performing artists, such as Snoop Dogg and Elvis Costello, not to play in Israel.

Once these allegations were struck out for lack of evidence, the case boiled down to my refusal to endorse a fellowship application by a professor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. With the claim thus narrowed, however, Shurat HaDin lost its legal standing, since — not being linked to a university — it could not possibly be affected by my policy towards collaboration with fellow academics.

This narrow, technical basis for dismissal should not disguise its strategic importance. The program of Israeli “lawfare” against international solidarity actions has stepped up, in multiple jurisdictions, since the vote by the United Nations General Assembly in late 2012 to grant Palestine the status of a non-member state, the biggest diplomatic gain so far.

Pro-Israel groups here responded to the UN vote by persuading Australian politicians, led by then-prime minister Julia Gillard, to sign the so-called “London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism”, which seeks to criminalise not only “anti-Semitic discourse” but also “calls for boycotts”.

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, hinted at a concerted campaign underway to stifle BDS activism, telling the Jerusalem Post: “We realised that many countries have laws against boycotts, and these lawyers came up with very interesting solutions, and this is a way to defeat them,” A US State Department memo published by WikiLeaks revealed Shurat HaDin’s director, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, admitting to taking directions from Mossad, Israel’s secret service, over whom to target.

We are here today because Israel still faces too little pressure to turn away from its routine recourse to militarism. But that pressure is building from below, through the BDS movement, and in diplomatic arenas as public outrage feeds through into political process.

That is why there has been a co-ordinated campaign to outlaw and exclude boycott activism from the repertoire of legitimate political expression. With my court victory, that campaign in Australia has sustained a significant setback. It represents an opportunity for BDS to be more widely taken up. Anyone who does will be making their own contribution to peace with justice.

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  • 1
    Pedantic, Balwyn
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Jake Lynch gives the game away by calling Hamas’s weapons peashooter rockets. Very sadly they can maim and kill the unfortunate victims at the end of their trajectory.
    Mr Lynch should be cognizant of the fact that Hamas is not prepared to accept the two state solution advocated by Israel and moderate Palestinians. Hamas is implacable in its abhorrence for an Israeli State.
    Mr Lynch should be aware that Israel provides advanced warning and identifies the targets before retaliating to Hamas attacks.
    Hamas in response has forbidden the occupants of Gaza from taking shelter in those areas. They have also forbidden citizens from retreating to the hundreds of tunnels beneath Gaza; both actions are designed to actually increase the potential for loss of life and resulting condemnation of Israel.
    Mr Lynch may feel his position is justified, but he clearly doesn’t understand that he is giving comfort to terrorists, not freedom fighters, and worse still his actions are diminishing the likelihood of a Palestine State.

  • 2
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Jake Lynch for his continuing fight against Zionist war crimes in Gaza, and against the Zionist attempt to shut down legitimate criticism of apartheid, ethnic cleansing Israel.

    I wonder how many Australians will be proud to know that our Christian Zionist PM Abbott, has yesterday rung the war criminal Netanyahu and offered Australia’s ‘support’. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) must be delighted with Abbott’s ‘support’, which polling suggests is not shared by at least 80% of Aussies, and at least 50% of Aussie Jews.

    Below is an edited extract of today from a US Jewish women’s anti Zionist lobby group Code Pink, which exemplifies the Zionist lies & distortions appearing in Fairfax, Limited News & on ABC TV News concerning the current Israeli slaughter of innocent Gazans. The situation in the US is exactly the same:

    The world watches the Israeli assault on Gaza, mainstream American media has been presenting a one-sided picture of the conflict.

    CNN’s Chris Cuomo said the “death toll in Israel is rising as rockets keep coming in from Gaza,” when there have been 200 Palestinian deaths and only one in Israel. CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield suggested that Gaza missiles may be more powerful than Israeli missiles, when Israel’s sophisticated military technology is no match for Gaza’s crude rockets.

    The narrative is so skewed that commentators have even gone so far as to claim that scenes of destruction in Gaza are in Israel (Diane Sawyer, ABC), and to call the Israeli military “incredibly compassionate” (Ben Ferguson, CNN) for warning Palestinians before bombing their homes.

    The Israeli government has also warned tens of thousands of Palestinians in northern Gaza to evacuate their homes. As The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart said, Gaza is between Israel and the sea. Where exactly are they supposed to evacuate to? The border of Egypt is closed, locking the Gaza residents into an open-air prison.

    We deplore the targeting of civilians by the Israeli military and Hamas. While Israeli civilians have warning sirens, bomb shelters, the Iron Dome, and one of the best equipped militaries in the world, the people of Gaza have no sirens, no shelters, no place to run, and no place to hide. The U.S. media’s portrayal of Israel as the victim misleads the American public into supporting continued unconditional military aid to Israel to the tune of $3.1 billion a year.

    CNN’s coverage unfairly blames the people of Gaza for the violence wrought upon them. They rarely mention Israel’s crushing military offensive that has killed almost 200 Palestinians and destroyed schools, hospitals, centers for disabled people, and much more.

    They rarely give the larger context showing how Gaza has been under siege, unable to control its own borders, airspace or coastline. Even now with the coverage of the ceasefire, there’s no mention of the fact that Israel violated the last two negotiated ceasefires, or that the conditions of the ceasefire were negotiated between Israel and Egypt and the US–– without Hamas.

    When Diane Sawyer misidentified images of Palestinians in the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike on ABC World News, saying they were Israelis under fire, she immediately came under heavy criticism by activists and was forced to make an on-air apology for her error”.

    So the murder of innocent civilians is being televised nightly around the world, accompanied by what can only be described as wholly distorted Zionist propaganda…and where’s the Labor on this?…gutless as usual.

    I’m ashamed to be an Aussie at this moment.

  • 3
    JohnB
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Pedantic of Baldwin has started at the wrong place, so it comes as no surprise to find that he got lost on his journey.

    Any assumption that the “two-state solution” is fair or reasonable, especially since the Israelis have removed a very large part of the geography of that state from the table, is wrong. It is now a “quarter of a state, perhaps, provided that we hold all the aces and you are disarmed, segregated and dispossessed of your property at the whim of the dominant group”, which is no solution at all.

    Whether or not Hamas’ rockets are peashooters is beside the point. The Israelis have demonstrated a preparedness - nay, a determination, to inflict hundreds of times the damage and pain and death that they re subjected to.

    What is the comparative death count, Pedantic? If the tables were reversed, would you still not consider this to be a significant statistic?

    It is impossible to avoid holding strongly negative emotions about those who would knowingly, intentionally and illegally do this to their neighbours.

    Israel’s history post-1966 is shameful and unacceptable, yet still their supporters seek to defend the indefensible.

    Why is this so?

  • 4
    Matt Hardin
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    It still confuses me how there can be a law against boycotts. It seems to imply a legal obligation to buy or take part in anything that is offered to you and surely asking someone else to boycott something based on your reasoning is simple exercise of freedom of speech? Can someone enlighten me?

  • 5
    Kfix
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Mr Pedantic

    What JohnB said, plus please tell me what serious proposal for a two-state solution has been made by anyone in Israel with the authority to make it happen? Israel seems to be implacable in its abhorrence of an elected Hamas government, and terroristic actions seem to be rife on both sides, so I don’t think Israel has the moral high ground by all that much, if at all.

  • 6
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    The law against boycotts (sections 45D and E of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010) prohibits action ‘in concert’ with another to hinder a third person acquiring goods or services that would cause ‘substantial loss or damage to the business’ being targeted. It was originally introduced to stop anti competitive measures. A prohibition was also in the Industrial Relations Act 1988 to limit industrial action.

    Israel’s Committee of University Heads has established a forum to counter academic boycotts against Israel. I haven’t yet found the Committee’s statement distancing itself from the occupation and protesting the illegal settlements.

  • 7
    Liamj
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Imagine if Israels strenuous efforts to suppress any and all criticism of its ethnic cleansing were devoted to creating a fair two-state solution. But that wouldn’t suit the zionists or the millenial xtians.

  • 8
    Pedantic, Balwyn
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    The response from the supporters of terrorism is entirely predictable.
    They completely ignore the fact that Hamas denies the Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, the opportunity to live in peace in their own state.
    It is obvious from their comments that they have never visited Israel or the surrounding countries and rely on their ill informed opinions.
    I suggest you read my original comments more carefully. I strongly support a homeland for the Palestinians, but won’t deny the Israelis their homeland too.

  • 9
    JohnB
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately, while this small exercise in polite discourse has been proceeding at a leisurely pace, the most unequal war in history is continuing, with 200:1 imbalance in dead and wounded.

    There can be no excuse for supporting such an atrocity or the “nation” which is carrying it out.

    I have no particular penchant for the Palestinian leadership, but surely their people have been held hostage in their own land for far too long. Inflicting decades of misery, loss and death is no way to search for peace.

    Searching for peace is not what is happening. It is extermination by a thousand cuts.

    Say what you like, the indefensible cannot be defended - on both sides - but the olive branch can only be extended by the oppressor. The Palestinians make small armed gestures, but their only real hopes are:
    1. That Israel tires of its current role and seeks a humane path to peace; or
    2. That sustained international pressure forces Israel to a much less dominant position so that mutually assured destruction is uppermost in their minds when next they consider aggression against their neighbour.

    The third outcome is unthinkable, which is that international military pressure will force Israel to the negotiating table as the supplicant. That will lead to another half-century of suffering.

    So, Pedantic, how do you see Israel’s current path, which you seem to espouse, ending? Handshakes all round followed by a cup of tea? Or some kind of sad fight to the last in Gaza, house by bloody house?

    Back to your first sentence, Mr Pedantic: I am no “supporter of terrorism”. Yours was a poor choice of words, indeed, because it begs the question as to who the militaristic, thieving, land-grabbing, community-smashing, murderous, religiously fanatical true terrorists really are. The other side and their so-called pea-shooters are rank amateurs by comparison.

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