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Jul 16, 2014

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".

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“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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9 thoughts on “Jake Lynch: my year of fighting anti-Semitism charges

  1. Kevin Herbert

    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.

  2. JohnB

    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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