THE anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign has again reared its head, following a renewed push by some Australian academics to boycott Israeli universities.
Jewish communal groups have been quick to condemn the push, which has come primarily from members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of Sydney.
The group is calling for institutional ties with Israeli universities to be severed, potentially affecting international conferences and exchange programs.
Chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti Defamation Commission Dr Dvir Abramovich told The AJN that any campaign advocating BDS should be “immediately and unequivocally condemned”.
“Singling out the only democracy in the Middle East where robust debate is permitted demonstrates the anti-Semitic double standard that Israel is repeatedly and unfairly subjected to and the relentless attempt to demonise and defame Israel,” Abramovich said.
He added that an academic boycott would do nothing to promote the cause of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but would rather serve to deepen divisions and make the prospect of reconciliation more difficult.
“I call on the NTEU and its leadership to courageously speak out and fight against this discriminatory and distorted campaign and to unreservedly reject this shameful proposal,” he said.
The Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) was similarly aligned, with national chairperson Dean Sherr insisting that AUJS will continue to work to fight BDS on campus.
“People who support a peaceful, negotiated resolution between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples ought to be encouraging dialogue, not silencing one side and encouraging further division from afar,” Sherr told The AJN.
Responding to the anti-BDS standpoint, Dr David Brophy, a University of Sydney lecturer in modern Chinese history, and one of the organisers of the newly formed group, said BDS in fact exemplifies a “nonviolent response to occupation and oppression”.
“Last year’s devastating assault on Gaza convinced many people that a new strategy towards Israel is required … It is Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians that now feed militant Islam, not BDS,” Brophy told The AJN.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim noted that this small group of “misguided academics” has made several attempts to impose anti-Israel views on the NTEU, but said the NTEU’s national leadership remains opposed to their “extremist position”.
“Nothing good can come of banning contacts and shared research between top scholars in Israel and Australia,” Wertheim said.
A previous BDS demonstration.