Racism complaint launched against BDS activist Lynch

Akiva Hamilton

ISRAELI civil rights organisation Shurat HaDin has lodged an official complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission against Associate Professor Jake Lynch for his support of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

The AJN can also reveal that in return, Lynch, who is the director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney University, has threatened to bring defamation proceedings against Shurat HaDin solicitor Andrew Hamilton.

Hamilton wrote to Lynch and other pro-BDS activists claiming their “activities were racist and in violation of Australian federal anti-discrimination laws”, and threatening to take action.

In the letter Hamilton requested a cessation of all BDS-related activity within 14 days, which Lynch has refused.

The AJN understands this is the first time that a Racial Discrimination Act action has been launched in Australia against those promoting BDS.

Shurat HaDin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said: “Lynch and his ilk seek to boycott Israeli and Jewish national products, whether [this is] 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.”

Hamilton added: “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.”

Yet in a letter responding to Hamilton in June, Lynch wrote “BDS is not unlawful racial discrimination.

“The centre is not racist, nor are its activities, any more than the boycott of South Africa [during apartheid] constituted racial hate speech against Afrikaaners.”

He threatened action on the basis that Hamilton had made his letter available online and to journalists.

“We shall be taking legal advice in respect of an action in defamation against you. You may wish to nominate solicitors,” he said.

Lynch, who last year refused to assist an Israeli professor who promotes Israeli-Palestinian dialogue with an application to conduct research in Australia, was unavailable for comment at the time of going to print.

GARETH NARUNSKY

Shurat HaDin solicitor Andrew Hamilton.