Academics renew boycott call

Nick Riemer. Photo: AAP Image/CrowdSpark/Richard Ashen

A NEW petition calling on academics to join the anti-Israel boycott campaign is being sent to mass email lists at the University of Sydney.

Spearheaded by linguistics lecturer Nick Riemer and co-signed by prominent activist Jake Lynch, the call to boycott Israeli universities is being circulated in response to Israel’s defence of its border with Gaza during the violence of the past three weeks.

The email to academics and students claims Israel has been engaging in “calculated” killing of “unarmed demonstrators”.
Despite evidence to the contrary, when contacted by The AJN this week Riemer insisted the protests were “entirely peaceful” and “entirely oriented” towards non-violent resistance.

He added: “The situation there [in Gaza] is nothing short of desperate. The idea that the responsibility for that somehow lies with Hamas and not with Israel just doesn’t bear scrutiny by any fair minded or rational person.”

Zionist Federation of Australia president Danny Lamm said: “What I find particularly vile about this attempt to sever formal ties with Israeli universities and academics is precisely the fact that the discussion is taking place between academics who should pride themselves on a dedication to research and promotion of the truth.

“Universities should be creating an environment which fosters a deeper understanding and acceptance of differing opinions, not one that supports hateful campaigns aimed at dividing the two sides even further.”

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said if the signatories were really concerned for Israeli–Palestinian reconciliation, “they would be condemning the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for refusing to make peace despite Israel’s repeated, generous offers of statehood, and condemning Hamas for initiating so many deadly conflicts with Israel, including now, by trying to breach Israel’s border while using human shields under the cover of the mass demonstrations it has cynically orchestrated.”

B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich said the university’s reputation was being harmed by individuals who are “using the email addresses of fellow academics to promote a bigoted campaign, which at its core, is anti-Semitic”.

Such conduct, he said, “can only add to the toxic anti-Israel environment, especially on university campuses”.

A university spokesperson said BDS was not a university endorsed policy and it was open to engaging with any university in a country with which Australia has diplomatic relations.

GARETH NARUNSKY