ISRAELI civil rights organisation Shurat HaDin has threatened legal action against several Australian supporters of the anti-Israel Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, including outspoken University of Sydney academic Jake Lynch and Sydney Peace Foundation head Stuart Rees.
And in a troubling twist, Holocaust denier Fredrick Toben has penned an open letter in support of Lynch, who last year infamously refused to assist an Israeli professor, who promotes Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, with an application to conduct research in Australia.
Shurat HaDin solicitor Andrew Hamilton last week wrote to Lynch and others warning them that their “activities were racist and in violation of Australian federal anti-discrimination laws” in addition to the Competition and Consumer Act of 2010 “if they damage the businesses they target”.
“Lynch, Rees … and others like them seek to impose restrictions on those having Israeli and Jewish national, racial or ethnic origins, whether these are goods, services, persons and organisations,” Hamilton said.
“The participants of the BDS movement clearly seek to violate freedoms guaranteed by federal law.”
He told The AJN that similar litigation had been brought successfully in France and Germany and had been upheld by the European Court of Justice.
In an open letter of support to Lynch last Friday, Toben said to “not only blame the Jews, also blame those that bend to their pressure”.
“I have had this kind of Jewish pressure put on me for just on 17 years, which ultimately led to my imprisonment and bankruptcy, but I still did not bend to Jewish pressure,” he wrote.
When contacted by The AJN, Lynch maintained his support for BDS, citing the alleged “complicity of Israeli Higher Education with Israeli militarism and lawlessness”, but was quick to distance himself from Toben.
“BDS is now supported by many serious-minded people around the world,” he said.
“It is absolutely distinct from, and has nothing to do with, the hateful rantings of Holocaust denialists, and should be completely differentiated from them. The underlying principles of the two are as chalk and cheese.”
Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim expressed concern at Tobin’s gesture.
“The time has surely arrived for the leading proponents of anti-Israel boycotts to ask themselves some serious questions about what it is about their campaign that repeatedly attracts outpourings of gross anti-Jewish hatred, both online and in other public contexts,” he said.
Noting that the legal threat was an initiative of Shurat HaDin and not the local community, he added, “In our view, the best way to fight the anti-Israel boycotters is to continue to expose their true, but unstated, objective, which is the destruction of Israel, and their deceptive methods.”
Shurat HaDin solicitor Andrew Hamilton.