Furore over Sydney Uni boycott

SENIOR Jewish leaders have slated a University of Sydney academic and supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign for “bullying” an Israeli counterpart.

Last week, Professor Dan Avnon of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who designed the first high school civics program for both Israelis and Palestinians, wrote to several contacts, including Associate Professor Jake Lynch at the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACs), asking if he could include them as references on an application for a Sir Zelman Cowen fellowship.

“Professor Lynch seized the moment, wrote to me that he cannot sponsor my stay due to his principled support of the boycott, and then – without further ado – sent his response to me to a mailing list,” Avnon told The AJN.

Avnon said he attempted to engage Lynch in dialogue on the issue, but received no reply.

B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) chair Dvir Abramovich condemned Lynch’s actions as a “gross violation of academic freedom” and “an extreme, partisan bullying tactic”.

“The politics of prejudice have no place in academia where the common pursuit is the championing of truth and discovery,” he said.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s Peter Wertheim labelled CPACs “a continual embarrassment to the University of Sydney”.

“To the university’s credit, I understand that arrangements have been made for Professor Avnon to work with another department which has much higher international recognition for its research and teaching,” he said.

Lynch also drew criticism from the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Professor Duncan Ivison, who said he “cannot make decisions about who comes here”, while a spokesperson for university vice-chancellor Michael Spence made it clear that he “does not speak for the school, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences or for the university”.

When contacted by The AJN, Lynch maintained CPACs’s support of BDS was not in any way “racist, anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli”.

He said he had not been able to reply to Avnon’s follow-up email due to being in the middle of a “perfect storm” of other commitments. He also said that he had sent his reply to Avnon only to CPACs’s governing council of “between 15 and 20 people”