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Kerr 14/5 Anti-BDS stance `easy, populist'

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Tuesday 14 May 2013

The Australian

Anti-BDS stance `easy, populist'

Publication: The Australian (2,Tue 14 May 2013)
Edition: N - Canberra
Section: Local
Keywords: human (1),rights (1)

SYDNEY Peace Foundation head Stuart Rees has lashed out at Julia Gillard for signing the London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism, calling the gesture ``childish, thoughtless but easily populist''.

Professor Rees is on the staff of the University of Sydney's controversial Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, which last year denied a request for co-operation from the only Israeli academic to create a civics curriculum for both Jewish and Arab school students.

The centre cited its support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which explicitly equates Israel with apartheid-era South Africa.

Last month the Prime Minister became the first Australian parliamentarian to sign the London Declaration. ``This declaration reminds us that combating anti-Semitism is an active process, not a passive one,'' she said. ``It demands vigilance. It means remaining alert to new vehicles by which hatred and social poison can be spread.''

Professor Rees originally made his comments in an email responding to comments made by opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne when he attacked the BDS movement on Friday.

``Activism, boycotts and sometimes sanctions campaigns aren't always anti-Semitic, but when you target individual businesses because they are Jewish, it is clearly anti-Semitic,'' Mr Pyne said in a statement on the declaration, pointing to BDS activity at universities in NSW.

``It is sad that 70 years after the second world war and the discovery of the Holocaust we are still having to defend the right of Jewish people to live in their Jewish homeland in Israel free from this kind of anti-Semitic campaign.''

Professor Rees dismissed his remarks as ``the usual childish, thoughtless but easily populist response'' in the email, which was obtained by The Australian. ``Justice for the Palestinians and indeed security for Israelis deserves more than predicable `happy to get on any easy bandwagon' approach of this politician.''

Asked if his criticisms also applied to Ms Gillard, Professor Rees responded ``of course''. ``The resort to charges of anti-Semitism regarding the world-wide criticisms of the internationally illegal policies of the government of Israel is an age-old technique to stifle any criticism of blatant humanrights abuses,'' he said.

Mr Pyne said: ``It is disappointing that Professor Rees is the director of the Sydney Peace Foundation and yet also a supporter of the BDS movement that seeks to delegitimise Israel, targets Jewish businesses and prohibits a healthy cultural exchange between universities and in so doing damages the prospects for peace.''

Professor Rees declined to comment yesterday, saying he had just returned from overseas.



Headline: Anti-BDS stance `easy, populist'
  Edition: N - Canberra
 Section: Local

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