Friday, 1 November 2013

1/11 p2 the oz Academics back right to speak out

Academics back right to speak out

SYDNEY University vice-chancellor Michael Spence has backed Jake Lynch's right to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel, as he faces a lawsuit.
As reported yesterday, the Israeli legal group Shurat HaDin, which says it uses the law around the world to counter terrorism and anti-Semitism, has launched a Federal Court action seeking orders that Professor Lynch be made to apologise and cease his support for BDS.
The case will argue that Professor Lynch's actions amount to discriminatory and racist conduct in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act, allegations he strenuously denies and has vowed to fight in court.
Professor Lynch heads Sydney University's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, and he controversially refused to support an application for a visit from Dan Avnon of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who designed a joint school curriculum for Jewish and Arab students.
But Professor Spence told The Australian that while the university "does not consider BDS policy appropriate", he would not take action against Professor Lynch. "We encourage academics to contribute to public debate . . . Academic freedom is a core principle of the university," he said, while adding he had no comment on the Shurat HaDin lawsuit.
University of NSW professor of philosophy Peter Slezak, who lost much of his family in the Holocaust, yesterday strongly backed BDS and Professor Lynch. "It is based on a call from most of Palestinian civil society to resort to peaceful protest and non-violent political means to press the Israeli government and to publicise . . . serious violations of human rights and inter-national law," he said.
"'Despite their own rhetoric, most Jews understand clearly that BDS is a political and moral challenge to Israel, and not to Jews as anti-Semitism."
Sydney University professor of Chinese Studies David Goodman does not support BDS, but upheld Professor Lynch's right to express his views. "To do otherwise is to run too many risks of further discrimination," he said.
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