Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The Oz 18/6 Israelis may sue boycott activists

Israelis may sue boycott activists
AN Israeli civil rights law centre has threatened legal action against key staff at Sydney University's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, alleging they are breaching the Human Rights Act by backing the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Centre has written to the university centre's head, Jake Lynch, Sydney Peace Foundation director Stuart Rees and other figures in the local BDS movement, warning them they may be subject to civil, administrative and criminal legal action.
The Tel Aviv-based group models itself on the Southern Poverty Law Centre in Alabama, a non-profit legal centre that fought racism in the US.
The author of the letters -- former NSW solicitor Andrew Hamilton, now working with Shurat HaDin -- says the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 makes it "unlawful for a person to do any act involving a distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of any human right or fundamental freedom in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life". He says Sydney University could be held responsible for Associate Professor Lynch's activities.
Mr Hamilton warns that any "successful" boycott could be illegal under the Competition and Consumer Act of 2010 if targeted businesses are damaged financially. As a result, boycott-backers could be investigated by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission and face action for damages.
"The participants of the BDS movement clearly seek to violate freedoms guaranteed by federal law," Mr Hamilton alleges.
The letters threaten: "If you do not cease your BDSM-related activity immediately, Shurat HaDin may commence legal action against you without further notice.
"In particular, in addition to the remedies available under the Part IIB of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986, the co-operative nature of the unlawful actions of BDSM allows Shurat HaDin to bring a civil conspiracy action against participants in the BDSM. Such action will include a substantial claim for damages."
The Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies made headlines here and in Israel last year when it refused to support a bid for assistance from Dan Avnon, an academic at the prestigious Hebrew University of Jerusalem who was responsible for the writing and implementation of the country's only program in civics designed for joint Jewish-Arab schools. Its stand was endorsed by the student union in March.
Professor Lynch is on carer's leave. Professor Emeritus Rees declined to comment.
A spokeswoman for vice-chancellor Michael Spence repeated the Sydney University's opposition to BDS. "The University of Sydney does not consider the boycott, divestment and sanctions policy appropriate and it is not University of Sydney policy."
The spokeswoman refused to say whether the university would indemnify centre staff or assist them in any other way with legal or financial support if action were launched.

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