Israeli Boycott Case: Sydney Academic’s Lawyers Say Claims Are Pumped Up
TRANSCEND News, 31 Mar 2014
University director Jake Lynch is accused by legal centre Shurat HaDin of unlawful discrimination.
25 Mar 2014 – Lawyers for a Sydney University academic who is accused of unlawful discrimination for his boycott of Israel say the case against [TMS advisor, TRANSCEND member] Jake Lynch is full of “pumped-up claims” that are “embarrassing in the legal sense, and embarrassing in the non-legal sense”.
Proceedings against Lynch, instigated last year by an Israeli legal centre, Shurat HaDin, resumed in a packed federal court in Sydney on Tuesday. Legal argument centred on whether the statement of claim brought by Shurat HaDin and other applicants should be struck out.
Lynch, director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the university, is an advocate of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign, that is intended to put pressure on Israel and Israeli institutions for the continuing occupation of Palestinian territories.
He found himself in the sights of Shurat HaDin, whose mission is to “bankrupt terrorism one lawsuit at a time”, after he refused to sign a fellowship request by a Hebrew University academic, Dan Avnon, citing the fact that Avnon’s university has ties to the Israeli military and a campus in the occupied West Bank.
Shurat HaDin and the other applicants argue that by promoting the boycott, Lynch is contributing to discrimination against Jewish people, businesses and organisations around the world.
In court on Tuesday, Lynch’s solicitor, Yves Hazan, said the statement of claim brought against his client was “completely infected with … general narrative”, rather than material facts, and that it failed to explain exactly how Lynch’s conduct had breached laws against racial discrimination.
As an example, Hazan read from Shurat HaDin’s statement that Lynch had allegedly “refused to sign documents that would have provided Professor Dan Avnon access to a funded fellowship, because of the respondent’s support for the BDS movement”.
“What was the respondent’s obligation to sign documents?” he asked the court. “What documents was he asked to sign? Was the respondent’s signature a fundamental requirement for Professor Avnon to access the fellowship?
“There is a level of generality that necessarily sends the reader of the statement of claim in search for the facts. This sort of infectious drafting is prevalent throughout.”
Shurat HaDin’s solicitor Andrew Hamilton, who is also an applicant to the case, is arguing that the statement of claim has been brought under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act, not the Racial Discrimination Act, and therefore “one doesn’t have to plead out every element”, he said.
“You’ll have to do a lot of work to persuade me of the correctness of that position,” the judge, Alan Robertson, said.
In a day that was otherwise thick with legal technicalities, Hazan prompted laughter in the courtroom, filled largely with Lynch supporters, when he quoted the applicants’ claims that the Sydney University academic’s support for BDS had contributed to artists such as Santana, Elvis Costello and Snoop Dogg choosing to boycott Israel on their tours. “What are the primary facts that link these artists not performing in Israel with Jake’s conduct?” he asked.
Robertson told the solicitors that he was aware of the case’s high profile and that he wanted it to stick to material facts, and not “get carried away with labels and slogans”.
The case was adjourned until 24 April.
Michael Safi is a reporter for Guardian Australia. He has previously written for the Global Mail, the Sydney Morning Herald and Crikey, and produced radio for ABC Radio National, SYN and FBi.
Jake Lynch, former BBC newsreader, political correspondent for Sky News and Sydney correspondent for the Independent, is Associate Professor of Peace Journalism and Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and the advisor for TRANSCEND Media Service-TMS. Lynch is the co-author, with Annabel McGoldrick, of Peace Journalism (Hawthorn Press, 2005), and his new book, Debates in Peace Journalism, has just been published by Sydney University Press and TUP – TRANSCEND University Press. He also co-authored with Johan Galtung and Annabel McGoldrick ‘Reporting Conflict-An Introduction to Peace Journalism,’ which TMS editor Antonio C. S. Rosa translated to Portuguese.
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