On the “Academic Boycott of Israel” Claimed by University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies


Satoshi Ashikaga – TRANSCEND Media Service

Regarding Prof. Jake Lynch’s article, “Please Help Us Save the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies,” posted on TMS on 6 Oct 2014, allow me to raise some questions.

  1. What does “the Academic Boycott of Israel” really mean?   Does this boycott include both the Israeli government and the people? Or does it include only the Israeli government? (But Prof. Lynch’s Centre, as an education institution, deals with “students”, not the government.) Be aware that it is not necessarily that all Israelis agree with the Israeli government’s aggressive expansion of the territories. In fact, some Israelis are strongly against their government’s policy toward the Palestinians. Even some Israeli soldiers are against their government’s policy. What if such Israelis come to Prof. Lynch’s Centre, would Prof. Lynch refuse them to study peace at his Centre? If the Centre maintains the argument that all Israelis should be excluded from the Centre, it indicates that the Centre considers that all Israelis support the Israeli government’s policy over Palestine. That also means that the Centre is labeling virtually all the Israelis as aggressors to Palestine. If that is the case, is it what a peace education institution should do? It was not necessarily that all Americans agreed with President George W. Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan in the name of the War on Terror. It was not necessarily that Americans agreed with Bush’s Iraq War. Likewise, it is not necessarily that all Israelis support their government policy over the Palestine issues. Given that situation, I dare to ask, what does the Academic Boycott of Israel really mean? Think the other way around: What if non-Israeli students come to study at Prof. Lynch’s Centre, and what if these students support the Israeli government’s policy over Palestine? If that is the case, would Prof. Lynch accept such “non-Israeli students” and refuse “Israeli students” who are against their government’s policy over Palestine? This question leads to another and more fundamental question: Does the Centre discriminate (or exclude) the students by their political opinion, religion (Judaism, for instance), citizenship (Israel, for instance), race (= ethnicity = the Jewish people, for instance), relative’s occupation (= what if the students’ parents are working for the US military industrial complex providing Israel with military weapon s, for instance? Another example: What if an Israeli student, whose father is a peace activist and mother is a humanitarian aid worker helping Palestinians while his uncle is a high ranking Israeli military officer, applies for the Centre? In this regard, see the paragraph 4.), or any other relevant factors? The same thing can be said of many other governments/countries in the world. How about Putin’s Russia? How about his policy over Ukraine, for instance? Would Prof. Lynch’s Centre practice “the Academic Boycott of Russia” if the Centre would deal with the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, for instance? (In this regard, see also the paragraphs 5 and 6, discussing another two examples.)
  2. Why does Prof. Lynch’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies carry out “the Academic Boycott of Israel” in dealing with the conflict of the Palestine/Israel problem?   What is (are) the real objective(s) of this Academic Boycott? (A successful conflict resolution for the Palestine/Israel conflict, “by practicing the Academic Boycott”?)
  3. If the mediator or someone who tackles the conflict boycotts one of the main conflicting parties in the process of a conflict resolution, will the conflict resolution be more successful than in the case of not boycotting one of the parties? Prof. Lynch and his Centre exclude one of the conflicting parties because Prof. Lynch and his Centre consider that the one of the parties is too evil, too cruel, too unfair and/or whatever and however too negative? Is that one of the steps toward a successful conflict resolution? Does Prof. Lynch teach the conflict resolution that way at his university?
  4. If the Academic Boycott of “Israel” is carried out in pursuing a successful conflict resolution for the Palestine/Israel conflict, how about the United States? It is the United States that has been pushing Israel to this date. It is the United States that has been blocked almost all substantial solutions of the Palestine/Israel conflict over the decades. On top of that, 90% of military weapons that the Israeli military forces are using are made in the USA. (The US military industrial complex is constantly making money from the constant bloodshed in Palestine. And the US military industrial complex is constantly giving financial or any other kinds of support to the US lawmakers who support their government to fuel the Palestine/Israel conflict that brings about constant tragedies to Palestine. This vicious circle has been completed and has continued.) It was the United States that helped Israel equip with the nuclear weapons. It is obvious that as far as the United States is behind Israel, it is actually impossible for anybody to bring about a successful conflict resolution to the Palestine/Israel conflict. Prof. Lynch knows all that. Why, then, is only Israel the subject to the Academic Boycott, not the United States? (Here in this paragraph, the same questions in the above mentioned paragraph 1 may be raised. For instance, does this boycott include both the US government and the people if the US is to be the subject to Prof. Lynch’s Academic Boycott? Or does the Academic Boycott include only the US government? And so on and so forth of relevant questions as mentioned in the paragraph 1.)
  5. If Prof. Lynch’s conflict resolution method as such (i.e. the Academic Boycott) is effective, let us apply his method to the Korean Peninsula’s problem, whose conflicting parties may include South Korea, North Korea, Japan, China and the United States. Given that situation, if North Korea will be boycotted from the academic realm (i.e. from Prof. Lynch’s Centre, for instance), will this boycott work for the peacemaking of the Korean Peninsula effectively, especially in the long run? How would this academic boycott positively affect in producing a successful conflict resolution for this conflict? If Prof. Lynch’s Centre would deal with this conflict, would the Centre actually use the so-called academic boycott method as in the case of the Palestine/Israel conflict?
  6. Another possible example of the application of Prof. Lynch’s method (= the academic boycott): China is now conflicting with some neighboring countries over the territorial issues in the South China Sea. The Philippines brought the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague. Both the Philippines and China are member countries to the PCA Statute. Nonetheless, China refuses to join the court session of the PCA. It is because China refuses to recognize the jurisdiction of the PCA regardless of the fact that China is a member country to the PCA Statute. (See http://www.pca-cpa.org/showpage.asp?pag_id=1529 , http://visayanbizpost.com/philippines-news-china-rejects-arbitration-over-south-china-sea-p242-1.htm , and   http://apdforum.com/en_GB/article/rmiap/articles/online/features/2014/10/09/china-construction-neighbors , for example.) China has the problem of the South China Sea not only with the Philippines but also with Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. It seems that China is ready to use the military force to these countries, rather than to bring about their cases to a legitimate international institution (or by inviting an international mediator) to solve the conflicts in the peaceful manner. Even one of the China’s prominent scholars argues that a Third World War might occur from the South China Sea. (See Prof. Han Xudong’s argument: http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/881538.shtml?utm_content=bufferd317c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer and   http://www.ibtimes.com/chinese-scholar-world-war-iii-will-probably-be-result-maritime-disputes-1689849 . For more on this conflict, see http://www.cfr.org/world/armed-clash-south-china-sea/p27883 , for instance.) His claim also implies China’s willingness to resort to the threat or use of force to these countries. All those conflicting countries over the South China Sea consider that China is a rogue state now. Given that situation, let us apply Prof. Lynch’s method to the conflict. That is, “to boycott China from the academic realm (i.e. from Prof. Lynch’s Centre, for instance)”. Would the conflict resolution become more successful then? How would this academic boycott positively and/or effectively affect in producing a successful conflict resolution for the conflict (especially in the long run)? If Prof. Lynch’s Centre would deal with this conflict, would the Centre actually use the so-called academic boycott method as in the case of the Palestine/Israel conflict?
  7. If Prof. Lynch would not use the so-called academic boycott method in dealing with the above mentioned two conflicts (as mentioned in the paragraphs 5 and 6) in East/South East Asia, why would he use this academic boycott method in dealing with the Palestine/Israel conflict? Now, this question goes back to the above paragraphs 2 and 3.
  8. If Prof. Lynch claims that his Centre’s method/policy, “the Academic Boycott of Israel”, is to positively contribute to the preparation of a successful conflict resolution for the Palestine/Israel conflict in the long run, his method/policy must stand against the test of questioning, first of all. (Some people might name these questions and/or the argument contained in these questions, “Devil’s advocate”.) The above raised questions are only a few of a huge number of questions for the test of his policy. Then, secondly, the method/policy must stand the test of time. Thirdly, the conflict will prove it. In other words, (1) questions from the world (not only the questions from me) to his method/policy will tell. (2) Time will also tell. (3) Eventually, the conflict itself will tell.
  9. Lastly but not least, let me state as follows: Prof. Lynch is one of the most respectable professors of peace studies, especially in the field of peace journalism. In fact, I am one of those who studied peace journalism by using his book, Peace Journalism, published by Hawthorn Press, 2005. If Prof. Galtung is the initiator of peace journalism, Prof. Lynch is one of the main developers or explorers of peace journalism. Without sufficiently acknowledging Prof. Lynch’s outstanding contribution to the development of peace journalism, one cannot discuss peace journalism today. With peace and respect.


Satoshi Ashikaga is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, originally from Japan.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Oct 2014.

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2 Responses to “On the “Academic Boycott of Israel” Claimed by University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies”

  1. Reply from Jake Lynch received by email; he encountered difficulties in posting it directly here:

    A few points in reply.

    There is no boycott at the Centre, nor is there any call for one, of students or potential staff members from Israel, who wish to apply to join us. They would, in such cases, be acting as individuals, representing only themselves, and – as the original PACBI call, issued by Palestinian civil society, points out – would not therefore be targeted for boycott. We have welcomed Israeli students to our Masters program, and Israeli speakers to our public advocacy and outreach program, despite our boycott policy.

    CPACS’ boycott policy is carefully focused on two funded Fellowship schemes that pay for staff at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Technion University of Haifa, respectively, to visit the University of Sydney (and Sydney staff to visit them). It’s worth taking a moment to ponder the unusual nature of these schemes.

    Usually, organisations that fund Fellowships have the aim of promoting research excellence, and therefore open eligibility as widely as possible – since the largest field of applicants gives the best chance of getting excellent projects. These schemes are highly unusual in being so restricted in the field of applicants – a strong signal that the aim is not, in fact, the promotion of research excellence, but the exploitation of academic research in general, and the good name of the University of Sydney in particular, to promote Israel. Universities are unwittingly involved in a campaign to sanitise Israel’s image in the international community: the choice is to go along with this campaign, and therefore become complicit in it, or to take a principled stand against it, as we have done.

    Israel is singled out for boycott because of its unparalleled record of militarism and lawlessness. Other countries violate human rights; discriminate systematically against minorities; illegally occupy territory recognised as not their own; stockpile nuclear weapons outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and carry out disproportionate and indiscriminate military actions that kill and harm large numbers of civilians. But only Israel does all five of these things.

    The strategic aim of the boycott is to enable meaningful negotiations on a lasting peace, not to replace them. When the talks convened by US Secretary of State John Kerry talks collapsed in acrimony, earlier this year, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat declared: “Israel refuses to negotiate sincerely because, as long as the status quo is so beneficial to it, Israel has no interest in a solution. Without firm signals from the international community, Netanyahu’s occupation and colonization policies are incentivized”.

    As Annabel McGoldrick has pointed out, there are clear parallels with the principles of mediation in family conflicts, where a power imbalance favours one party – an abusive man – over his partner. “The first challenge with an abusive man is to motivate him to work on himself. Because he becomes attached to the many rewards that his controlling and intimidating behaviors bring him, he is highly reluctant to make significant changes in his way of operating in a relationship,” writes psychologist Lundy Bancroft, who runs programs for abusive men.

    The parallel with Israel is of becoming attached to the rewards of funding and support from the USA, which is, in effect, unconditional, whatever Israel’s violence against Palestinian civilians and regular seizures of Palestinian land. So there is an equivalent reluctance among the power brokers of Israel to ameliorate their violent responses. Bancroft goes on to emphasise that such reluctance must be challenged in order to be overcome:

    “This reluctance cannot be overcome through gentle persuasion, pleading, or cajoling… I am sorry to say that I have never once seen such approaches succeed. The men who make significant progress in my program are the ones who know that their partners will definitely leave them unless they change, and the ones on probation who have a tough probation officer who demands that they really confront abusiveness. In other words, the initial impetus to change is always extrinsic rather than self motivated.”[1]

    The pressure from the international community to return to meaningful negotiations, referenced by Erekat, in the statement above, as essential to any prospect of peace, must come from all levels. Reluctant governments must be brought to respond to the issue by calls from civil society, through the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. The academic boycott is part of that.


    [1] Bancroft, Lundy (2002). Why does he do that? Inside the minds of angry and controlling men. New York: Berkley Books. Pages 334-5.