An Israeli civil rights organization filed a class-action lawsuit over the weekend with the Australian Human Rights Commission, claiming that a Sydney professor who has called for a boycott of Israeli academy breached Australia's anti-discrimination laws.
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In its suit, Shurat HaDin – the Israel Law Center says Associate Professor Jake Lynch, who teaches at the University of Sydney, violated his country's federal anti-discrimination law by calling for a boycott of Israeli universities.
The lawsuit constitutes the first time the anti-racism provision has been used in an attempt to fight supporters of BDS (the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement) who want to cut ties with Israeli academic or business institutions over the government's policies toward the Palestinians.
Shuradt HaDin attorney Andrew Hamilton, who filed the suit with the Human Rights Commission, said in a press statement that the anti-discrimination law make it "unlawful for a person to do any act involving a distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, 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."
Hamilton added that BDS actions do nothing to help Palestinians, and that Sydney University could be held responsible for Professor Lynch's remarks. Lynch is on study leave.
The university's student union recently backed a boycott call issued by Lynch, who publicly refused to work alongside Dan Avnon, a professor from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Avnon was responsible for writing and implementing the country's only program in civics designed for joint Jewish-Arab schools.
"The University of Sydney does not consider the boycott, divestment and sanctions policy appropriate and it is not University of Sydney policy," a spokeswoman for Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence told Shurat HaDin.