31 December 2013

Update on Shurat HaDin lawfare attack on Professor Jake Lynch (Australians for BDS – 8 November 2013)

Update on Shurat HaDin lawfare attack on Professor Jake Lynch (Australians for BDS – 8 November 2013)

On Tuesday Oct 29th, 2 Israeli based organisations and three individuals made an application to the Australian Federal Court against Professor Jake Lynch. The case is Shurat HaDin – The Israel Law Center & Ors v Jake Lynch, NSD2235/2013.

The applicants are: Shurat HaDin, Green Freedom Limited (Israel Company Number 514 331 479), Andrew Hamilton, David Hans Lange and Jonathan Rose. 

The following media alert was released as a result of this action and prior to a press conference on Wed Oct 30th led by Professor Stuart Rees and Associate Professor Peter Slezak (Professor Jake Lynch is currently overseas on sabbatical leave).

Australian academic faces lawfare attackThe right to criticize the policies of another country is at stake

Today an Israeli based law centre, Shurat HaDin, filed a case in the Federal Court of Australia, against Professor Jake Lynch from the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.

 They claim that he has supported policies which are racist and discriminatory by his specific endorsement of an academic boycott of Israeli institutions and individuals within them, because of these institutions’ support of the illegal occupation of Palestine and their close connections with the Israeli armament industry.

This lawfare attack against academic freedom and freedom of speech has been condemned by over 2000 Australian and international human rights advocates from some 60 countries, who have all signed a pledge supporting BDS and offering to be co-defendants in any legal action taken against Lynch.
Shurat HaDin has taken many similar actions internationally against groups who supported the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement. Professor Stuart Rees comments,“It seems that this firm, Shurat HaDin works in the civil courts as a proxy for the Israeli government and security forces, seeking to shut down any criticism of the state and its ongoing human rights abuses and violations of international law.”

In August, Shurat HaDin lodged a complaint in the Human Rights Commission against Jake Lynch’s refusal to sponsor an Israeli academic from the Hebrew University because of that institution’s links to the Israeli military and the ongoing Occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza.

This overseas firm now wants to silence this highly regarded academic, by taking their complaint to the Federal Court. This challenges the right to take non violent action in support international human rights law and the rights of the dispossessed Palestinians. Australians for BDS condemns racism in all forms, and specifically anti-Semitism.

“Israel’s occupation and ethnic cleansing machinery continue unabated but the moral force that used to drive that process is fast eroding and, as out of touch as the Abbott government and anti-BDS activists in Australia may be, there is an undeniable shift in the balance of moral power. ..

International civil society is holding Israel to account in a way no government has ever been able to do”......Randa Abdul Fattah, Palestinian lawyer and writer resident in Sydney

Professor Jake Lynch released the following statement which was read at the press conference on Wed Oct 30th in Sydney:

“I am confident we will successfully fight off this despicable attack on freedom of expression, which is backed ultimately by the Israeli security state. The Shurat HaDin law centre has links to the Israeli National Security Council, and the Mossad, and has admitted in the past being directed by them as to which targets to pursue. That makes this attempt to subvert political debate in Australia all the more sinister.

In respect of the claims by Shurat HaDin, the boycott policy I wrote for CPACS, after a public meeting held at the University of Sydney, was carefully conceived to avoid discrimination, being confined to a request to the Vice Chancellor to revoke institutional links with two Israeli universities.

 And when I turned down the request by Professor Dan Avnon, to use my name on his application under one of those same schemes, I was (a) not in a position to prevent his coming to Sydney, since he had only to collect two names as host academics out of 3,000 at the University and (b) using my discretion - in effect, being asked for a favour. The law cannot require me to use my discretion in a particular way or it ceases to be discretion!”

A number of opinion pieces have been published recently outlining the issues raised by this action and we have posted links to them below. 

Your support and pledge to be a co-defendant in this case represents a strong stand against this unfounded and spurious lawfare attack by Shurat HaDin. It is unlikely that this organisation will desire to co-join any other defendants, but your ongoing support is crucial as Australians for BDS fights this foreign organisations’ attempts to gag free speech and academic freedom in Australia.

Please encourage others to sign onto the pledge and leave their comments on the site.

 And if you are an academic, please encourage your colleagues to sign on with their title eg. Prof, Dr., as we will be contacting all academics shortly to sign a statement of support for Professor Jake Lynch.

Thank you for your support. We will keep you posted as this case develops.

Queries: australians4bds@gmail.com
Antony Loewenstein: To support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is not anti-Semitic

Prof Stuart Rees: Op Ed in New Matilda – Two Thousand Defendants for Human Rights https://newmatilda.com/2013/10/28/two-thousand-defendants-human-rights

Randa Abdel-Fattah: – Who's afraid of BDS? Israel's assault on academic freedom – Opinion – ABC Religion & Ethics...

Dr Peter Slezak: - Is It Anti-Semitic To Protest Injustice? 

Samah Sabawi: – Israel and the erosion of democracy :  An Australian Story http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/10/israel-erosion-democracy-an-australian-story-2013101511625981682.html

This message was sent by Australians for BDS using the Change.org system. You received this email because you signed a petition started by Australians for BDS on Change.org: "Defend free speech and human rights and support the BDS." Change.org does not endorse contents of this message.
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Received from Mondoweiss on 10 January 2014:

Arab-American scholars back ASA boycott as legal threats start pouring in
Jan 10, 2014 01:38 pm | Alex Kane
ASA logo tiff (1) copy
The landmark decision by the American Studies Association (ASA) to boycott Israeli academic institutions has lead to legal threats, reports of intimidation aimed at pro-boycott scholars and pushback from those in support of the ASA’s decision. The latest is that a group of prominent Arab-Americans have issued a statement in support of the ASA decision, while an Israeli legal center has said that a lawsuit is in the pipeline.

Earlier this week, Palestinian and Arab-American scholars released a missive in support of the ASA boycott, which is part of the larger boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel.  The statement condemned the “hate” that the ASA has been a target of and expressed appreciation at the ASA’s “recognition that BDS is a legitimate, non-violent tool of resistance by peoples enduring settler-colonialism, occupation, and apartheid.”  Some scholars who signed the letter have already reported receiving hate mail because of it.
It was signed by dozens of prominent figures, including Rashid Khalidi, George Bisharat, Ali Abunimah, Noura Erakat, Nadia Hijab and more. Here’s more from the statement:

By broadening the possibility for critical discussion and debate about the US, Palestine, and Israel, the ASA’s stand has created a new opening that will help to challenge the attack on academic freedom that Palestinian and Arab-American scholars and our allies encounter in the US.
We strongly uphold the principles of free speech and association guaranteed in US jurisprudence and demand that the legal protections offered by these guarantees be extended to our colleagues in the ASA without delay.
We urge all of our colleagues of whatever ethnicity to support the ASA by:
-Becoming a member of the ASA and/or making a donation to the organization,
-Encouraging your department to join the ASA.
-Writing a letter of support to the ASA.
A petition has also been set up for those who agree with the statement.
(Image: Carlos Latuff)
(Image: Carlos Latuff)
Meanwhile, Shurat HaDin, an Israeli legal group, has said that they will sue the ASA if they don’t cancel their boycott.  Yesterday, the Jerusalem Post reported that Shurat HaDin, a group that has links to the Israeli government and the Mossad, sent a letter to the ASA claiming that the academic boycott violates anti-discrimination laws in the U.S. since it targets Israelis and Jews.
That threat has elicited major pushback from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the ASA.  Today, the CCR issued a statement decrying the threat:
This threat is the latest in a pattern of legal bullying that has escalated in the U.S. as the movement for Palestinian rights has grown. An academic boycott in fact violates no anti-discrimination laws because it does not target any individual or institution based on their Jewish identity or Israeli citizenship. Rather, it is aimed at institutions with direct relationships to the Israeli government. Shurat HaDin’s attempt to paint this principled action as anti-Semitic and discriminatory against Israelis is not only legally bankrupt, but also trivializes important struggles against anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism.
The ASA also released a statement strongly pushing back against Shurat HaDin’s threat. Here’s ASA President Curtis Marez’s statement in full:
We will not be intimidated by Shurat HaDin and its legal threats.
Unlike in Israel, where criticism of the government’s policies towards the Palestinians is increasingly criminalized, our boycott decision is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Thankfully, in the United States we still have the right to speak out against Israel’s racial discrimination against Palestinians. As an organization we have the absolute right to oppose the discriminatory practices of Israeli academic institutions and their complicity in Israeli human rights abuses.  Everyone knows the First Amendment protects not just speech but conduct.  Shurat HaDin’s claims are particularly odious as our interactions with individual Israeli academics are likely to be more frequent rather than less in the years ahead.

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