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Boycott Calls Against Israel
BDS, anti-Semitism, and Free Speech on Campus: Some Observations from Down Under


Editorial Note

Jake Lynch, an associate professor at Sidney University, is a leading proponent of BDS in Australia.  As IAM reported, he was subject of a lawsuit on the grounds that his BDS advocacy consists a form of anti-Semitism.  The lawsuit had failed, apparently emboldening Lynch to rev up his political activism.

The most recent fracas took place during a lecture by Richard Kemp at Sidney University.  Kemp, a retired British colonel and a staunch defender of the IDF, was interrupted by Lynch and a group of Palestinian students, causing a scuffle with some Jewish members of the audience.  At one point, Lynch was seen waving a five dollar banknote in the face of a retired Jewish professor, whom he accused of kicking in the groin.   

The university cleared Lynch of charges of anti-Semitism, but he can still face expulsion or other disciplinary charges for breaking the faculty code mandating treatment of visitors with “respect, impartiality, courtesy and sensitivity.“

Critics have accused the Vice Chancellor, Michael Spence of stifling free speech. As one of them put it, the university acted inappropriately “against people who are exercising their legitimate right of free speech". "How bizarre is it that universities, which have been a hotbed of free speech for centuries, are threatening staff and students with disciplinary action for expressing themselves,"  

The story of Lynch is just one more illustration of the difficulties involving the definition of anti-Semitism, BDS and free speech on campus.  Quite clearly, there is no silver bullet solution to the problem.


Academic Jake Lynch cleared of anti-Semitism in ugly stoush at Sydney University

April 27, 2015 - 3:26AM

Peter Munro, Journalist


The University of Sydney has cleared a prominent academic of anti-Semitism but still threatened him with the sack in relation to an ugly protest at its main campus, in which screaming students were dragged along the ground by security guards.  

University staff accused vice-chancellor Michael Spence of aiding a "witch hunt" against Associate Professor Jake Lynch, who was accused of anti-Semitic behaviour for waving money in the face of a Jewish woman, after she allegedly kicked him in the groin. 

Professor Lynch, a proponent of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, was advised by the university this month that it was not satisfied his conduct "constituted anti-Semitic behaviour or unlawful harassment on the grounds of an individual's religious belief (or perceived religious belief)".

But Professor Lynch, director of the centre for peace and conflict studies, was warned he still faced dismissal or other disciplinary action for possible breaches of the university's code of conduct, under which staff must treat visitors "with respect, impartiality, courtesy and sensitivity".

A handful of Sydney University students also face expulsion after protesting at a talk on its Camperdown campus by retired British colonel Richard Kemp, a vocal defender of the Israeli Defence Forces. The students, who used a megaphone to chant pro-Palestinian slogans, were forcibly removed by security guards, with one young man dragged away by his ankles. 

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said it was "completely inappropriate" for the university to invoke its code of conduct "against people who are exercising their legitimate right of free speech". "How bizarre is it that universities, which have been a hotbed of free speech for centuries, are threatening staff and students with disciplinary action for expressing themselves," he said.

The university has sent "show cause" letters to 13 people over the fracas, including Professor Lynch, five students and two security guards. 

A separate stoush was sparked in the audience between Professor Lynch and Diane Barkas, a Jewish semi-retired English lecturer and stand-up comedian, after she threw water on a protester. Professor Lynch threatened to sue Ms Barkas – waving a $5 note in her face and saying "This is going to cost you a lot of money" – after she allegedly kicked him in the groin, a claim she denies.

Senior English lecturer Nick Riemer, who was also in the audience but has been cleared of any wrongdoing, said his colleague had been subject to an "inquisitorial investigation, prompted by politically-motivated complaints made against him by the Israeli lobby". "It's a witch hunt," he said. "Jake intervened to prevent students being hurt and I think his critics saw an opportunity to attack him."

Professor Lynch, who was not available for comment, was "very concerned about his job", Dr Riemer added. 

But Julian Kowal, of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, claimed Professor Lynch had compromised the reputation of Sydney University as a "safe space for Jewish students" and should be sacked. "In so far as the money-waving actions in the face of a Jewish woman evoked strong images of historically anti-Semitic stereotypes, his actions were undoubtedly highly inappropriate," he said.

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