First time in Australia, Sidney University's Department of Peace and Conflict Studies will host a BDS conference on campus on the 28-29 July 2017. The conference is supported by the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network. Speakers include notoriously anti-Israel academics Jake Lynch, Sol Salbe, and Marcelo Svirsky among others.
The conference includes many non-academic activists. One such group, the Australian Friends of Palestine Association (AFOPA) which announced its BDS activities in 2017 online, added that "2017 will also be the year of close collaborations with our pro-Palestinian friends interstate with a national BDS conference planned for 28-29 July in Sydney."
Sydney University's vice-chancellor Dr. Michael Spence spoke on the topic of BDS activities on campus last year. He said: “BDS is not university policy... We think that we should have academic relations with universities wherever good academic work is being done... Exceptional academic work is being done in Israel and we have relationships across the board, most recently in nanotechnology and agriculture with universities in Israel, so that’s not an issue... We have strong academic relations with Israel, a great tradition of relationships with the Jewish community, a flourishing program in Hebrew and Jewish studies that remains internationally renowned and is very important to us."
But he also commented on Jake Lynch, the leading force behind BDS in Sydney University. He said “Academic freedom means that there’s nothing I can do to stop him taking that position... I also can’t censure an academic for holding a view or advocating a view, because that’s what academics do.”
To recall, Lynch was involved in a number of BDS incidents. In 2012 Lynch blocked a request of Dan Avnon, a Hebrew University professor, to spend a sabbatical at Sidney University. In March 2015, Colonel Richard Kemp, a decorated British Army officer, visited the University of Sydney. A group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators led by Lynch interrupted his talk.
One of the featured speakers in the BDS conference by the end of this week is Dr. David Faber, a co-convenor of AFOPA’s BDS group who "has spent considerable time over the last year preparing for attempts by Zionists in Israel and Australia to steal part of our ANZAC history. The centenary of the Charge of the Light Horse Brigade will be commemorated on 31 October 2017 and David as a historian and AFOPA as a political organisation will be vigorously countering the Zionist claim that young Australian soldiers died on that battlefield to help set up the apartheid state of Israel." Farber's attempt to rewrite Australian history borders on the anti-Semitic.
Sydney University should be aware that an academic conference should be balanced in the sense that all sorts of views need be presented. There is a huge difference between a legitimate panel and the type of political activism that Lynch and his cohorts have been associated with. Also, Sidney University should not be taking the easy way out to hide behind the shop-worn excuses of academic freedom to avoid dealing with the abuse of academic legitimacy by Palestinian and pro-Palestinian activists on campus.
Sydney University to host BDS conference
A conference on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian justice will be held at the University of Sydney over July 28–29.
Free and open to the public, the conference will be the largest ever held on BDS in Australia, with three keynote lectures, four discussion panels and more than 30 separate talks on a wide array of topics.
It is hosted by the university’s Department of Peace and Conflict Studies and supported by a wide range of community organisations, including the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network. This is the first time a BDS conference has been hosted by an Australian university.
As Israel’s brutal repression of Palestinians strengthens, BDS, now in its twelfth year, has become the focus of the international Palestine solidarity movement.
Modelled on the campaign against South African apartheid, BDS demands an end to the occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza, the recognition of Palestinian refugees’ right to return to the homes from which they were evicted, and full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel.
The conference’s special international guest is American-Palestinian activist Yousef Munayyer, head of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. Munayyer will speak at a plenary on “Building towards sanctions: Palestine rights work in the US under Trump” on July 28.
Munayyer said: “This conference in Sydney, which I am happy to participate in, is an important indicator of the growth and vitality of the Palestinian rights movement around the globe and in Australia in particular.”
Despite last year’s successful UN Security Council Resolution against settlements, decades of stalled negotiations show that Palestine supporters cannot look to official political mechanisms to advance the campaign for a just peace in Palestine–Israel. As a result, the role of civil society movements like BDS is crucial.
In Australia, a number of BDS efforts are underway, but the campaign here has not yet reached the levels of activity or public consciousness seen in some other parts of the world. Presenters based in Malaysia, Japan, Italy, New Zealand and the US will join local activists and academics at the conference to discuss the state of BDS efforts around the world.
The institutional academic boycott has emerged as a recent area of particular activity for BDS activists in Australia. Contrary to a common misconception, the academic boycott does not mean refusing to participate with all academics based in Israel: it just involves boycotting Israeli universities and Israeli academic officials — those academics, in other words, who lead or represent Israeli higher education institutions, all of which are complicit with Israel’s repression of Palestinians.
Ghassan Hage, Future Generation Professor of Anthropology and Social Theory at the University of Melbourne and a recent exponent of the academic boycott, will give a keynote talk on “BDS: from internal to external critique”. Hage will explain what led him to adopt BDS after previously being critical of it.
To be opened by Australian-Palestinian writer and activist Samah Sabawi, the conference will consist of two days of stimulating sessions on a wide range of topics on BDS, Palestine solidarity and the politics of Palestine–Israel in Australia and abroad.
Sessions will discuss the link between Palestine and Aboriginal justice struggles, BDS and freedom of speech, academic freedom and the boycott, and student activism for Palestine, among others. Cathy Peters and Sylvia Hale will discuss BDS and the Greens. Assistant national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia Warren Smith will talk on Palestine solidarity efforts in the union movement.
Sydney academic Jake Lynch, who successfully defeated a case waged against him by an Israeli “lawfare” centre for upholding the boycott, will present an analysis of the workings of pro-Israeli influence in Australia. Jewish BDS activists will discuss the issue of anti-semitism, the typical slur used by Zionists to discredit BDS. Sporting, cultural and economic boycotts will also be addressed, as will critiques of BDS, the history of Palestine solidarity movements and the dynamics of the Israel lobby in Australia.
Presenters include Guardian Australia columnist Jeff Sparrow; New Matilda columnist Michael Brull; Shamikh Badra from the Palestinian People’s Party; Hilmi Dabbagh from the Palestine Support Network Australia; Handala-Italia, a collective of Italian academics; Nazari Ismail from BDS Malaysia; and Don Carson from the Wellington Palestine Group (NZ).
Historian Roger Markwick will talk on “Bolshevism, Balfour and Zionism: A Tale of Two Centenaries” and John O’Brien, author of a history of the National Tertiary Education Union will talk on Palestine solidarity efforts and BDS in the NTEU. Jewish academic Peter Slezak and Marcelo Svirsky will consider anti-semitism, and Vivienne Porzsolt from Jews against the Occupation will run a panel discussing Palestine organising in the Jewish community, to which Jordy Silverstein from the University of Melbourne and the Australian Jewish Democratic Society and Yaakov and Yehuda Aharon from the Jewish Left Collective will contribute.
“Overall, the conference promises to offer a stimulating opportunity to assess the state of BDS in Australia and the world,” said Nick Riemer of Sydney University, one of the conference organisers. “It’s particularly appropriate that we’re holding it at Sydney University, which has emerged as a key site for academic BDS activities in Australia.
“In hosting this free, open conference, we’re contributing to greater public understanding of the BDS campaign, and discharging one of the university’s main obligations — harnessing rational argument to support a more peaceful and more just world. As a crucial global human rights issue in the West, it’s urgent for universities to get behind the BDS campaign.”
The conference opens on July 28 at Sydney University. Participants can register on the conference homepage
Registration is open and free. Register now!
The keynote speakers are Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, author, playwright and political commentator Samah Sabawi and Ghassan Hage, Future Generation Professor of Anthropology and Social Theory, University of Melbourne.
The recent UN Security Council resolution declaring Israeli settlements in ‘flagrant violation’ of international law and calling for a halt to all settlement activity, followed by Israel’s retrospective legalisation of thousands of settlements on stolen Palestinian land, acutely raises the question of what steps can be taken to promote justice, along with genuine peace, in the region.
In line with the call from Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions, this conference, held to mark the centenary of the Balfour declaration and the 50th anniversary of Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, will analyse the current politics of BDS in Australia and abroad, reflect on previous BDS activity, and contribute to greater public understanding of the BDS campaign.
Over thirty papers will be presented by speakers based in Palestine, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Italy, the US, and Japan. Sessions will cover topics such as:
- critiques of BDS and responding to them
- Palestine, students and activism
- Zionism and BDS
- freedom of speech, academic freedom and BDS
- legal attacks on BDS
- Justice-work, activism and BDS in academia
- the Israel lobby
- BDS in Palestine and abroad
- Palestine, unions and politics
- arms, cultural and sporting boycotts
- Palestine and the Jewish community.
The conference starts at 9.30 on Friday July 28 and runs until 6.30 on Saturday evening. Yousef Munayyer’s plenary will be at 7pm on Friday evening.
See here for the conference announcement from the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies.
The academic programme committee is here.
Download the conference poster here.
BDS: Driving Global Justice for Palestine University of Sydney, 28-29 July, 2017
Friday July 28
9.00-9.15 Welcome to country and introduction
9.15 -10.15 Opening plenary: Samah Sabawi
10.15-11.15 Panel: BDS in different national contexts (Badra, Munayyer, Sorbera, Wakim, Ismail)
11.30-1.00 Anti-Semitism (Slezak, Svirsky, Porzsolt) Palestine solidarity: Australian and international initiatives (Dabbagh, Rees, Budge)
2.00-3.30 Academic freedom and the boycott (Austin, handala_Italy collective, Riemer) War and peace, sport and BDS (Salbe, Vlazna, Duffill)
3.45-4.45 Critiques of BDS and responding to them (Brophy, Brull) Palestine, students and activism (Anderton & Hagman-Chafe, Students for Palestine)
5.00-6.00 Panel: Justice-work, activism and BDS in universities (Silverstein, Hage, Lynch et al.)
6.30-7.45 Plenary: Yousef Munayyer Conference drinks and dinner
Saturday July 29
9.30-10.30 Plenary: Ghassan Hage
10.45-12.15 BDS in Palestine and abroad (Badra, Carson, Ismail) The Israel lobby (Lynch, Sparrow, Ridgewell)
Panel: Working with the Jewish community on justice for Palestine (Porzsolt, Silverstein, Aharon, Aharon)
12.30-1.30 The cultural boycott and arts for Palestine (Rowe + Royalle) History (Markwick, Faber)
1.30-2.30 lunch + book signing
2.30-4.00 Panel: Palestine activism and youth movements BDS in unions and politics (O’Brien, Peters/Hale, Smith) Zionism, Israel, peace (Asoulin, Dally, Jones)
4.15-5.30 Concluding panel: BDS: central to Palestine justice solidarity (Munayyer et al.)
1. Samah Sabawi: title tbc
2. Yousef Munayyer: Building toward Sanctions: Palestine rights work in the US under Trump
3. Ghassan Hage: BDS: from external to internal critique
Panel sessions are free-flowing, open discussions in front of an audience between a number of participants and a moderator.
1. BDS in different national contexts: Yousef Munayyer, Janfrie Wakim, Lucia Sorbera, Nazari Ismail, Shamikh Badra
2. Justice-work, activism and BDS in universities: Jordy Silverstein, Jake Lynch, Ghassan Hage
3. Working with the Jewish community on justice for Palestine: Vivienne Porzsolt, Jordy Silverstein, Yaakov Aharon
4. BDS: central to Palestine justice solidarity: Yousef Munayyer and others tbc Presentations
1. Chris Anderton and Yenni Hagman-Chafe: Students and the BDS movement
2. Eran Asoulin: Some remarks on the Arab Jews, the occupation, and the Israeli right
3. Robert Austin: The Palestinian Boycott Campaign, the Latin American Perspectives journal and the Western Academic Bloc.
4. Shamikh Badra: BDS and Palestine
5. David Brophy: Why don’t you boycott China ?
6. Michael Brull: BDS in Australia: failures, successes, prospects
7. Tim Budge, Helen Rainger, and Kevin Bray: A Critical Review of Church Engagement in BDS
8. Don Carson: whose fight is it anyway?
9. Hilmi Dabbagh: The PSNA (Palestine Support Network Australia) and BDS in Australia
10. Bassam Dally: Boycott from Within: The Hazard and Opportunity of BDS in Israel
11. Paul Duffill: A holistic human rights – conflict transformation contingency model for building peace, with civil society peace and human rights initiatives in Israel-Palestine as a case study
12. David Faber: Beersheba, Occupation & the Mind of God
13. Handala_Italy collective: Doublethink and censorship in Italian academia: the case of the academic and cultural boycott of Israeli institutions (PACBI)
14. Nazari Ismail: The Dilemma of Competing Claims for Justice - The Case of BDS efforts in Malaysia
15. Evan Jones: No Prospect of Change From Within
16. Jake Lynch: How it works: pro-Israel influence in Australia conceptualised according to Steven Lukes’ three-dimensional model of power.
17. Roger Markwick: Bolshevism, Balfour and Zionism: A Tale of Two Centenaries
18. John O’Brien: ‘It's not a priority for members’: The NTEU - its foreign policies and its overseas activities.
19. Cathy Peters, Sylvia Hale: BDS and The Greens
20. Vivienne Porzsolt: Anti-Semitism in the Palestine solidarity movement?
21. Stuart Rees: Cowardice, Courage, Coherence: Australians' record of interest in and support for the BDS movement
22. Damian Ridgewell: Censorship, Freedom of Speech and Palestine: Attacks on the BDS Movement
23. Nick Riemer: The normalcy of boycott
24. Nicholas Rowe: Moving boycotts: the development of PACBI and BDS policy from grassroots arts activism
25. Candy Royalle: The Cultural Boycott
26. Sol Salbe: Israel and FIFA: a case study of winning and losing strategies
27. Peter Slezak: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism and BDS.
28. Warren Smith: BDS and the union movement
29. Jeff Sparrow: Palestine: what editors and writers should know
30. Students for Palestine: Education in Palestine
31. Marcelo Svirsky: BDS and the racial topography of Zionism
32. Vacy Vlazna: Australian Arms Sanctions under the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)
BDS IN ADELAIDE IN 2017
5 May 2017
This year we are widening our BDS focus particularly into the area of Divestment. Australia is a shareholding nation and all shareholders have the power to steer clear of unethical investments that funnel money back to Israel.
AFOPA's Adelaide activists send their solidarity message to the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons who began a mass hunger strike in April 2017. #PalHunger #DignityStrike [Photo: AFOPA M.Cassar]
Every year the Israeli government and its embassy in Australia attempts to whitewash their crimes by sending cultural ambassadors to Australia. They also inadvertently provide us with a great opportunity to promote the cultural boycott of Israel as we did at the Jerusalem Quartet and Vertigo Dance Company’s performances in 2016. So far in 2017 we have protested the presence of the L-E-V dance troupe during the Adelaide Festival. It is interesting to note that this company travelled all the way from Israel for two performances and that despite heavy promotion neither show sold out.
Our range of boycott targets is also expanding with campaigns planned against the presence of a Max Brenner
store in the centre of Adelaide, joint campaigns with Sean Clinton of Limerick, Ireland exposing the Israeli blood diamond industry
, supporting hunger-striking Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli gaols and supporting the RFDS-Elbit campaign in NSW
Co-convenor of AFOPA’s BDS group, Dr David Faber, has spent considerable time over the last year preparing for attempts by Zionists in Israel and Australia to steal part of our ANZAC history. The centenary of the Charge of the Light Horse Brigade will be commemorated on 31 October 2017 and David as a historian and AFOPA as a political organisation will be vigorously countering the Zionist claim that young Australian soldiers died on that battlefield to help set up the apartheid state of Israel.
2017 will also be the year of close collaborations with our pro-Palestinian friends interstate with a national BDS conference planned for 28-29 July in Sydney
. All welcome.
As always AFOPA’s BDS protest group remain committed to their peaceful weekly actions in Rundle Mall educating the people of Adelaide about the boycott. We are rapidly approaching Week 340 of these protests and encourage all supporters of Palestine to look at how you can individually or collectively boycott Israel or divest from Israeli companies and the companies that support Israel. The smallest of actions, for example telling a shopkeeper that you won’t buy Israeli products, can be very powerful.
BDS encourages Israel to enter into a two-state dialogue
12:00AM July 26, 2017
A major national conference on the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign for Palestine will be held at the University of Sydney this week.
Predictably, the conference has been met with stock accusations of anti-Semitism.
With the baselessness of that charge increasingly apparent, it’s a good time to consider a more serious objection to academic BDS: the idea that academics’ duty is to privilege dialogue and debate, not boycott, as the pathway to a more peaceful world.
In fact, BDS springs from the failure of dialogue to secure peace. Initiated in 2005 by more than 170 Palestinian civil-society organisations, the campaign is a response to the blockade, illegal settlements, home demolitions, water theft, checkpoints and summary killings that turn the everyday life of an entire people into a waking nightmare.
It also demands recognition of the UN-mandated right of return of Palestinian refugees — a right that the refugees may or may not choose to exercise.
Palestine is, of course, not the only human rights and peace struggle today — but it is the landmark international one, and victory would set a powerful precedent. It is also one to which academics can, for once, directly contribute. Academics are regularly urged to maximise their impact, but our work is usually conducted at multiple removes from real-world effect: as researchers and lecturers, we mostly advise and teach others, rather than acting ourselves.
When it comes to the Middle East, however, our professional activity forces us to choose sides. Israel has made its universities key components of the intellectual and material infrastructure of the occupation. They play this role in many ways: in large-scale arms research; military training programs; systematic privileges for students in the army; use of academic capital as international smart-washing; a revolving door between the highest levels of academe and government — and even, in several cases, premises on stolen Palestinian land.
That presents academics outside Israel with a choice: do we maintain business as usual with Israeli institutions, even though doing so supports and normalises Israel’s illegal policies? Or do we ethically exert the limited power our profession gives us to advance peace?
The terms of the academic boycott are often misunderstood. The official boycott guidelines ask academics only to boycott Israeli institutions, not individual researchers. No one is boycottable just for being affiliated to an Israeli university. Only officials of Israeli institutions — deans or presidents — or official university-sponsored activities, such as conferences, are subject to BDS.
Academic BDS is not, then, the indiscriminate boycott of all Israeli researchers, as it is often presented. Quite the contrary: it applies only to academics who have chosen to assume leadership roles in key national institutions.
Researchers should ground their politics empirically, in real data. But doing that means abandoning one of our most cherished fictions: the idea that talk will solve the world’s problems. International talks since Oslo have only entrenched the status quo. The Israeli government’s commitment to a settlement extends only to the illegal ones mushrooming over the West Bank, effectively scuttling the two-state solution. Peaceful pressure needs to be exerted on it to reset the power imbalance.
Attending a conference in Tel Aviv as a physicist or an anthropologist will not advance dialogue on justice in the Middle East. Refusing to do so will: the Israeli government’s own response to BDS shows it constitutes a uniquely powerful force for progress in Israel-Palestine.
Academics are usually bit players in the realpolitik of international relations. But boycotting Israeli institutions is one concrete step we can take, in our own domain, to create the conditions in which a real dialogue can start.
Nick Riemer is a lecturer in English and linguistics at the University of Sydney.
‘Anti-Semitic behaviour is not acceptable at Sydney University’
May 12, 2016 National News
VICE-CHANCELLOR of the University of Sydney Dr Michael Spence has asserted that anti-Semitic behaviour is not acceptable on campus, and insisted the university wants to take a strong stand against it.
Speaking exclusively to The AJN, following a series of incidents in recent years that have left Jewish students feeling uneasy, Spence said university should be a place where “everybody is safe and free to discuss ideas”, and where students have confidence people will “engage in debate about their ideas, but not in behaviour that’s denigrating of them personally”.
“We have repeatedly expressed the fact that anti-Semitic behaviour is not acceptable on campus,” he said.
“One is always going to have people who engage in hateful behaviour of one kind or another. What I want to do is empower the great body of students and staff to know how to deal with and fight against that.”
The university is investing significantly in the creation of a national centre for cultural competence and increasing the cultural competence of its staff and students. Cultural competence programs for staff have already started, and Spence said the feedback from that is “extremely positive”.
On the topic of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, Spence reiterated that “BDS is not university policy”.
“We think that we should have academic relations with universities wherever good academic work is being done,” he said. “Exceptional academic work is being done in Israel and we have relationships across the board, most recently in nanotechnology and agriculture with universities in Israel, so that’s not an issue.
“We have strong academic relations with Israel, a great tradition of relationships with the Jewish community, a flourishing program in Hebrew and Jewish studies that remains internationally renowned and is very important to us.”
Noting that some staff support the BDS movement, particularly Associate Professor Jake Lynch, and choose not to collaborate with academics from Israeli universities, Spence said, “That is a position that Jake takes in relation to the foreign policy of the State of Israel.
“Academic freedom means that there’s nothing I can do to stop him taking that position, nor would I think it appropriate for me to do that, because the university is not somewhere that promotes ideas or has positions. We are a forum for debate, we are not a participant in debate.”
He said the university cannot censure staff or students for holding an opinion or expressing an opinion.
“What we can do is censure them for behaviour that moves beyond the holding or expressing of an opinion, and moves into racial vilification or hate speech.”
He added: “I’m not defending the work of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. I’m not endorsing the academic positions of Jake Lynch. I need to make sure that Jake Lynch does not engage in behaviour that involves racial vilification, hate speech, anti-Semitism.
“But I also can’t censure an academic for holding a view or advocating a view, because that’s what academics do.”
Urging students to come forward if they “have evidence of behaviour they regard as anti-Semitic”, he added, “We take the concerns of students that they are being treated unfairly by either staff or other students incredibly seriously.
“We want to stamp out this behaviour, which we think is endemic in Western culture. We want to take a strong stand against it.