Australian academic: why support BDS

Issue 
Academic and Palestine solidarity campaigner Jake Lynch.

“Not joining the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement doesn’t mean that you’re not taking a stand,” Associate Professor Jake Lynch told a meeting at the University of Sydney on March 14. “By continuing institutional links to Israeli high education, universities here risk unwittingly becoming indirectly complicit in violations of international laws and abuses of human rights.”

Lynch, the director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS), gave these impassioned words to a meeting was organised by the Palestine Action Group during Israeli Apartheid week at the University of Sydney. The meeting was organised to discuss how to broaden support for the international, non-violent BDS movement on the university.

Lynch explained that the department joined the BDS movement in 2009. He said it was focused on taking action such as raising objections to institutional ties between the University of Sydney and Israeli institutions.

For these largely educational efforts, CPACS and Lynch have come under considerable pressure from the university administration, assisted by the Murdoch media.

“It hasn’t and doesn’t mean that we have refused to have anything to do with Israel,” Lynch said. “We have hosted Jews and Israelis here, including Professor Jeff Halper, a spokesperson for the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions; Professor Ilan Pappe; Rabbi Michael Lerner; and Anna Baltzer.”

“However, we do not support institutional ties between the University of Sydney and universities in Israel.”

For this, he has come under fire from the Murdoch media.

Last year, Lynch rejected a request by Israeli academic Dan Avnon of the Hebrew University for a fellowship at CPACS. “That would have meant violating CPACS’s commitment to support the BDS campaign until Israel complies with international law — meaning ending its occupation of Palestinian territory and dismantling the apartheid wall.”

CPACS is also campaigning for an end to the University of Sydney’s institutional partnership with Technion — the Israel Institute of Technology — that is implicated in war crimes.

Technion has ties with arms’ manufacturers and weapons’ developers, including the development of the remote control D9 bulldozer used to demolish Palestinian homes. It also has strong links to Elbit Systems, which builds technology for the illegal apartheid wall.

Lynch cited other links with the University of Sydney including the Weizman Institute of Science, which has sponsored a company that develops lubricants for the Israeli military; the Hebrew University, which lends academic auspices to military colleges and training courses; and the Tel Aviv University, which collaborates on military research and sponsors a research program for an Israeli settlement Psagot in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Lynch said there were several international laws that Israel has broken. The UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed in 1967, emphasised “the inadmissibility of territory acquired by war”. The Fourth Geneva Convention, passed in 1949, says “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

More recently, a United Nations Fact Finding Mission report, Indiscriminate targeting in Operation Cast Lead, found that the Israeli attack in 2008-2009 was: “A deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”

Lynch said CPACS, with support from students, would like to convince other departments that institutional partnerships should not come at the expense of Palestinians’ human rights. The University of Johannesburg’s decision last year to end all relationships with Israeli academic institutions is grounds for optimism, he said.

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