The Israeli Law Centre, Shurat HaDin, has filed a complaint under the Racial Discrimination Act with the Australian Human Rights Commission against the Sydney Peace Foundation’s Stuart Rees and Sydney University's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies’ Jake Lynch.
The complaint claims Rees and Lynch are supporting racist and discriminatory policies through their support for the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Israeli government.
It is the first time Australia’s anti-racism laws have been used against people involved in the BDS campaign.
A petition has been launched calling for those who support the BDS movement to be named as a co-defendant in the complaint.
The petition says: “These accusations are unfounded and intimidatory. They are intended to stifle free speech.
"The BDS movement is a call for justice by all sectors of Palestinian civil society and supported around the world by unions, churches, civil society and human rights groups. It is a form of non-violent popular resistance and international solidarity in protest against Israel's persistent violation of Palestinian human rights and international law.
“BDS policies make it clear that it is a human rights-based movement and opposed to racism in all forms, including anti-Semitism.
"Inspired by the effective movement against apartheid South Africa, BDS is directed against the illegal military occupation and settlements of the West Bank, the collective punishment of Gaza and Israeli discrimination of its own Palestinian citizens.
"BDS opposes corporations, institutions and organisations which support Israel's violation of human rights and international law including businesses such as Caterpillar, Motorola, G4S and Veolia.
"By supporting BDS and in resisting derision and threats for doing so, Rees and Lynch have rejected the attempt by a foreign agency — in this case the Israeli law firm Shurat HaDin — to stifle dissent in Australia.
"This letter invites you to do the same, and in the following terms: I hereby support the global BDS movement. I wish to be named a co-defendant."
[To sign the petition, titled “Defend free speech and human rights and support the BDS”, visit change.org.au.]