AUSTRALIAN EDITORIAL: Peace body promotes conflict 29Aug13 August 29, 2013

The Australian     -     28 August 2013

ONE of the many benefits of the rule of law is that everybody is entitled to their day in court. Faced with a complaint of breaching the Race Discrimination Act, two Sydney academics have decided to stage a protest rally instead.

It means that peaceful, law-abiding scholars at the University of Sydney will have their day disrupted by another arrogant display by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Sydney Peace Foundation director Stuart Rees and Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies director Jake Lynch would do better to start preparing their defence for the Australian Human Rights Commission hearing they are due to face this week. The Tel Aviv-based Israel Law Centre, Shurat HaDin, has lodged a complaint that the academics’ support for the BDS movement breaches race discrimination laws.

Shurat HaDin staff acknowledge it is legal to criticise and oppose the policies of any government, including Israel’s. It happens in that democracy, too. They have a reasonable case, however, when they argue boycotting businesses and professors whose only connection to the Israeli government is that they come from Israel is discrimination. The act prohibits actions based on race or national origins that impair “any human right or fundamental freedom in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”.

We await the academics’ justification for the BDS movement’s absurd picketing of Max Brenner chocolate shops owned by a Jewish businessman and the boycott last year of Hebrew University of Jerusalem professor Dan Avnon, who created a civics curriculum for Jewish and Arab students. He had wanted to study how a diverse community such as Australia’s taught civics. As he said at the time of the boycott: “This is how conflicts start. This is groupthink at its worst.”

The fact the BDS movement falsely equates Israel with apartheid-era South Africa shows it does not understand Israel. Professor Rees and Associate Professor Lynch have promoted the sort of prejudice and conflict the foundation should be fighting.

Israel and the Palestinians have a long way to go to reach a solution to their long-running conflict. But in singling out Israel for derision, the Sydney Peace Foundation and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies have said little of note about atrocities in Syria, Egypt and elsewhere. They should look around the world and take their responsibilities seriously.

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