THE AUSTRALIAN: First test of BDS funding hardline 26Sep13 September 26, 2013

by Ean Higgins      -      The Australian      -      26 September 2013

467086-121208-jake-lynchTHE Coalition faces an early test of its promise to cut federal funds to supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel, with a large grant sought by academic Jake Lynch due to be decided next month.

Associate Professor Lynch, who supports the pro-Palestinian international BDS campaign, has applied for a $290,000 Australian Research Council grant, and federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne will have sign-off.

Professor Lynch says the proposed research is not connected to BDS, but to a comparative study of journalism.

However, according to an election promise by Julie Bishop as foreign affairs spokeswoman, a Coalition government will block any federal research funds going to academics who publicly promoted BDS.

Ms Bishop’s policy has come under attack including from three Australian Jewish academics who are against BDS, but also oppose curbs on free speech.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry spokesman Vic Alhadeff said “it would be wrong to comment about funding research that might be genuine, even if carried out via a body that has shamelessly abused its academic prerogatives”.

Professor Lynch is director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies attached to the University of Sydney and has come under fierce criticism from Jewish groups for his stand.

Professor Lynch, citing CPACS pro-BDS policy, rejected a request for assistance from an Israeli academic, Dan Avnon, who developed Israel’s only civics curriculum for both Jewish and Arab school students.

Sections of the Sydney University Students Representative Council in April passed a resolution calling for administrators to cut links with Israel’s Technion University, claiming it provided research used to make weapons deployed against Palestinians.

In May, as the issue hit the headlines and the Labor government displayed an ambivalence on the topic, Ms Bishop hardened the Coalition’s stance, saying not only would funds be cut for BDS-related activities, but also for any research, educational or other purpose.

“The Coalition will institute a policy across government that ensures no grants of taxpayers’ funds are provided to individuals or organisations which actively support the BDS campaign,” Ms Bishop told The Australian at the time.

“It is inappropriate for Associate Professor Lynch to use his role as director of the taxpayer-funded CPACS . . . in support of the anti-Semitic BDS campaign.”

Professor Lynch told The Australian: “I fully understand that I can expect no government funding to publicise the academic boycott of Israel and I have never received, nor spent any, in any case. But I would expect my applications for research grants, on unrelated topics, to be considered on the same basis as those from any other academic.

“I should not be penalised or damaged in my profession simply because my opinions on the Israel-Palestine conflict do not coincide with those of members of the government.”

Professor Lynch said the $290,000 grant over three years would “involve studying the work of journalists in South Africa, Nepal, Australia and the UK”.

A spokesman for Mr Pyne said the ARC had not yet recommended any grants for the government to consider. “When the recommendations are received, the Coalition will then be in a position to make further comment.”

Ms Bishop, who is overseas, did not provide comment.

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