An Australian academic accused of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act for supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign is on the verge of a significant victory after the Israeli law centre pursuing him signed an agreement to request the case be dismissed.
Centre for Peace and Conflict studies director Jake Lynch told New Matilda today that Israeli group Shurat HaDin have now agreed to pay his costs after taking him to the Federal Court for his support of BDS, which encourages a disengagement from Israel in retaliation for the nation’s occupation of Palestinian land, and policies of collective punishment.
Shurat HaDin lodged a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission in August 2013 and then pursued it in the Federal Court with the intention of dealing a blow to both Lynch and the Australian BDS movement more broadly.
Lynch said he was excited and relieved that the case was being abandoned.
“It’s both an opportunity and in a sense a challenge, to not only other academics but others in the Australian community, to think about what they can do in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for rights and freedoms,” Lynch said.
The case was filed after Lynch refused to assist Israeli Professor Dan Avnon in his attempts to secure a fellowship at the University of Sydney. Despite being drawn in to the controversy, Avnon was not an applicant in the case.
While deeply critical of the BDS campaign, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry declined to provide support for the lawsuit.
Lynch said the case had represented a significant risk to him both financially and reputationally.
“If the case had gone the other way I would have effectively been labelled a racist,” Lynch said.
“Given that I’m a Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies committed to peace for justice, that would have been a significant blow to my reputation,” Lynch said.
He accused Shurat HaDin of defaming him by reiterating accusations of anti-Semitism and for misrepresenting his reasons for supporting BDS.
While Shurat HaDin and their legal representative Andrew Hamilton had not responded to requests for comment at the time of print, the organisation told The Australian newspaper that the conclusion of the case was based on a “legal technicality”. The group was not able to nominate a living plaintiff.
The head of Shurat HaDin, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, told the newspaper: “We are absolutely determined that Lynch committed an unlawful breach of Australian anti-discrimination law.”
“We’ve crossed the Rubicon really, because Shurat HaDin is the only one of the original applicants that still has permission to bring a case, and they have thrown in the towel,” Lynch said.
The conclusion of the matter comes as the relations between Israel and Palestine have disintegrated almost entirely.
Rocket fire from Gaza has been met with devastating Israeli bombardments, reported to have killed up to 90 Palestinians including 22 children.
No Israelis have yet been killed by the rocket fire from Palestine.
“The circumstances today make the case more strongly for BDS than anything else could, and that’s why we need to step up our efforts,” Lynch said.
The case against Lynch will come before the court again on Wednesday, at which point Justice Roberson is expected to follow the request of both parties to have it dismissed.
Lynch was previously awarded costs for an earlier segment of the proceedings and will now have to negotiate the final costs with Shurat HaDin and the Court.