SYDNEY academic Jake Lynch's promotion of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign has discriminated against all Israelis in the same fashion as a pub owner hanging out a sign saying "No Jews or Blacks Allowed", the lawyer leading a lawsuit against him will argue.Andrew Hamilton, representing the Israel-based legal action group Shurat HaDin, has submitted a sweeping statement of claim to the Federal Court alleging Professor Lynch has directly discriminated against academics, but also helped deprive all Israelis of cultural, educational, and professional opportunities.
In what is likely to be a landmark case revolving around conflicting interpretations of freedom of expression, Shurat HaDin will claim that Professor Lynch, by refusing to support a fellowship application by Israeli academic Dan Avnon, deprived him of his professional rights in an act of racial discrimination.
But Shurat HaDin's case will extend to claiming that all Israeli academics are adversely affected by the BDS policy of Professor Lynch, who is head of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney.
The statement of claim also says that, by calling for boycotts of Israel, Professor Lynch also contributes to the wider international boycott campaign that disadvantages owners of Israeli-related businesses and contributes towards Israelis being deprived of cultural opportunities such as seeing big acts ranging from Santana to Pink Floyd.
Shurat HaDin alleges two academics, who have joined the case as plaintiffs, have been adversely affected by Professor Lynch's policy, even though as yet they have not been the subject of specific actions.
Dr Leonard Hammer, of the Hebrew University, a human rights lawyer, and Dr Mordechai Kedar, of Bar Ilan University, an Arabic studies specialist, have regularly lectured overseas, including in Australia, Mr Hamilton told The Australian.
"They both are people who quite realistically may want to be a visiting scholar at the CPACS, where Lynch has implemented his boycott," Mr Hamilton said. "However, just as a sign on a bar saying 'No Jews or Blacks Allowed' discriminates against and disadvantages all Jews and blacks, even if they didn't even want to go into the bar, so Jake Lynch's BDS academic boycott discriminates and disadvantages all Israeli academics," he said.
In its Federal Court action, Shurat HaDin will not seek financial penalties, but orders that Professor Lynch renounce BDS and apologise for supporting it.
Professor Lynch is a vocal advocate of the international BDS campaign against Israel, which argues that Israeli government policies claimed to be illegal under international law discriminate against Palestinians.
He made headlines a year ago when Professor Avnon sought permission to use his name as a supporter for an exchange program visit under an agreement between Sydney University and the Hebrew University.
Professor Lynch turned down the request, citing his centre's support of BDS.
Professor Lynch has told The Australian he will vigorously fight the action. He will be represented by the high-profile barrister Stuart Littlemore QC. He strenuously denies he discriminated against Professor Avnon and points out he wrote him a polite letter saying that his work sounded interesting, but the centre had adopted a principled policy of boycotting Israeli academic institutions.
The Shurat HaDin's statement of claim alleges that as a result of Professor Lynch's actions "the number of suitable visiting academic placements for which Professor Dan Avnon could seek a funded academic fellowship at Sydney University has been restricted".
It claims it also had the effect of "impairing the recognition, enjoyment and exercise of Professor Dan Avnon's rights to education; freedom of association; freedom of expression; academic freedom, and work".
"The distinction, exclusion or restriction or preference was based on the fact that Professor Dan Avnon was a Jewish person of Israeli national or ethnic origin," the statement of claim alleges.
Shurat HaDin claims Professor Lynch has breached not only the Racial Discrimination Act, but also international conventions.
Professor Lynch told The Australian yesterday: "Shurat HaDin appear to forget when I was approached by Professor Dan Avnon it was to ask me for a favour. How I chose to respond to that request was a matter for my discretion. My decision to turn down his request had nothing to do with his religion or nationality. I reserve my right not to co-operate with schemes that provide for institutional links with Israeli universities, to which I object on principle."
Shurat HaDin's statement also says that in calling for a boycott of Israel Professor Lynch shares collective responsibility for the entire international BDS campaign and its consequences.
"The calls for boycott target the providers of cultural and sporting services with the effect of pressuring them to implement the boycott calls by refusing to perform in Israel and thus depriving Israeli consumers of access to their services," it says.
It says two of the applicants, David Hans Lange and Jonathan Rose, and their wives were "deprived of the opportunity to attend the local Israeli public performances of Elvis Costello" because a scheduled performance in 2010 for which they had tickets was cancelled "due to implementation of boycott calls".