|Joshua Levitt||August 2nd 2013|
A landmark class action suit was filed on Wednesday in an Australian court, for the first time applying the country’s anti-racism laws to protecting Israel from boycott, divestment and sanctions activity, Israeli civil rights group Shurat HaDin said in a statement.
Shurat HaDin said the suit, filed by the organization’s Australian solicitor Alexander Hamilton with the Australian Human Rights Commission, fell under the country’s Racial Discrimination Act of 1975.
The specific complaint was against faculty and students at Sydney University for calling for the severing of links with Israeli institutions, actions that would be deemed racist and in violation of Australian Federal anti-discrimination laws.
The university’s student body endorsed Associate Professor Jake Lynch’s academic boycott of Israel after Lynch announced his refusal to work with Dan Avnon, an Israeli professor from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He also called for a boycott of Technion University in Haifa.
Last month, Shurat HaDin warned Lynch of the potential legal action. Although widely condemned by many mainstream politicians and community figures, Lynch has also been publically supported by notorious Holocaust denier Fredrick Toben.
In its letter sent to the Australian commission, Shurat HaDin pointed out that the Federal Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 made it unlawful for anyone “to do any act involving a distinction, exclusion…or preference based on race…or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose…of nullifying or impairing…fundamental freedom in the…economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”
The complaint also noted that any boycott of Israeli “settlement products,” including those from companies like SodaStream or Ahava, actually would harm Palestinian economic interests due to the fact that the factories employ many Palestinian workers and provide an important source of income for local families and villages.
“The BDS movement is racist by its own definition because it seeks to discriminate and impose adverse preference based on Israeli national origin and Jewish racial and ethnic origin of people and organisations. It does nothing to help Palestinians and indeed harms them. It is merely an excuse for the vilest public anti-semitic campaign the western world has seen since the Holocaust,” said solicitor Andrew Hamilton.
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Shurat Hadin director added that ”By singling out Israel and no other country the BDS extremists expose the anti-Semitism that motivates them. We are hopeful that this historic proceeding against the BDS movement will serve as a model for battling it in other jurisdictions worldwide.”
Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center - was founded on the model of the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center - a non-profit legal center that over the last four decades has successfully confronted racist groups across the United States.