A Tel Aviv-based civil rights group warned Australian supporters Thursday of a proposed boycott against Israel that their activities were racist and in violation of Australian federal anti-discrimination laws.
Recently faculty and students at Sydney University called for the severing of links with Israeli institutions.
In letters sent to Associate Professor Jake Lynch, Professor Stuart Rees and others, Shurat HaDin – the Israel Law Center – threatened to take legal action if they did not immediately discontinue their boycott campaign.
This past semester, the university’s student body endorsed Lynch’s academic boycott of Israel. Lynch had publicly announced his refusal to work with Dan Avnon, an Israeli professor from the prestigious Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which promotes Israeli-Arab coexistence. He also called for a boycott of Technion University in Haifa.
The actions of Lynch and Rees, although widely condemned by mainstream politicians and community figures, have also been supported by NSW Labor MP Lynda Voltz and Marty Kostakidis.
According to NSW Solicitor Andrew Hamilton of Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been recognized as anti-Semitic by leading authorities such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in the United States, and in a report recently released by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
In the letters Hamilton pointed out that the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 made it "unlawful for a person to do any act involving a distinction, exclusion, restriction of preference based on race... national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of any human right or fundamental freedom in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life."
Hamilton also warned that any "successful" boycott of Israel was illegal under the Competition and Consumer Act of 2010 if they damage the businesses they target, and that as a result parties could be investigated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and face legal action for damages.
"Lynch, Rees, Voltz and others like them seek to impose restriction on those having Israeli and Jewish national, racial or ethnic origins, whether these are goods, services , persons and organizations. The participants of the BDS movement clearly seek to violate freedoms guaranteed by federal law," Hamilton said.