Chomsky supports BDS against Israeli illegality

Following 10 days of daily coverage in The Australian of Dr Jake Lynch from Sydney University supporting a boycott against Israeli universities, the last two days have seen more letters published.


On what basis does the University of Sydney lend institutional support to a group with a guiding objective of boycotting Jewish business and cultural institutions?

In case university leaders are interested, even that virulently pro-Palestinian, Noam Chomsky (cited by Jake Lynch to refute claims of anti-Jewish racism at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies), considers the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement with its boycott of Israeli universities as pure anti-Semitism, aimed at the destruction of Israel.

Chomsky further characterises the BDS movement as inimical to the interests of and lacking any genuine support from the Palestinian people. Perhaps, on this issue, the peace centre should heed the views of the winner of its own 2011 Sydney peace prize?

Whatever may occur within hearts and minds at the peace centre, the university must swiftly dissociate itself from anti-Semitic activists in its midst. Their conduct damages the reputation of a great institution.

James Miller, Woolloomooloo, NSW


I was surprised to read a letter to the editor of The Australian claiming that I regard the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement’s tactics targeting Israel as “pure anti-Semitism, aimed at the destruction of Israel” and that I said BDS efforts are “inimical to the interests of and lacking any genuine support from the Palestinian people” (Letters, 14/12).

These tactics have enormous support among Palestinians, and the charge of anti-Semitism should be dismissed with disdain.

When Human Rights Watch “calls on the US and European Union member states and on businesses with operations in settlement areas to avoid supporting Israeli settlement policies that are inherently discriminatory and that violate international law”, it is advocating BDS tactics, rightly, and there is no hint of anti-Semitism.

I have personally been involved in such forms of opposition to the Israeli occupation for years, long before there was a BDS movement.

Any tactics, however legitimate, can of course be misused. But they can also be used quite properly and effectively against state crimes, and in this case regularly have been.

Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA

Jake Lynch must take us all for imbeciles. His letter (11/12) boasts of all the wonderful Jewish or Israeli people who have been invited to his Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney.

He asks if his and the centre’s support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement had anything to do with the nationality of Dan Avnon, “how come we have hosted recent talks by professors Ilan Pappe and Jeff Halper — two prominent Israelis who appeared in a personal capacity?”.

He also asks how come the centre awarded last year’s Sydney peace prize to Noam Chomsky, a prominent Jewish intellectual?

How come is simply answered by saying that these three speakers have been and are among the leading anti-Israel intellectuals anywhere in the world. Criticism of Pappe and Chomsky is international. I wrote to Sydney University to protest at Lynch’s anti-academic, anti-free speech, and anti-Israel stance. I am not an imbecile. I have been an academic for most of my life, and I have long ago learned how to read between the lines.

Lynch’s letter to The Australian is profoundly dishonest, in its pretence of open-mindedness, something for which he has no time. An honest letter would have revealed the interests and political leanings of his invitees.

It’s clear he has never invited and does not want to invite anyone with pro-Israel and pro-Jewish attitudes. His mind is set in concrete, and people with fixed ideas do not deserve to teach or research in any university. The sooner the university fires him, the sooner there will be fresh academic air to breathe.

Denis MacEoin, editor, Middle East Quarterly, Newcastle, England

The following letter was sent to the paper but not published in today’s edition:

The University of Sydney’s Centre of Peace and Conflict Studies and Assoc Prof Jake Lynch should be applauded for their commitment to support peace and justice to the people of Israel and the people of Palestine.

I call on the Jewish community to come out against labeling people who support boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) as automatically anti-Semitic.

If we are to declare anti-Semitic those who engage in nonviolent strategies, even strategies we disagree with, about trying to change Israel, then the whole term anti-Semitism loses its meaning.

While I personally do not support a general boycott of Israel (as tactically it may be counter-productive because it is likely to reenforce the notion “that the whole world is against us” mentality of many Israelis still sufferingfrom Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder which is the untreated result of 2 thousand years of oppression) we at Tikkun (a progressive Jewish and interfaith magazine of which I am founding editor) are aware that the various movements and people (including within the Jewish community and in Israel), engaged in the struggle for peace in the Middle East are divided over the issue of BDS. Some of us do believe that a more narrow boycott only of products from the West Bank settlements would not necessarily stimulate this PTSD reaction. Others who support BDS do so out of a genuine commitment to the moral values that are deep in the Jewish tradition (and the Christian and other spiritual and religious traditions), and labeling them as anti-Semites is a huge distortion. There are, of course, some who use BDS as a cover for their desire to eliminate the State of Israel, but that is not the case for most of those in the peace movement who support BDS, even the BDS version with which I and Tikkun do not agree.

Tikkun has taken the view that Jewish morality and prophetic tradition require a challenge to all governments, including that of Israel, to live by the highest ethical standards. The more Israel rejects Jewish morality and the Torah’s injunction to “love the stranger” in its treatment of the Palestinians, the more it loses the support of the most ethically sensitive people in the world and of many younger Jews in the diaspora.

Rabbi Michael Lerner

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