No, Kevin Rudd, boycotts against Israeli institutions aren’t anti-Semitic

Late last year Rupert Murdoch’s Australian newsletter ran a campaign against the head of Sydney University’s Centre of Peace and Conflict Studies, Jake Lynch, for bravely rejecting institutional links with occupation-supporting Israeli universities.

Today former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appears in the same paper with quotes implying that boycotts are anti-Semitic and concerned people should trust the diplomatic process. This is comical. The reasons BDS against Israel is growing is precisely because years of “peace talks” have only led to further Israeli apartheid:

The Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, which supports the boycotts, divestments and sanctions campaign against Australian businesses with Israeli connections, has “just got it wrong”, Kevin Rudd said yesterday.

The former prime minister used a visit to Sydney University, which is home to the centre headed by director Jake Lynch, to lash the policy he said was ineffective.

“I think people who engage in that sort of activity around businesses who are associated with the Jewish community frankly have just got it wrong,” he said.

“It doesn’t help. There is a much more important debate about how we mobilise international diplomatic action around a durable peace settlement in the Middle East.”

The centre earned widespread scorn when Mr Lynch cited the BDS campaign – usually designed to break businesses with links to Israel as a de facto show of support for Palestine – in rejecting a request for assistance from Israeli academic Dan Avnon.

Mr Avnon, a professor with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is credited with work designed to bridge the divide between the Jewish and Arab communities in the Middle East.

The University of Sydney has repeatedly distanced itself from Mr Lynch’s support of BDS and said the institution itself did not endorse the protest measure.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim has previously told The Australian the stance of Mr Lynch was a “continual embarrassment to the University of Sydney”, but Mr Rudd yesterday wouldn’t be drawn on whether the university had ridiculed itself.

“It’s a matter for the authorities within this university,” he said.

“Frankly, this is a matter of diplomacy, it’s a question of putting proposals on the table which work in bringing about a durable peace settlement as opposed to targeting campaigns against businesses which happen to be owned by members of the Jewish community.

“I think that’s just wrong. We should remember history.”

Professor Avnon still hopes to visit Australia this year if his research projects gain funding.

Higher Education Minister Chris Evans has criticised academic supporters of the BDS movement.

And Sydney University professor Suzanne Rutland, a member of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies council, has criticised the centre’s support of the BDS movement.

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