Friday, 14 December 2012


Sydney University body slammed for ban on Israeli

AUSTRALIA'S peak Jewish body has criticised the Sydney University Centre for Peace and Conflict for "misguided and obsessive zeal" after it rejected a request for assistance from an Israeli academic who has worked to bridge the Arab-Jew divide.
The comments from Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim come as the opposition yesterday savaged Labor Senate leader and Higher Education Minister Chris Evans for refusing to take a stand on the ban.
The centre supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which explicitly equates Israel with apartheid-era South Africa.
Centre director Jake Lynch cited the BDS campaign when he rejected a request by Hebrew University of Jerusalem academic Dan Avnon to be a contact person on an application for a Sir Zelman Cowen Fellowship.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr has declared the government "fiercely, unequivocally, strongly opposes BDS" in a statement in September. But Senator Evans has refused to answer questions on whether the government considers it appropriate for bodies such as the centre to maintain a BDS policy.
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He has also declined to say if the government has concerns that academic staff who implement BDS policies may be in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act.
"It is time for the government leadership to be honest about its position on the anti-Semitic BDS campaign and to take a principled stand against it," opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said."I call on Senator Evans to declare his opposition to the BDS campaign and to assure taxpayers that he will raise his concerns with the head of the Centre for Peace and Conflict studies and the vice-chancellor of Sydney University."
Ms Bishop said the government's silence on the issue raised serious questions about its true position on BDS.
Mr Wertheim described the centre as "a continual embarrassment to the University of Sydney". He said the centre was "viewed with scarcely concealed disdain by many in the academic community".
He slammed the ban on assisting Professor Avnon. "This would have been a golden opportunity for an Australian university centre to play a constructive and effective role in peace-building in the region," he said.

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