ABC “The Drum” – 28 December 2012
In his quest to make a point against Israel, academic Jake Lynch has exposed his own hypocrisy.
The head of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS) at the University of Sydney, Associate Professor Jake Lynch, has received a number of high-profile condemnations over his recent decision to refuse to work with Hebrew University of Jerusalem academic Dan Avnon.
This decision, made in accordance with the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel – of which Lynch is a strong supporter – was in spite of Avnon’s work, which involves creating a civics program for Jewish and Arab students in Israel in order to work towards reconciliation between the two groups.
On the face of it, Avnon’s work is exactly what Lynch purports to encourage, with the Centre’s mission being to “focus on the resolution of conflict with a view to attaining just societies” and to “facilitate dialogue between individuals, groups or communities who are concerned with conditions of positive peace”.
For Lynch, however, the institutional ties to an Israeli university were so unthinkable that he could not make an exception for an academic who is working to accomplish the centre’s supposed aims.
Lynch and his supporters (including Anthony Loewenstein on this website) have been adamant that there is nothing anti-Semitic about refusing to deal with anyone connected to the Jewish state.
With this in mind, looking at some of the people that Lynch actually advocates dealing with raises disturbing questions.
As I wrote in The Australian in May this year, Lynch has written a book with Norwegian Professor Johan Galtung who was recently accused of having connections to numerous white supremacist groups and renowned neo-Nazis.
In 2004, Galtung ran a workshop with CPACS in which he tasked them with re-enacting the Passion of the Christ, only this time finding a way to negotiate Jesus’ release – which is not only manifestly theologically offensive to Christians, but revisits the age-old anti-Semitic trope of Jewish deicide. At the same event, he ran another workshop on how to negotiate with Al Qaeda.
In March 2010, Lynch hosted Sameh Habeeb, who runs a website called The Palestine Telegraph and has worked for an organisation called The Palestinian Return Centre, which is proudly pro-Hamas and in favour of violence as a means of ‘resistance’.
Habeeb had – and continues to – repeatedly publish anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denial material from the likes of neo-Nazi icon David Duke and Australia’s own Holocaust denier Frederick Toben.
Just a few months before his CPACS appearance, Habeeb had seen fit to mark Holocaust remembrance day by publishing a piece by notorious anti-Semite Gil Atzmon, saying that “Israelis are the Nazis of our time”, that the “Israeli institutional involvement in organ harvesting” is a “well-documented and an accepted fact”, and that the day had come about because world leaders had “bowed to Jewish pressure and made the Holocaust into an international memorial day”.
Lynch was aware of this material, however he was adamant that Habeeb had repudiated it and determined to host him regardless.
Five months later, however, a flattering profile of Toben appeared on Habeeb’s website and, in October 2011, Habeeb wrote a glowing review of what he said was Atzmon’s “courageous book that vividly clears the dust on many issues concerning Israel. It really guides non-Jews to an understanding of the politics behind the Jewish identity.”
These ‘politics’, of course, include alleged organ-stealing and fabrication of the Holocaust for political ends.
In the April 2008 CPACS newsletter, Lynch wrote about a delegation of Marrickville councillors that was leaving for Bethlehem. He was outraged that they had been warned “not to meet representatives of Hamas, the party that won elections for the Palestinian Authority in 2006”.
I hopefully do not have to recite Hamas’ litany of genocidal statements and glorification of bloodshed.
Suffice to say that its official TV channel recently broadcast a sermon saying that, “The Jew is a satan in human form. Allah inflicted the Jews upon humanity in its entirety, and especially upon the nation of Islam”.
In October 2009, Lynch took issue with the Australian Government’s decision to designate al-Shabab – an official Al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia that has been tied to attempted terror attacks in Australia – as a terrorist organisation. As he opined, “the statement contained no acknowledgement of the specific circumstances in which it has grown in Somalia and – allegedly in this case – sought to export its activities to other countries such as Australia”.
His solution was to call for “greater openness” and “a more even-handed approach”, in order to address the “legitimate grievances” that al-Shabab might feel over the “invasion of Somalia by Ethiopian forces, with weaponry, training and reconnaissance support provided by the United States”.
He was, of course, referring to the Western-backed African Union peacekeeping force that has gone into Somalia to save its people from al-Shabab. The militants have taken control of a huge chunk of the country where, in true Al Qaeda fashion, they have been busy stoning adulterers to death, coordinating terror attacks in places as far-afield as Australia, Uganda, and Denmark, and chasing-out aid workers in the height of the East Africa famine as they would sooner see their people starve than eat food from the ‘infidels’.
With no apparent sense of irony, he then launched straight into a comment about how “public figures who address [the Israeli/Palestinian conflict] with reference to Palestinian perspectives … tend to be met with condemnation from representatives of the self-identified ‘mainstream Jewish community’.” As he then explained, “concerns over Israel’s targeting of civilians flare briefly, then abruptly subside, because no-one seems willing to pursue them.”
He did not mention that Israel may have some legitimate grievances too, or that – perhaps – the Palestinians should be subjected to some criticism as well.
In essence, people that Lynch promotes dialogue with include an assorted group of violent Islamist extremists, Holocaust-deniers, and neo-Nazis. People that Lynch forbids dialogue with include Israelis.
Although, as he argues, he is not a racist, because he has hosted Jews at his centre – like American linguist Noam Chomsky, and Israeli ex-pat and historian Ilan Pappe.
That would be the Noam Chomsky who once said that “I see no anti-Semitic implications in the denial of the existence of gas chambers, or even denial of the Holocaust”; and the same Ilan Pappe who has excused and defended the use of blood libel, the anti-Semitic allegation from medieval Europe that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood in ritual bread, in criticising Israel.
For someone who is not a racist, Lynch certainly seems to spend a lot of time and energy promoting racists and helping them propagate their viewpoints, and his ‘I’m not anti-Semitic, some of my friends are Jews’ excuse hardly exonerates him.
His other standard response is along the lines of ‘any critic of Israel is always called an anti-Semite’ – which is a very convenient excuse for not addressing the issue.
It is unlikely that Lynch will be be having an epiphany on this point any time soon, but his employers at the university and the sponsors of his centre (which include the Federal Government) should be taking a very hard look at what they are promoting.
Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz is a policy analyst and social media coordinator at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.