A landmark class action suit was filed on Wednesday in an Australian court, for the first time applying the country’s anti-racism laws to protecting Israel from boycott, divestment and sanctions activity, Israeli civil rights group Shurat HaDin said in a statement.
Shurat HaDin said the suit, filed by the organization’s Australian solicitor AlexanderÂ HamiltonÂ withÂ the Australian Human Rights Commission, fell under the country’s Racial Discrimination Act of 1975.
The specific complaint was against faculty andÂ students at Sydney University for calling for the severing of links withÂ Israeli institutions, actions that would be deemed racist and inÂ violation of Australian Federal anti-discrimination laws.
The university’s student body endorsed AssociateÂ Professor Jake Lynch’s academic boycott of Israel after Lynch announced his refusal to work with Dan Avnon, an Israeli professorÂ from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. HeÂ also called for a boycott of TechnionÂ University in Haifa.
Last month, Shurat HaDin warnedÂ Lynch of the potential legal action. Although widely condemned by many mainstream politiciansÂ and community figures, Lynch has also been publically supported byÂ notorious Holocaust denier Fredrick Toben.
In its letter sent to the Australian commission, Shurat HaDin pointed out that the Federal Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 made it unlawful for anyone “to do any act involving a distinction, exclusion…or preference based on race…or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose…of nullifying or impairing…fundamental freedom in the…economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”
The complaint also noted that any boycott of IsraeliÂ “settlement products,” including those from companies like SodaStream or Ahava, actually would harm PalestinianÂ economic interests due to the fact that the factories employ manyÂ Palestinian workers and provide an important source of income forÂ local families and villages.
“The BDS movement is racist byÂ its own definition because it seeks to discriminate and impose adverseÂ preference based on Israeli national origin and Jewish racial andÂ ethnic origin of people and organisations. It does nothing to helpÂ Palestinians and indeed harms them. It is merely an excuse for theÂ vilest public anti-semitic campaign the western world has seen sinceÂ the Holocaust,” said solicitor Andrew Hamilton.
itsana Darshan-Leitner, Shurat Hadin director added thatÂ ”By singling out IsraelÂ and no other country the BDS extremists expose the anti-Semitism thatÂ motivates them. We are hopeful that this historic proceeding againstÂ the BDS movement will serve as a model for battling it in otherÂ jurisdictions worldwide.”
Shurat HaDin — Israel Law Center -Â wasÂ founded on the model of the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law CenterÂ – a non-profit legal center that over the last four decades hasÂ successfully confronted racist groups across the United States.