Lynch’s Supporters Dig Him into a Deeper Hole

March 30, 2015 by Peter Wertheim
Read on for article

Nick Riemer’s apologia for the conduct of his colleague, Jake Lynch, during the disruption by protesters of a lecture by Colonel Richard Kemp at the University of Sydney on March 11 (Why Jake Lynch was waving money around at an anti-Israel protest, March 25) only digs Lynch into a deeper hole.

Riemer begins by accusing Lynch’s critics of attempting to silence him by a variety of devious means, including the legal action brought against Lynch in 2013 under the Racial Discrimination Act. The case was ultimately withdrawn.  At the time, Lynch himself characterised the case as “an attempt to stifle debate”.   Now Lynch and Riemer defend the actions of the protesters on March 11 – actions that were intended not merely to stifle debate, but to shut it down altogether.

Colonel Kemp had been invited to speak on “Ethical Dilemmas of Military Tactics in Relation to Recent Conflicts in the Middle East: Dealing with non-state armed groups”. The topic has obvious relevance to Australian military operations overseas and is the kind of topic that is often written about and debated in centres of higher learning in Australia and many other parts of the world.

A few minutes before the lecture started, a small group of protesters were photographed by JWire outside the lecture theatre handing out leaflets. Three of them held a large sign bearing the words “Cut ties with Israeli Apartheid” and “Sydney Uni Staff for BDS”. One of the people holding the sign was Lynch.

If the anti-lecture activity had been limited to a demonstration outside the lecture theatre, no reasonable complaint against it could have been made. Sadly, however, that was not the case.

As is now well-known, about 20 minutes into the lecture, a group of a dozen or so protesters stormed into the lecture theatre, chanting slogans, one of them through a megaphone, shouting down Colonel Kemp and preventing him from being heard.  At least one of the pre-lecture protesters, a student, participated in these actions.

One protester then delivered a long diatribe in defence of the Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir, whose preacher, Ismail al-Wahwah, delivered sermons in July 2014 and March 2015 ranting against Jews, describing them at one point as “the most evil creature of Allah.” The protester then began to chant slogans against Israel while others spread throughout the room and continued the chanting.

It is astounding that Riemer seeks to excuse the conduct of these protesters as legitimate disruptive protest. He seems to be saying that the protesters had the right to act as the self-appointed censors of the University. They were not only trying to deny Colonel Kemp his freedom to speak – to deliver the lecture he had been invited to give – but also the freedom of members of the audience to hear what he had to say and to question him and engage him in debate.

The conduct of Lynch and Riemer during the melee that followed the protesters’ invasion of the lecture theatre is now under investigation by the University, and rightly so. This is not the time and place to add to the series of claims and counter-claims that have been made in various published articles by their detractors and defenders. Their actions were witnessed by many people and were recorded on several videos and in photographs.   The investigators have much material to sort through. I do not propose to pre-empt their task.

But I cannot let pass without comment Riemer’s ludicrous attempt to justify Lynch’s conduct in waving a banknote or banknotes in the face of an elderly woman, and perhaps others.   Riemer insists that Lynch acted in self-defence against a “series of physical attacks” against him by the woman. The “physical attacks” consisted of the woman throwing water at him and kicking in his direction, but not connecting.  We have yet to hear the woman’s side of the story.

The plea of self-defence against such an unlikely assailant strains credulity, but even if it is accepted at face value, it does Lynch little credit.   Regardless of the view one might take of the conduct of the elderly woman, it is appalling that an academic of Lynch’s seniority should have stooped to such an unedifying gesture.   It brings the whole academic community at the University into disrepute.

It therefore comes as little surprise that one of Lynch’s supporters initially denied that the banknote incident had occurred. The day after the lecture, Lynch’s fellow member of the governing council of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS) at the University, Paul Duffill, posted the following comment on Facebook:

I was at this event, sitting about 2 metres away from where this photo was taken. The claim “Professor Jake Lynch holding money to the face of a Jewish student” is completely false. In this photo Professor Jake Lynch is holding his mobile phone [as a camera to record the actions of security staff and one other individual]

Duffill berated those who had accused Lynch of waving banknotes in the faces of others and demanded an apology. But in a later post on the same Facebook page Duffill sheepishly admitted:

“I have since spoken to Prof. Lynch and Prof. Lynch has confirmed that at some stage during the event he did remove banknotes he was carrying from his own pocket…”

Duffill nevertheless went on to defend Lynch’s actions on Facebook and again at greater length on Online opinion. Riemer’s defence of Lynch’s actions is in much the same vein as Duffil’s.

Apparently, however, not all of Lynch’s supporters have their stories aligned.   Fahad Ali, President of Students for Justice in Palestine, continues to dispute that Lynch waved money in anyone’s face at the lecture. Perhaps Ali feels that he has no choice but to remain in denial. In a Facebook post the day after the lecture, Ali commented:

If Jake had waved money on the face of a Jewish student, I would be the first person to call for him to be sacked”.

Also objectionable is Riemer’s attempt to silence criticism of Lynch’s deplorable actions by claiming that the charge of antisemitism is a “smear” and “politically motivated.” The accusation that Jews falsely “cry antisemitism” is a common strategy deployed by anti-Israel activists when they seek to deny and shut down any serious scrutiny of their actions when those actions cross the line into racism.

The charge of antisemitism is not levelled lightly. It was not directed at those who stormed the lecture theatre and denied Colonel Kemp the right to speak in support of the Jewish State. It was not even levelled at the students whose visceral chanting and abuse characterised the Jewish national home as irredeemably evil while they sought to defend an Islamist group which views Jews as subhuman.

The charge of antisemitism made publicly by Colonel Kemp stemmed principally from the money-brandishing incident.  In light of the suspension and barring of Professor Barry Spurr in 2014 and the University’s stated opposition to racial vilification, this is a matter which Lynch and his followers would do well to take very seriously.

As an alumnus of the University of Sydney, and someone who retains considerable affection for the place, it pains me that CPACS, which might be expected to uphold principles of peaceful academic discussion and debate, has come to be perceived as a Centre that shamelessly abuses its setting within a major University to promote political crusades for various causes, thus compromising the University’s credibility as a centre for serious and unbiased academic scholarship.

The University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences conducted a review of CPACS in late 2014 but the results have not been published.

CPACS has long been an embarrassment to the University, as it would be to any institution of higher learning that values academic excellence. After what happened during the disruption of Colonel Kemp’s lecture, shame has been added to embarrassment.

Peter Wertheim is the executive director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry

Comments

20 Responses to “Lynch’s Supporters Dig Him into a Deeper Hole”
  1. Naomi Ruth Robertson says:

    The following is a letter I sent to Vice Chancellor Spence of University of Sydney on 23 March 2015. I received a return email from his office stating that they are investigating Lynch’s conduct.

    Dear Vice Chancellor Michael Spence,

    I am at doctoral student at the Australian National University and also a member of the ACT Jewish Community. In both of these roles I am concerned about freedom of speech, academic integrity and the fair treatment of members of the academic community and the general public.

    I believe that the behaviour of Associate Professor Jake Lynch during a recent public lecture by Richard Kemp on your campus violated all reasonable expectations of decency toward fellow members of the academic community and that it has brought shame upon your university. Students, faculty and others have the right to attend a public lecture with the expectation that it will not be disrupted by the loud and shameful catcalls of students and even more so that these students not be egged on by a member of the faculty. Jake Lynch’s taunting and threatening of an elderly woman was particularly disgraceful. If he were my son I would feel intense shame, as I would feel fear and dismay if a person half my age threatened me in this way. There is no place in society for this type of behaviour.

    Last week I attended a lecture by an Israeli security specialist at the ANU Law School. Because of what had happened the previous week at your university, the convener of this lecture quietly made it known within the Jewish community that the lecture would take place. She did not ask for “back up”, but many people turned up, as did, I believe, some members of campus security. There were also many young students in attendance, all polite and respectful, as indeed anyone should be during a lecture. But I couldn’t help thinking that things had come to a pretty pass when a university, which should be a place where diverse views may be aired, can only air some of these views with the presence of security forces.

    Vice Chancellor Spence, my dissertation is on a Holocaust topic, namely, on a protected house in Budapest where 3,000 Jews survived due to the intervention of people of courage. Among them was my mother-in-law, the rest of whose family perished in Auschwitz. You might say I’m “a little sensitive” when it comes to expressions of anti-Semitism. The fact that these hateful expressions are once again occurring, not only in society in general, but on our university campuses, is a cause for concern, not only for Jews but for all of us in the university community.

    While all members of a university community should be held to account for their actions, most of us give some leeway to young, naïve and misguided students with misplaced enthusiasm for a cause. Faculty members, however, should be held to a higher level of account. And in a decent society, young men should be held to account for their behaviour toward elderly women. These, I believe are sufficient reasons for your serious investigation of the behaviour of Jake Lynch.

    Thank you for considering my requests, and may your university continue its tradition of excellence.

    Yours sincerely,

    Naomi Ruth Robertson

  2. Leon Poddebsky says:

    The author is wrong to withhold from the invading stormtroopers the epithet, “anti-Semites.”
    Not only did they slander Jews as “supporters of genocide,” a classic blood libel, but they categorically deny that the Jewish nation has legitimate national territorial rights and the right to national self-determination.
    “Palestinian” Hamas, which is explicitly genocidal gets a free pass from these narcissists, some of them self-lovers “of Jewish background.”

  3. Ronald Taft says:

    Here is the email that I sent to the Sydney Vice Chancellor that covers another aspect of of Jake Lynch and his misleadingly named Centre.
    Ron Taft

    From: Ron at Rylands [mailto:rtaft@rylands.net.au]
    Sent: Monday, 16 March 2015 11:24 AM
    To: Vice Chancellor
    Subject: Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies

    Dear Dr Spence,

    I am an Emeritus Professor of Monash University and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and have spent most of my long career at Australian Universities. For many years already I have been ashamed that the Australian Academic community could embrace a purely propagandist Centre such as the above and award the title of Associate Professor to its Director, Associate Professor Jake Lynch. May I suggest that your University should set up an independent enquiry into the legitimacy of the scholarly standing of the Centre and its Director. This suggestion stands apart from any action that you might take against Dr Lynch for his behaviour at the Kemp Lecture.

    Yours sincerely,

    Emeritus Professor Ronald Taft

  4. Philip Mendes says:

    The ignorant and ill-informed attack above on Suzanne Rutland is a disgrace. Professor Rutland has worked as hard as anybody in the Jewish community to directly confront the extremists of the BDS movement. She is a role model for many younger Jewish academics in her effective advocacy.
    Philip Mendes

    • Douglas Kirsner says:

      Quite so Philip. Suzanne has been a staunch, committed and effective advocate for a very long time, and in the particularly difficult environment of Sydney University to boot!

  5. Douglas Kirsner says:

    Excellent article. The problem isn’t just the outrageous storming reminiscent of another era or today of Islamic radicals, but the cover-up and excuses afterwards.
    Where is the Sydney University NTEU branch which is so vocal in attacking Israel? Nowhere to be found in defending the rights of free speech and freedom from intimidation for academics, students and visitors to their own university,
    However the Sydney NTEU Branch can be depended on to defend Lynch and the goons who invaded the lecture if the university so much as censures them. The Branch will no doubt hold their double standards high then in defending ‘academic freedom’ as well as the right is anti-Israel advocates to shut down anybody who disagrees with them.

    • Leon Poddebsky says:

      Mr Kirsner,

      If your prediction proves to be correct, won’t the NTEU be acting in a manner reminiscent of Germany post-1935 Nuremberg Laws?

  6. Leon Poddebsky says:

    If Lynch goes, he could be replaced by a far more cunning and guarded individual, who would not soil his own skirts but would get others to do the up-front dirty work, while he himself would busy himself with window dressing, acting and generally wasting even more taxpayers’ money than is currently being wasted.

  7. Leon Poddebsky says:

    Bottom line: the mission or calling that the “Peace and Conflict Department”has set for itself is to contribute to the global movement for the abolition of Jewish national rights in The Land of Israel.
    That suggests a possibility that it is obtaining money from similarly-minded individuals and / or states, both on the extreme right and extreme left.
    It is not an academic entity; it is an advocacy entity, so what is it doing in a university?
    I know from personal experience at that university, having heard one of the “Peace Centre’s” “machers” declaim academic gems such as: “The Jews turfed the Arabs out of Palestine,””Zionism is imperialism;” “Zionists are irrational;””Israel was not threatened before the Six-Day war.”
    This same individual really outdid himself on one occasion when he nodded to someone else’s assertion that “The Jews did to the Arabs what the Nazis had done to the Jews.”
    THAT represents the standards of Australia’s oldest university?
    Woe to that university.

  8. Henry Herzog says:

    Lynch is an outright anti-Semite, and calling him anything else is an apologetic excuse. He’s not only a racist, but a bully, which comes with the territory. And the university is gutless for not sacking him. But his silence at these accusations, speaks volumes. Goebbels was also an acedemic before he became Hitler’s propaganda minister.

    • Leon Poddebsky says:

      With him, what you see is what you get; if he goes, his successor might be far more cunning.
      There is at least one other apparatchik in that antisemites’ incubator who is a far more subtle, shrewder, low-key but venomous creature; he would be far more insidious.

  9. Suzanne aladjem says:

    Lynch must resign a man of his position should not bring his politics to class and leave his biased opinions and incite unrest. Not suitable for this position.

  10. Maxine Finberg says:

    Victor, as another former graduate, I absolutely agree with you.

  11. Victor H Pigott says:

    A well reasoned, argued and unbiased comment by Peter Wertheim. It is regrettable that the Head of CPACS, his associates and students are not capable of similar rationality and reason in their comments. As an alumni and post-Graduate Research student of this University I am appalled that such behavior has been tolerated for so long. As Peter as rightly said, if the anti-lecture demonstration had been limited to peacefully handing out pamphlets, nothing more could or would have be said. Professor Lynch, his associates and his students have every right to their opinion. They did NOT have the right to rudely & maliciously interrupt the freedom of others to hear Colonel Kemp’s lecture.

    The waving of a five dollar note under a Jewish lady’s nose not only adds insult to injury, but points to the real Cruz of the matter; Professor Lynch, his associates & his students are anti Semitic; they don’t like Jews. In the light of this incident and the well-documented incidents of physical and verbal attacks upon Jewish students at the University over the last few years, it is imperative that the University authorities investigate the degree of influence that has been exerted upon young impressible undergraduate minds by Professor Lynch & his academic associates at the CPACS. I trust that the group of screaming banshees from CPACS that were recorded at the Kemp lecture are not representative of current Sydney University undergraduates. If this is not the case, one could predict that the parents of future undergraduates from respectable overseas homes would be loath to pay high fees to send their sons & daughters to Sydney University.

    If a University campus cannot be a place of tolerance, understanding, acceptance, harmony & academic freedom, then it has no place in a modern technological, multicultural society.

    • Erica Edelman says:

      Victor

      Are they, indeed, “Entitled to their Opinion”?

      If their opinion causes harm, insult, unrest, intolerance, mis-understanding, non-acceptance, racial tensions, academic frustration and violence, the spread of mis-information and general chaos among groups of an otherwise peaceful, multicultural society – ARE THEY INDEED ENTITLED TO THEIR OPINION?

  12. Paul Winter says:

    This is a typically verbose item on a simple issue.

    Lynch invaded a lecture and in Nazi bully-boy style tried to deny others the right of free speech that he claims for himself. There is no need to investigate the obvious. The Vice-Chancellor needs to get off his butt, implement disciplinary procedures and then kick Lynch and his fellow anti-Zionist (read anti-Jewish) goons off the campus.

    No institution of learning which values the freedom of thought can tolerate totalitarian thugs who seek to force falsehoods on students who want to expand their minds but receive only indoctrination in the CPACS. That is the fault of Lynch as much as the VC’s

    • Erica Edelman says:

      You go, Paul Winter! Champion idea! The sooner the better. How dare they be ABLE to lecture to our youngsters! Makes the university look like a second rate, two-bit outpost not the great and honorable institution that its MEANT to be.

  13. Geoff Seidner says:

    I want it understood that basis one of the links per above article,I have discovered that
    [see ”fellow member of the governing council”]
    Professor Suzanne Rutland – who wrote a glowing article on the late Malcolm Fraser is a member of Jake Lynch’s CPACS Council!

    I now understand how it came to be that to good lady ignored my many letters to her to intervene!!
    Here is a related item:

    http://socialistdystopia.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/oh-suzanna-rutland-dont-cry-for-israel.html

    Given her many works ostensively supporting Judaism – she may care to explain…..

  14. victor grynberg says:

    i WAS A PROUD GRADUATE OF THE UNIVERSITY, BUT THAT PRIDE IS IN ABEYANCE TILL I HEAR THE UNIVERSITY’S RESPONSE.
    WHEN I WAS CONTACTED JUST 9 DAYS AGO BY MY FORMER FACULTY SEEKING A DONATION I MADE IT CLEAR THAT THERE WOULD BE NO DONATIONS TILL I SAW THAT THE UNIVERSITY DID MORE THAN WHAT I FEAR THEY WILL DO.
    “A GENTLE SLAP ON THE WRIST FOR PROF. LYNCH AND A GENERAL TUT-TUTTING’
    LYNCH AND HIS COHORTS ACTED DISGRACEFULLY

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