Open letter to Sydney University

December 7, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
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The Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney University rejected an approach for co-operative work from an academic at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on the basis that the Centre supports BDS.

Professor Dennis MacEoin has been editor of Middle East Quarterly since June 2009. A former lecturer in Islamic studies, his academic specialisations are Shi‘ism, Shaykhism, Bábism, and the Bahá’í Faith, on all of which he has written extensively. MacEoin is also a novelist, writing under the pen names Daniel Easterman and Jonathan Aycliffe.He and his wife live in Newcastle upon Tyne in northern England.

He has written the following to Sydney University

Faculty Office

Sydney University

Dear Sirs,

I have been sent information by friends of mine in Australia, describing the scandal that has recently grown up in your institution, concerning the decision of Prof. Jake Lynch to turn down a request for a fellowship from a well-qualified Israeli teacher and researcher, Dan Avnon, a professor in the prestigious Hebrew University. Professor Lynch did, in fact, believe that Professor Avnon’s research ‘sounds interesting and worthwhile’. But Professor Avnon himself was dismissed because Lynch adhered to a belief in the value of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, and that includes the call for an academic boycott of Israeli universities. He maintained that the Centre to which he is affiliated adheres to this conviction collectively, implying that there can be no room for compromise on the matter.

As someone who has studied at and taught in half a dozen universities, mainly in Britain but in other countries as well, I have myself been made the victim of similarly discriminatory decisions, once in Iran, once in the UK (through the medium of the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education). I know of no element in academic life that can remotely justify such prejudice being applied in a university situation. Nor can I imagine what such a justification might consist of or how one could in fairness apply a boycott or a sanction. What makes this a great many times more serious is that such boycotts bring vividly to mind the notorious Nazi anti-Jewish boycott of 1933. Moreover, most of these boycotts protest Israel’s policy of apartheid without admitting that Israeli has never had and does not now have any policy that even resembles apartheid. No restaurant, bus, train, taxi, school, university or other element of social life in Israel is closed to Arabs. There are no signs saying ‘Jews only’ anywhere in the country. Israeli hospitals take in and treat Palestinians, and some offer Palestinian children heart transplant and have a special programme for it. Does it not shock you to find mature academics, men and women trained in the arts of research and criticism, swallowing whole the lie that there is apartheid in a country which is free of it? I have been shocked to encounter racism in Sydney, but I believe the Australian government fulfills its obligations to eliminate it, just as we do here in the UK. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, has stated clearly about one year ago, that no Jews will be allowed to live in a future Palestine. Would it not be more astute to focus a boycott on the Palestinians, who never tire of threatening genocide for the Jews of Israel?

A similar boycott was proposed in the UK by the then Association of University Teachers (AUT) but turned down and challenged widely by members and non-members alike. It was not popular because it would have infringed one of the most fundamental tenets of academic work: prejudice should never knowingly be allowed to interfere with the honest activities of the academy. The moment we let discrimination creep into our halls and classrooms, our work is immediately debased. We can no longer claim objectivity. Our marking of student essays and examination papers falls suspect. Our books will be open to criticism from reviewers who do not share our prejudices. Our lecture will be attended only by biased people with biased minds. If I say that one lecturer cannot work in my institution, because he is black/aborigine/Jewish/Irish – whatever you please – then I stab my own work and the work of my colleagues with a poisoned dagger. Do you not regard this as particularly pernicious for Sydney University? And do you not find it ironic that your Peace and Conflict Centre takes one side in this particular conflict? Were I in your position, I would think it well worth the effort to identify such prejudice – which, to many Jews, is a form of anti-Semitism – and stamp it out before it  swallows the Centre in the same way other forms of discrimination do?

Please write to me and assure me that you have taken note of this political one-sidedness in your institution and that you will take urgent steps to bring an end to it.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Denis MacEoin

Comments

7 Responses to “Open letter to Sydney University”
  1. Elizabeth says:

    Is there ANY rigorous intellectual approach to the question of peace in the Middle East by the majority of Australian academics?If I want to put forward Israel’s case I am always greeted with the words” you would say that “,and that is the end of any discussion.
    Israel is demonized and delegitimised by those who know so little that they are not even prepared to discuss any point what so ever and who are morally so blind that they support Hamas and other murderous organizations without question.I can only conclude that the majority of Australian academics are to lazy to check facts and can not recognize that they are subject to indoctrination by Islamist supremetists.

  2. Dannyg says:

    I saw Jake Lynch speak at a Friends of Hebron function last year. He went on a great deal about ‘the occupation’. Prof. Dan Avnon is a seventh generation Israeli. Just whose land does Mr Lynch believe is being occupied?

  3. Shirlee. says:

    Love the question Paul !!!

    **Where are our communal leaders?**

    I think we all know the answer to that one.

    Apart from nowhere to be seen that is

  4. Paul Winter says:

    Other sources reveal that Prof Avnon works in the area of Israel/Arab mutual understanding and that as he allies himself with the “progressive” stream of politics, he is hurt by being boycotted. Serves him right for not finding out the truth about those he champions.

    The simple fact is that Avnon is not acceptable to the Centre because he is a Jew and as such his facade of progressivism is rejected. To be a true believer like Lynch, you must accept the Pallylie that today’s neo-Nazis are the Israelis and that the Fakestinians are their victiims.

    It is telling that Lynch is the replacement of Rees who spouted the nonsense as only an academic could that one can only obtain peace with justice. That means that one can continue fighting until one gets justice. This ignores the fact that even Hitler believed that his wars were justified. But the the Centre has as an outside lecturer the Norwegian Galtung who is openly antisemitic and the Centre uses his texts.

    BDS was proposed to USyd and it was rejected by the administration. One must wonder how an administration can pretend to be in charge if it allows a section within its domain to act counter to its policy. The Centre is not fulfilling its role of broadening minds. Instead it is an indoctrination unit which offends USyd policy and Australian antidiscrimination legislation.

    Where are our communal leaders? They should be meeting with the Vice-Chancellor and the uni Senate and it should be pressing charges against the Centre. What is going on at USyd is a perversion of academic freedom. The Centre should in fact be abolished not merely because of its indoctrination and political bias, but because what it teaches is the equivalent of geophysisists running flat earth courses; the Centre has the intellectual depth of a flatworm and has no place in a place of learning.

  5. harry says:

    This is confusing – “The Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney University rejected an approach for co-operative work from an academic at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on the basis that they supported BDS.”

    It could be inferred from the way this is phrased that the Centre refused to work with Hebrew U because Hebrew U supports BDS, when the opposite is the case!

    • Rita says:

      2nd try:

      First on reading this post I thought that it makes a good semantic point, but who on earth would suspect a HEBREW University of boycotting Israel and the Jewish people.

      Then I remembered that we have quite a few self-proclaimed Jews of the Adolf Loewenstein ilk, not only here in Australia but, so I hear, even in Israel.

  6. Rita says:

    As an alumna of Sydney University, I have just changed my will to exclude them as beneficiary. Anti-semitic organisation, especially institutions of learning, will not get a penny from me, nor should they from half-way decent people.

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