Activists corrupt noble principles in defence of Lynch

April 30, 2015 by Alex Ryvchin
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The defence of Jake Lynch and the students who stormed the lecture theatre at the University of Sydney during a talk by Colonel Richard Kemp, has been speciously framed as a struggle for the right of free speech and dissent.

Alex Ryvchin

Alex Ryvchin

No mention is made of the protesters having admitted that it was they who were trying to suppress free speech by shutting down Richard Kemp’s lecture altogether. There is a rich irony in anti-Israel academics and students invoking the right of free speech in order to deny the right of free speech to anyone they disagree with, and specifically of anyone who dissents from the disingenuous, one-dimensional caricature that constitutes their portrayal of Israel.

The right to protest or hold opposing views is not in question. When protesters held anti-Israel banners outside the lecture theatre and distributed flyers to all who entered to hear Kemp speak, they were exercising these important rights, no matter how misguided their message was. Their subsequent conduct had an altogether different and darker purpose — to deny Kemp his right to speak, and to deny the students, academics and visitors in the audience their right to listen and engage with his ideas. There is no room for competing ideas or opinions in the narrow, grim worldview of the far-left.

In the wake of the negative media coverage that the censorious protesters attracted, Lynch’s supporters quickly launched an Op-ed offensive with one clear message: The protesters who tried to deny Richard Kemp and his audience the freedom to speak, were themselves being denied the right of free speech. With typical moral inversion, the perpetrators were now being cast as the victims.

Nick Riemer, who convenes an anti-Israel boycott group at the University of Sydney asserted that the University of Sydney would make itself “the instrument of the Israel lobby’s witch hunt”, if it investigated the allegations against Lynch and the students.

At a subsequent forum organised by Riemer at the University of Sydney, titled “Why boycotting Israel isn’t antisemitic”, Riemer claimed that “the Israel lobby had only to snap its fingers for the university to jump.” The irony of using an event aimed at distancing BDS from anti-Semitism to rail against the so-called string pulling of the pro-Israel community, was obviously lost on Riemer.

A petition defending Lynch, which drew the support of the usual anti-Israel voices, including Lee Rhiannon, Melissa Parke and Mike Carlton, made further insinuations regarding unnatural Jewish power and manipulation. The letter called on the university’s vice-chancellor, Michael Spence “not to allow [him]self to be made the agent of the Israel lobby’s persecution.”

The theme was picked up by the National Tertiary Education Union, which released a statement claiming that the investigation into the actions of Lynch and the students is “solely designed to placate external parties”. The union didn’t mention the “Israel lobby” by name but it didn’t need to. The mere allusion to this seemingly supernatural force is far more evocative.

There is a great deal of scholarship around the racially infused use of terms such as “Jewish lobby”, “Zionist lobby” and “Israel lobby”, all of which mean the same thing. The term is intended to cast the involvement of the Jewish community in public affairs as somehow subversive, undemocratic and inherently sinister. It is intended to appeal to antisemitic views of the Jews as exercising an extraordinary or dark power. It is crude, conspiratorial thinking.

The effect of the unchallenged use of the term is to limit or worse, deprive the Jewish community of its right to speak on matters of importance to it, a right extended to all communities and all people in our free society.

It is significant that while a range of stakeholders have spoken publicly on the matters that transpired at the lecture, including alumni, academics, students, political commentators, politicians and concerned members of the public, only the views of the Jewish community have been described as a “witch hunt” or depicted as shadowy, controlling or unduly powerful.

The themes of victimhood and power were then taken to their absurd conclusion by Riemer, who in a rambling letter condemning the university for issuing show cause notices, claimed that the investigation into conduct on campus and any resulting disciplinary action should be seen as the University “siding with a nuclear power” and “siding with Andrew Bolt and Tim Blair.”

Equally disturbing has been the perversion of noble ideals central to university life to spare Lynch and his followers from the consequences of their deplorable conduct.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks defended the actions of the student activists claiming that they were “exercising their legitimate right of free speech”. The claim that the investigation into students who shouted down Colonel Kemp’s free speech with a megaphone actually infringes on their rights of free speech is beyond parody.

There is a further right at stake in this battle. That is the right to express views sympathetic to Israel or otherwise antithetical to the far-left smorgasbord of causes. Kemp had not uttered a word about the Arab-Israeli conflict when the theatre was stormed. His mere presence on campus and reputation for defending Israel was enough to ensure that his basic right to speak was violated by baying, ranting crusaders with megaphones. This is a chilling development played out on campuses throughout the world, where facts are held hostage to embedded prejudices and small bands of protesters can suspend the rights of others as they seek to fulfil their quest for moral superiority.

Alex Ryvchin is the public affairs director at the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

This article first appeared in The Australian


7 Responses to “Activists corrupt noble principles in defence of Lynch”
  1. Alan Baden says:

    It’s hard to see how your comments relate to Mr Ryvchin’s article. The article supports free speech and gives an account of an event where free speech was in motion, and a group of people attempted to drown out that free speech. This would be akin to me overtyping the words in your post and replacing your words with mine, ie use of a megaphone.
    Further, free speech is not without parameters. Courts all over the world have confirmed that if you are too “free” in your speech you will enter the legal realm of inciting hatred, violence and villification.
    The extent of your misinterpretation makes me think you either did not read the article or you have some kind of hidden agenda.

  2. Geoff Seidner says:

    Many years ago I tried to get the ACCC to formally declare that either primary or secondary boycotts be deemed illegal under ASustralian law.

    This was around the Brenners intimidation by so – called Palestinian anti – Jewish activists.

    I failed – after scores of pages of arguable skillful correspondence.
    Those who saw my efforts thought so….

    It was a lonely, annoying experience.
    Some of our people should surely now have a go!


  3. ark haymanm says:

    U.S. Supreme Court justice and legal giant Louis Brandeis would beg to differ with your analysis – freedom of speech can never be ‘specious’. Freedom of speech is not negotiable, it is the most fundamental human right. When we hear people such as yourself calling for curtailment of freedom of speech we should automatically suspect hidden motives and agendas – motives and agendas that do not sync with freedom, human rights and the common good.
    What are you hiding, Mr Ryvchin?

    • Jonathan Slonim says:

      Ark Haymanm misconstrues the fundamental point made by Mr Ryvchin and concludes with the classic “when did you stop beating your wife” assertion that the author must be hiding something. The article does not argue that freedom of speech is specious. The author in fact argues that it is specious to characterise the behaviour of Jake Lynch and his student cohorts as a struggle for free speech, i.e. Lynch and the demonstrators are attempting to deny free speech to others, and when criticised they immediately bleat, as do so many ideologically ossified members of the far left, that their attempts to disrupt and suppress alternative viewpoints are an exercise in free speech, rather than the neo-fascist exercise of noise and force to drown out the views of others.

      • Geoff Seidner says:

        Jonathan Slonim should note that ‘ossified’ as a a description of the far left is cute. And far too reasonable for my taste.
        I quote:

        ”…..immediately bleat, as do so many ideologically ossified members of the far left…”

        There are so many other similar great put – downs of the socialists AKA communists: the essential home – base of modern – day Jew hatred. The ‘dinosaur’ nomenclature comes to mind readily. Similarly inadequate i reckon.

        But I suggest that the ignoble, socially – inclined troglodytes deserve the willfully – blind moniker. Simply because nothing can be conveyed to them.

        Ultimately because they forever shift ground.
        To wit -never can they win a fair debate with them: indeed they never ALLOW a fair debate.
        Preferring all derivations of totalitarian bullying – and WORSE, whenever they historically feel so empowered. The worst mass – murderers have been atheistic / communists! Hitler was a National SOCIALIST: designate him as being far right if it makes you feel better. And maybe he was.

        Titles in reality mean little – and are sadly forever – changing.
        How about NEOCON? this is surely classical reference to Jews.

        Six million of our brethren do not care! And today we recognize similar pressures to the pre WW2 era.

        No one should debate the source of most Jew hatred.
        I do feel sorry for the few genuine socialists [whatever THAT means] who have an open mind on Israel – like Peter Baldwin and Bill Shorten: there must be more.

        I suggest that the luvvies secretly realize that they cannot divorce themselves from their MARXIST / Leninist / Stalinist fetish. Worse – THEY SECRETLY UNDERSTAND THAT COMMUNISM AND THE PATHETIC CURRENT INCANTATION IS A GIGANTIC FRAUD.
        From day one of Marx to it’s current abominated incantation in the west!

        So they need to blame someone – and what better than scapegoating Israel / the Jews?

        When the common – sense revolution comes – perhaps men and women of good faith will disband the day’s ultimate nihilists’ party structure.

        In the meantime contemplate how difficult it has been to get the Sydney University Vice Principal to merely sack Lynch!

        Vale common sense and basic morality!

    • Paul Winter says:

      So typical of the pseudo-intellectual far left. Establish superiority by name calling. Avoid debate by spouting slogans.

      Before Brandeis, there was a golden rule: do not do unto others as you would not have others do unto you.

      The far left today as the far right in Nazi Germany, always insists on the right of free speech for themselves and of the right of militant righteous action to silence speech they regard as hateful. Free speech is not negotiable, but the mob that tried to silence Col Kemp negotiates with violent action and then whines about the consequences.

      Since you are such a legal expert, Arky boy, perhaps you can give us the name of the USA jurist who defended free speech but excluded from it that which he described as “the heckler’s veto”.

  4. Leon Poddebsky says:

    A war against the Jews is being waged globally, and it reached Australia some time ago.
    It is seeping into multiple strands of the fabric of society, and its ferocity will only increase with time.

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