Senator takes issue with Sydney University group calling for boycott

April 13, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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A pro-BDS group has emailed staff at the University of Sydney calling for an academic boycott against Israel.

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz has spoke out in the pledge signed by 37 University of Sydney Arts and Social Sciences academics to boycott Israel and Israeli universities in an effort to stand in solidarity with the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory of Gaza is troubling.

The academics have signed the boycott pledge as a part of the long-running Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement that has seen anti-semitic violent protests in Australia.

“It is both disappointing and dangerously ignorant for academics to try and dress up this endorsement of Hamas, a terrorist regime, as some progressive and forward thinking movement,” Senator Abetz said.

Senator Eric Abetz

“The Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has seen Palestinians live in squalor with aid funds spent on funding terrorism and creating rockets to fire at innocent Israelis.

Why these University of Sydney academics aren’t signing petitions against international aid being misspent on the promotion violence and terrorism against innocent Israelis is baffling.”

The fact that Hamas has incited violence and placed innocent Palestinians in harm’s way in order to make a political point is disgusting and should not be supported. I am hopeful these academics will reconsider their position,” Senator Abetz said.

The following email was sent using the university’s internal email addresses:

We’re writing as members of the Sydney Staff for BDS group, which advocates for the institutional academic boycott of Israeli universities. The academic boycott campaign is a response to the continuing direct appeal to academics around the world from Palestinian civil society, most recently our colleagues at Birzeit University, to apply boycott tactics in support of the struggle for Palestinian autonomy.

You will no doubt have seen media reports of last week’s shocking attack by the Israeli army on the Palestinian ‘Land Day’ protest in Gaza, in which around 16 Palestinians were killed and over one thousand injured, including hundreds wounded by gunfire from Israeli snipers (see Haaretzthe UN, and Reuters for details). Human Rights Watch has called Israel’s killing of unarmed demonstrators ‘unlawful’ and ‘calculated’. Palestinians are planning to continue their demonstrations until the mid-May commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in the 1948 war. The protests follow the recent eight-month sentence imposed by an Israeli military court on 17-year old Ahed Tamimi for slapping and kicking two Israeli troops in December, shortly after her 14-year old cousin was shot in the head at close range by another Israeli soldier.

The institutional academic boycott of Israel is part of the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestine justice, an international solidarity movement inspired by the success of boycotts in bringing an end to apartheid in South Africa. In response to the boycott call, many academics around the world have pledged to withhold institution-level cooperation with Israeli universities, all of which are complicit in the ongoing oppression of Palestinians. A fact-sheet which answers common questions on the boycott, prepared by members of the staff BDS group, is available here.

We would like to invite you to consider supporting the campaign for justice for Palestine by joining us in signing the boycott pledge below, as the colleagues also listed under it have already done.  The boycott’s institutional character means that Israeli colleagues are never subject to boycott simply on the grounds of their affiliation with an Israeli institution. If you would like your name added to the signatories of the pledge on our website, please email Nick Riemer.

With many thanks for your time in considering this important issue of international solidarity,

Nick Riemer (English and Linguistics), David Brophy (History), Jake Lynch (Peace and Conflict Studies).

Nick Riemer told J-Wire: “An email was sent to everyone in the Arts and Social Sciences Faculty who could meaningfully participate in academic boycott activities — that is, current staff and postgraduates.”

Dr Colin Rubenstein

The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council’s executive director Dr Colin Rubenstein told J-Wire: “We are surprised the Australian has devoted so much attention to what is essentially a non-story.

This is the same old wine, and there has not even been much of an attempt to put it in new bottles. Every time Israel is attacked, and forced to defend itself, certain academics at Sydney University take it upon themselves to criticise not the terrorist group Hamas, responsible for the problem, but reiterate their long-standing, destructive demands for boycotts of Israel. As they have made clear repeatedly, and do so again by calling for the so-called return of millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees into Israel, these academics are both fostering continued conflict and essentially challenging Israel’s very existence, using blatantly discriminatory methods contrary to basic academic freedom and human rights.

If these few academics who it is claimed have signed the pledge were really concerned for Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, they would be condemning the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for refusing to make peace despite Israel’s repeated, generous offers of statehood, and condemning Hamas for initiating so many deadly conflicts with Israel, including now, by trying to breach Israel’s border while using human shields under the cover of the mass demonstrations it has cynically orchestrated.”

Academic BDS pledge

In response to the call from Palestinian civil society, including Palestinian academics and students, for an institutional academic boycott of Israel, and in recognition of Israeli universities’ key role in enabling ongoing Israeli oppression of Palestinians, we undertake not to engage in any professional association with Israeli academic, research or government institutions, or collaborate professionally in any way with those institutions’ leaders, until Israel complies with international law and elementary principles of human rights by

  • ending its illegal occupation and annexation of internationally recognized Palestinian territory as defined by the UN;
  • granting full equality before the law to Palestinian citizens of Israel; and
  • recognizing the right of Palestinians to return to the land from which they have been and continue to be expelled.

We note that while this commits us to fully breaking ties with Israeli academic institutions, it does not preclude continuing collaboration with individual Israeli researchers who do not occupy leadership roles in them. We look forward to a time when Israel is prepared to negotiate seriously and in good faith with Palestinians, and civil society actions like the boycott are no longer necessary.


Nick Riemer (English and Linguistics)

David Brophy (History)

Jake Lynch (Peace and Conflict Studies)

Victoria Grieves (Honorary ARC Indigenous Research Fellow, Sociology and Social Policy)

Gareth Bryant (Political Economy)

Frances Clarke (History)

Mike Beggs (Political Economy)

Sophie Loy-Wilson (History)

Ben Miller (Writing Studies)

Ahmar Mahboob (Linguistics)


9 Responses to “Senator takes issue with Sydney University group calling for boycott”
  1. agi gemma sterling says:

    The amusing thing is that Prof Riemers parents are holocaust survivors, Hungarian Jews who pretend to be someone else
    ]shame on the family

  2. Rafi says:

    What about the Right of Return for those Jews expelled from Arab lands ..
    BDS is a smokescreen for anti-Semitism !!

  3. Al Green says:

    Are activist academics able to maintain objectivity? Be interesting to how a paper critical of BDS campaign would be marked.

  4. Leon Poddebsky says:

    Any degree or diploma that is achieved by students of these “academics” would have as much value as qualifications achieved in 1942 at a German university; or at a Soviet university.
    What a laughing stock…and at a ‘university” of an otherwise sane, enlightened society.

  5. DANIEL KATZ says:

    The amusing part is what could these intellectually bereft imbeciles have worth sharing with the Israelis? It’s the opposite way around.

    Hamas’ plan is simple – attack Israel using human shields and get the media to demonize the Jewish state when Arabs are killed in the crossfire.

    The world is falling for it.

  6. DANIEL KATZ says:


    If you really believe Jews are weak then stop using Arab refugees to do your dirty work

  7. Liat Kirby says:

    And these academics signing the BDS Pledge are supposed to be thinkers – History, Political Economy, Sociology, English and Linguistics, Writing … to what purpose one wonders have all these studies shaped and developed their devotees?! Certainly not to higher realms of reflection and dispassion to allow for the possibility of truths they may not like, but with a more pure scholarly approach would finally admit to. That’s what universities used to be about, passionate inquiry towards dispassionate truth. That was their founding aim. I see good old Jake Lynch of the absurdly inappropriately named Peace and Conflict Studies department is at it again, too. What a scourge on Sydney University they are.

    Every single one of them should view Mosab Hassan Yousef in ‘The Green Prince’ relating the realities of the region or read his book ‘Son of Hamas’. He grew up in Gaza, his father a founding member of Hamas. He knows a little bit about it and his views and perceptions are directly opposite to those of these fashionably obsessive Sydney University academics. I would wager that not one of them have ever set foot in Israel or Gaza. Nor would they want to. They’re happy little anti-Semites, practising their poisonous trade from the lofty comfort of an Australian university, feeling self-important while they do so.

    • Leon Poddebsky says:

      Any student who is contemplating studies that would involve any of these “academics” would be well advised to seek knowledge and skills at a university that upholds enlightened academic values.
      Such a student can well imagine the effect on his grades if he/she ever indicated, even subtly, his/her support for Israel.

  8. Michael Burd says:

    Now all these anti semites have one thing in common is it they are all on the far Right or far Left ?

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