Students call for Israeli uni boycott
- BY:EAN HIGGINS
- From:The Australian
- April 12, 2013 12:00AM
SYDNEY University’s student representative council has called for the academic institution to cut ties with at least one Israeli university, in a move likely to reignite fierce debate over proposed academic boycotts of the Jewish state.
At what one SRC member, Patrick Massarani, described as a sometimes ugly debate on Wednesday night, the council passed resolutions that among other things called for all academic co-operation to be cut with Technion University in Haifa.
Mr Massarani, a fellow on the university Senate who also sits on the SRC, said the meeting degenerated into name-calling and vilification, and that he had spoken against the motion. “I said it was our duty to cherish academic freedom,” Mr Massarani said.
The Sydney University SRC motion against Technion, a university established in 1912, which specialises in the sciences, medicine, engineering and technology, follows similar campaigns at universities overseas including Cornell in the US and McGill in Canada.
Campaigners claim Technion works closely with the Israeli government and military, and weapons manufacturers in Israel. They claim that drones, tanks and other military hardware have been built using research from Technion and used against Palestinians.
The SRC’s move is a boost for Jake Lynch, the director of the university’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, and his promotion of the international Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign against Israel.
Professor Lynch last night hailed the move by the SRC, claiming that Technion University, apart from assisting Israeli weapons production, had done work for the Israeli department of foreign affairs on public diplomacy to develop strategies to deflect attention from Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Professor Lynch said that if Sydney University academics co-operated with Technion, “they risk condoning and in a sense internalising” such alleged anti-Palestinian practices.
Government and Coalition frontbenchers have opposed Professor Lynch’s BDS campaign, with opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop saying academic units that support BDS should not be given federal research grants.
But Professor Lynch last night said this would be a mockery of free speech, noting Tony Abbott had recently said the role of academic institutions was to “speak truth to power.”
The chief executive officer of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Vic Alhadeff, described the passing of the SRC motion as “an exercise in empty symbolism and immature spite”.
“It will do nothing to advance Palestinian statehood,” he said. “Trying to shut down collaborative research between universities in the areas of science and medicine is immoral. It can only exacerbate the conflict.”