Jewish academics slam BDS ban

Jewish academics slam BDS ban – The Australian

By Ean Higgins

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

THREE eminent Jewish Australian academics have condemned the Coalition’s promise to cut off federal grants for individuals and institutions who support the Boycoil, Divestment, Sanctions campaign against Israel.

Andrew Benjamin, Michele Grossman and David Goodman variously described the policy outlined last week by Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop as “outrageous”, “counter-productive”, “populist”, and as “an antidemocratic gesture par excellence”.

Their remarks come as the Coalition tries to out-do the government in opposition to the BDS campaign, which seeks to apply pressure on the Israeli government over its treatment of Palestinians.

As revealed by The Weekend Australian, Ms Bishop has hardened Coalition policy towards BDS, which she has branded anti-Semitic.

“The Coalition will institute a policy across government that ensures no grants of taxpayers’ funds are provided to individuals or organisations which actively support the BDS campaign,” Ms Bishop said.

While professors Benjamin, Grossman and Goodman oppose BDS, they all described Ms Bishop’s proposal to cut off funding for those who support it as a fundamental attack on academic independence, free speech and democracy.

Professor Benjamin said yesterday that in a democracy freedom of expression had to allow a capacity for dissent.

“In this respect the university becomes the conscience of the democracy,” said the professor of Jewish thought at Monash University.

Ms Bishop’s policy was “obviously a populist move that will appeal to some sections of the constituency”, he said.

The professors’ views on academic freedom will come as a boost for the director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, Jake Lynch.

Ms Bishop has specifically promised to cut off federal grants for Professor Lynch and the CPACS because of their vocal support for BDS. Professor Lynch rejected a request for assistance from an Israeli academic, Dan Avnon, who developed Israel’s only civics curriculum for both Jewish and Arab school students.

Professor Grossman, who is deputy director of Victoria University’s Centre for Cultural Diversity and Wellbeing, said she regarded boycotts on academic exchange as counterproductive because they exclude interaction with Israeli academics who may be agents for favourable change.

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