Australian Jewry rebukes Sydney professor over Israel boycott

Jake Lynch criticized for rejecting Israeli academic from participating in research forum

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Jake Lynch speaking at the University of Sydney in July. (photo credit: CC-BY, Newtown Grafitti, Flickr
Jake Lynch speaking at the University of Sydney in July. (photo credit: CC-BY, Newtown Grafitti, Flickr

An Australian professor from Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies has faced scathing criticism from the country’s Jewish community after he boycotted an Israeli academic behind a Jewish-Arab high school program, J-Wire reported on Wednesday.

Peter Wertheim, executive director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, slammed the institute and said he was not alone in criticizing the decision to ban Hebrew University Prof. Dan Avnon.

“The Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACs) has been a continual embarrassment to the University of Sydney,” said Wertheim in a response published on the J-Wire website. “It is viewed with scarcely concealed disdain by many in the academic community.”

Last week The Australian reported that Avnon approached Associate Prof. Jake Lynch of the center, seeking to benefit from a fellowship agreement shared by the two institutions. Lynch rejected the approach, saying he supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against Israeli universities

A University of Sydney spokesperson told The Australian newspaper that the institution and Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence did not support the boycott move. The spokesperson said Lynch spoke “on behalf of himself and maybe one or two colleagues.”

“Little wonder that CPACs’ rebuff to Professor Dan Avnon of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has been criticized by the university’s Vice-Chancellor, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and others,” Wertheim wrote. “To the university’s credit, I understand that arrangements have been made for Professor Avnon to work with another department which has much higher international recognition for its research and teaching.”

Avnon, a member of the Hebrew University’s political science faculty, set up a high school program in 2001 for religious and secular Jews to study together with Arabs. The three streams generally study separately in Israel’s state education system.

According to J-Wire, last year the University of Sydney hosted an Israel Research Forum for Israeli and Australian academics from various fields including medical research and the humanities. Lynch appealed to the vice-chancellor of the university calling for the forum to be canceled and boycotted, but the request was rejected outright.

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