Thursday, October 31, 2013

Waging "Lawfare" Down Under

NOT content with misusing Australian passports for dirty operations in the Gulf and elsewhere, Israel's Mossad spying agency is behind a phoney "human rights" outfit that is trying to use Australia's courts to silence and intimidate people who oppose what Israel is doing to the Palestinians.

The Israeli law center Shurat HaDin has filed a law suit in the Australian federal court against an Australian academic, Jake Lynch, director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney University, for supporting the the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Claiming that Lynch’s support of the BDS movement violates Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act, they hope to focus on his refusal to sponsor Hebrew University of Jerusalem academic Dan Avnon for a fellowship. But whatever the unfairness or otherwise of this application of the boycott (friends of Avnon say he has a good record and is not a racist), Lynch argues that it was just an individual decision, and did not prevent Avnon from obtaining other sponsors. He also points out that his Centre has more than once hosted Israeli and Jewish speakers.

Shurat HaDin is seeking a court order requiring Lynch to apologize and renounce his BDS campaign, stating that his participation in and support of the BDS movement has led to “adverse distinction, exclusion, restriction and adverse preference based on the Jewish race, descent, national and ethnic origin of goods, services, persons and organisations,” reported The Australian.
Lynch dismissed the accusations against him, saying he is certain that “we will prove, in court if necessary, that it does not amount to any form of discrimination or racism.”  

The Murdoch-owned Australian newspaper recently seized on two isolated incidents - a violent late-night attack by some drunken yobs on two Jewish couples at Bondi, and three stupid students singing Springtime for Hitler, to claim that Australia was becoming more antisemitic, and link this to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Critics said it was the newspaper which was encouraging antisemitism by equating ordinary Jewish people with the Israeli state.   

It is worth noting that the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), regarded as the highest representative body of Australian Jewish communities, and affiliated to the World Jewish Congress, has issued a statement dissociating itself from the Israeli group's lawsuit.  The ECAJ, which has campaigned to oppose BDS, says it regards the academic boycott as "repugnant", and wants to encourage more academic contacts. (Most boycott supporters would point out that their tactic is directed against institutions, not individuals, but this gets ignored). However the Australian Jewish leaders say the way to oppose BDS is with argument, not litigation.  

They may well have born in mind the ignominious collapse of  an ill-advised case brought by Ronnie Fraser, a member of the University and Colleges Union in Britain, against his union.

At any rate, ECAJ argues that litigation can be counter-productive, especially if it is pursued for political ends.

But the Israeli organisation Shurat HaDin is no bunch of amateurs. Claimed as a "civil rights" organisation - a description accepted by The Australian and other newspapers, it more accurately describes its actions as "lawfare" - waging war by using law.  When it has not been looking after the "rights" of soldiers accused of using excessive force, and officers charged with war crimes, it has increasingly turned to legal harassment of political opponents and boycott supporters.

A leaked US embassy cable revealed that in 2007, Shurat HaDin's director Nitsana Darshon-Leitner confided to a US official that her group  “took direction … on which cases to pursue” and still “receives evidence” from the Mossad and from Israel’s National Security Council.

The leaked cable was one of those passed on by Bradley Manning and published by Wikileaks. The cable’s author quotes Darshan-Leitner as explaining the government’s rationale for using a proxy rather than going to local courts directly: “The National Security Council (NSC) legal office saw the use of civil courts as a way to do things that they are not authorized to do.”

“Among her contacts, Leitner listed Udi Levy at the NSC and Uzi Beshaya at the Mossad, both key [US] Embassy contacts on anti-terrorist finance cooperation,” wrote the unnamed official who apparently authored the cable after meeting with Leitner in 2007. At the time of the cable was written, the NSC’s head was Ilan Mizrahi, a former deputy chief of Mossad.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Shurat HaDin did not reply to an email sent yesterday seeking comment on the issues raised in this article.

Besides its actions in the courts, Shurat HaDin runs an annual tour of Israeli military bases, courts, prisons, settlements and “the controversial Security Fence.”  It is called "the Ultimate Mission to Israel", and at a cost of about $3,000 per person, it offers the chance to meet Israeli soldiers and officers, undercover collaborators, cabinet ministers and to “observe a trial of Hamas terrorists in an IDF military court.”  Also promised are “briefings by Mossad officials and commanders of the Shin Bet.”

Claiming to take action against "terrorist" regimes and organisations, Shurat HaDin has been guided by the Israeli state and Mossad in pursuing legal actions against bodies deemed as handling funds for them.  

In contrast with its defence of Israeli soldiers accused of crimes, it tried to obstruct negotiations for the release of captive Gilad Schalit, according to Israeli journalist Yossi Gurvitz in the online .972 magazine.

As for deciding what constitutes "antisemitism", in 2011, Max Blumenthal discovered that a major funder for Shurat HaDin was Pastor John Hagee, the Texan evangelist who says Hitler was the "hunter" sent by God to drive out Jews and make them go to Israel. But Pastor Jack, apart from denouncing "half-breed Jews, descendants of Esau", is founder of Christians United for Israel, condemns Islam, and has given money to Im Tirzu, which witch-hunts Israeli academics considered left-wing and traitorous. So that's alright then.

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