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BDS supporter denied ARC grant

Alexi Polden reports on the latest instalment in the ongoing USyd BDS saga.

Director of Sydney University Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and Associate Professor Jake Lynch, was denied a grant by the Australian Research Council (ARC) last week. Lynch is currently a defendant against a racial discrimination claim initiated by Israeli legal group Shurat HaDin for his support for the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

The outcome of his grant application was widely considered a test of then- shadow Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop’s 2013 undertaking to withhold all government grants from supporters of BDS. That prohibition was to apply regardless of whether potential grants related to BDS activities. Professor Lynch’s application was for the study of journalists in South Africa, Nepal, Australia and Britain.

A spokeswoman for ARC told Honi unequivocally that the council had not been directed by the Government or by any Ministers to block applications from BDS supporters, and reaffirmed that ARC had not withheld grants due to BDS involvement.

However, when later asked whether there had been any communication besides an explicit directive between ARC and the government concerning BDS, she revised her position, commenting that “the ARC is not in the business of providing commentary on any conversations on any issue that the CEO has with the Minister, Government or Ministerial advisors.” Honi did not make any specific enquiries into the CEO’s involvement

Lynch is concerned that the ARC may not have relied upon an explicit government directive in justifying the denial of his application. High-level AusAID documents quoted in The Australian last week reveal that AusAID had considered rejecting another application of Lynch’s due to his involvement with the BDS campaign, fearing that a grant would compound media attention. Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr was quick to clarify that no such direction had come from his office. Based on Bishop’s comments and recent AusAID revelations, the NTEU has agreed to lodge a Freedom of Information (FOI) request with AusAID on behalf of Lynch.

Ironically, this investigation mirrors the case against Lynch, who was targeted by HaDin for refusing to support a grant application by an Israeli academic.

If involvement with BDS was not a consideration in rejecting Lynch’s grant, the question of whether Ms Bishop’s earlier unequivocal remarks were ever to be taken seriously remains.