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Judge strikes out sections of BDS lawsuit

Nick Rowbotham reports on developments in the racial discrimination case against USyd Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies Director Jake Lynch.

Image credit: Garry Wilmore, via Flickr.

A Federal Court judge has dealt a blow to the Israeli legal group, Shurat HaDin, who are pursuing a Racial Discrimination action against USyd academic Jake Lynch for his boycott of Israel.

Justice Alan Robertson struck out key sections of Shurat HaDin’s statement of claim last Thursday, bringing to a close a protracted provisional stage of the legal proceedings.

The case had been mired in pre-trial interlocutory hearings since October last year, but Justice Robertson’s rulings on the statement of claim and a cap on the maximum costs recoverable by each party, have paved the way for it to go to trial.

Shurat HaDin now have 28 days to re-plead the ten paragraphs of their statement of claim that have been struck out, after which Lynch’s legal team have a further 28 days to file a defence before the trial can commence.

The self-styled ‘Israel Law Centre’, whose stated aim is to “bankrupt terrorism – one lawsuit at a time”, allege that Professor Lynch breached four sections of the Racial Discrimination Act in refusing to endorse a fellowship application for Hebrew University academic Dan Avnon.

USyd’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, of which Lynch is the Director, has a policy in support of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Despite the strikeout, Shurat HaDin’s lawyer Andrew Hamilton commented in an email to Honi that Thursday had been “a good result” for the applicants.

“As a senior barrister once said to me: ‘A strike out application is your friend’ – the Judge helps you improve and fix up your Statement of Claim so your position is stronger at trial,” he said.

However, Lynch’s legal team claimed the outcome as a preliminary victory for the defendants. “Today’s judgements are a blow to Shurat HaDin’s stated aim of outlawing BDS in Australia,” they said in a press release after the day’s proceedings.