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Pro-Palestine lecturer faces Sydney University sanction


By Ean Higgins

Sydney University has issued a “show cause” letter to academic Jake Lynch, threatening him with disciplinary action over his conduct at a public lecture last month which was interrupted by pro-Palestinian students.

The move will be welcomed by Jewish student leaders who ­alleged Professor Lynch made gestures and statements towards a Jewish woman at the event which they claim were anti-­Semitic, a claim Professor Lynch vigorously denies.

But it will see a chorus of outrage from sections of the student and academic community for whom Professor Lynch has become a hero for his support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign against Israel.

The “show cause” letters ­allege breaches of university rules by a number of people at the melee in which students, one using a megaphone, shouted and chanted pro-Palestinian slogans as retired British colonel Richard Kemp, a vocal defender of the ­Israeli Defence Force, was giving his talk.

In a statement yesterday, the university said it had issued letters to 13 people as a result of an investigation launched by vice-chancellor Michael Spence which followed dozens of complaints against Professor Lynch, the protesting students, the security guards who manhandled the protesters as Professor Lynch urged the guards to stop, and members of the public, including one who has admitted throwing water at the protesters, Jewish semi-­retired English literature lecturer Diane Barkas.

Ms Barkas, as revealed by The Australian yesterday, rejects Professor Lynch’s claims that she kicked him during the fracas, but admits trying to grab his mobile phone.

Professor Lynch held up a $5 note in front of Ms Barkas and ­repeatedly said he would sue her and it would cost her money, which he said he did only to try to stop what he claims was her ­assault.

The investigation found one staff member, five students and two contractors engaged by the university “may have engaged in conduct that breached the university’s codes of conduct”, and that five members of the public also engaged in untoward behaviour.

No names were released, but The Australian has established that the staff member is Professor Lynch, and the contractors are ­security guards.

Professor Lynch could not be reached for comment last night, but earlier this week he told The Australian that if he received a letter “it will be an outrageous attack on my intellectual freedom”.

“Nothing in my conduct at the Kemp lecture would make such a response make sense except in context of the witch-hunt led by the pro-Israel lobby and its right-wing political allies.”

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