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Boycott Calls Against Israel
Legal Battle Against BDS


Editorial Note


Two new legal initiatives for fighting BDS were announced lately.   One is by a group of members of the American Studies Association (ASA), who filed a law-suit against the ASA for illegally boycotting Israel. According to the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law which advised the professors, the “ASA’s stated mission has nothing to do with boycotting a foreign nation" and that ASA adopting BDS "violates the law that governs nonprofit corporations.”

The move could potentially deter other associations, such as the latest pro-BDS round by members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) which began its online polling of thousands members.  The AAA online vote on the boycott of Israel is taking place now and will continue through May 31.

The second is a warning letter of intent to file a law-suit by the Israeli Shurat Hadin against the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation (RBF).  Shurat Hadin warns that RBF, which supports groups that advocate boycotting Israel and could cause the fund to be "considered complicit and as a participant in these groups' illegal activities." According to Shurat Hadin, the RBF contributes hundred of thousands of dollars to groups supporting BDS.  Although RBF declares it does not support BDS, recipients of their funds clearly do. 

The result of the legal initiatives could potentially affect other pro- BDS groups. If successful, it would mean a significant step forward for those fighting BDS. 

Professors Sue American Studies Association for Illegal Boycott of Israel

Several anti-Israel activists abused their position of leadership and violated the law

By  • 04/21/16 3:00pm

A lawsuit filed on behalf of four professors against the American Studies Association for its boycott of Israel accuses the ASA of “blatant politicization” of an academic association, in violation of Washington, D.C law governing nonprofit organizations.
In December 2013, ASA adopted a boycott policy against the Jewish state. The plaintiffs in this case argue that several anti-Israel activists, including founding members of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), abused their position of leadership to make anti-Israel activity a priority of the Association. According to a press release from the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, “ASA’s stated mission has nothing to do with boycotting a foreign nation and thus the suit alleges its adoption violates the law that governs nonprofit corporations.”
“Until a handful of zealots appropriated our learned society, the ASA was the leading organization for the study of American culture,” stated professor Simon Bronner, one of the plaintiffs. “Yet in 2013, a handful of anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists aggressively steered the ASA to an organization of social change pushing a narrow political agenda.”
In addition to Mr. Bronner, professors Michael Rockland, Michael Barton and Charles Kupfer are plaintiffs in the case. Since 2013, distinguished academics have tried to handle their concerns internally. The professors filed this suit “as a last resort to return the ASA to the academically-focused organization it has been for 60 years,” according to the Brandeis Center president, one of the attorneys for plaintiffs.
Northwestern Pritzker Law School Professor Eugene Kontorovich is working with the plaintiffs in an advisory role.
“Even if you are pursuing what you perceive as noble goals, you still have to comply with ordinary and regular corporate law, especially in the area of nonprofits, which have rules to prevent them from being taken over by activists who want to use the structure of the nonprofit to pursue a totally different mission, and that is what happened here,” Mr. Kontorovich told the Haym Salomon Center.
He added, “Organizations have rules designed to protect their members from being hijacked by a small minority of activists.  The goal of the [ASA] leadership seems to be to inject their own politics into a scholarly association they happen to govern. It’s the nonprofit version of misappropriations.”
The lawsuit claims that, in addition to violating D.C. law, the defendants attempted to prevent informed discourse. The plaintiffs allege ASA leadership forbids opponents of the boycott measure from offering their perspective to members via the ASA website. The plaintiffs advised they wanted to share numerous letters opposing the resolution, including one signed by approximately 70 ASA members, and another opposing the resolution from eight former ASA presidents.
Kenneth Marcus, President and General Counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, assembled the legal team behind the lawsuit.
“The BDS advocates have really made a laughing stock out of the American Studies Association. In a short period of time, they managed to get their long-honored institution dragged through the mud, castigated by dozens of university presidents and countless other groups,” explained Mr. Marcus. “The Brandeis Center is concerned that other associations may have the perception that the wrongdoers have been able to escape accountability for their shenanigans. This can have a deleterious long-term impact on other fields of study as well.”
Mr. Marcus continued, “To my mind, this is not only about the mission of the Academic Studies Association but also about whether academic activists will be encouraged to adopt anti-Semitic policies that undermine the pillars of higher education.”
Responding to our request for comment, ASA said: 
“We respect the concerns that the current and former members have expressed, the complaint is under review by our attorneys, and we are open to proposals addressing the complaint to be handled within the internal processes and procedures of the ASA, to include submission of their own formal resolution to the organization.”

'BDS gets hundreds of thousands of dollars from Rockefeller fund'
In scathing letter, Israeli legal watchdog Shurat Hadin warns Rockefeller Brothers Fund that its support of groups that advocate boycotting Israel could cause the fund to be "considered complicit and as a participant in these groups' illegal activities."
Yair Altman and Israel Hayom Staff
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund has given anti-Israel BDS organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the Shurat Hadin Israel Law Center.
In a scathing letter to the RBF earlier this month, the Israeli legal watchdog group warned the RBF that its support of groups that advocate boycotting Israel could cause the fund to be "considered complicit and as a participant in these groups' illegal activities."
The fund, which belongs to the Rockefeller family, donates especially large sums of money to various institutions in Israel and abroad, which according to the allegations include Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups that publicly support the BDS movement.
Shurat Hadin claimed that in 2015 the RBF granted $140,000 to Jewish Voice for Peace; $20,000 to Zochrot; $50,000 to the American Friends Service Committee's Israel program; and $100,000 to the Al-Shabaka organization.
In its letter to the RBF, Shurat Hadin wrote: "The BDS movement's efforts constitute unlawful discrimination on the basis of national origin, race, and religion under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination ('Anti-Racism Convention') and numerous U.S. federal and state statutes, including New York law. Funding organizations that promote BDS raises serious legal issues for RBF. Accordingly, we strongly advise you to consider whether RBF should continue to provide financial backing to these hate groups who promote BDS against Israel and Israeli companies, individuals, and products."
Shurat Hadin Director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said: "It is even more difficult for me to understand how the children of such an esteemed father can allow the fund honoring their father's legacy to be involved in racist and discriminatory activity. ... Shurat Hadin will not hesitate to take legal steps against these organizations and those who fund them if they try to or perpetrate any boycott of Israel."
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund said in response: "While the foundation does not support the call for BDS, we stand behind all the organizations supported by the fund and which work for a just and peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians."

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