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Will Hotel Chain Violate the Law and Honor Discriminatory ASA Boycott of Israel?

On Monday, The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) sent a letter (.pdf) to the management of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles calling on them to “do the right thing and fulfill their legal obligations to prevent unlawful discrimination before it happens at the Westin Bonaventure.” At issue is the American Study Association’s (ASA) annual meeting, which is scheduled to take place at the hotel in November, and the association’s discriminatory policy stating that “all Israeli academic institutions and academics acting in a representative capacity will be barred from participation in the ASA’s Annual Meeting.”

A press release accompanying the letter read:

“The ASA’s exclusionary, functionally anti-Semitic policy has been condemned by academics across the political spectrum,” said David French, Senior Counsel of the ACLJ. “Invidious discrimination has no place in American higher education, and it certainly has no place in public accommodations. We’re calling on the Westin hotel to do the right thing and ban unlawful discrimination on its property.”

In a letter sent to Westin Bonaventure today, the ACLJ argues that no other nationality other than Israelis is subject to an exclusionary policy, and since the overwhelming majority of Israelis targeted by the boycott are Jewish, the policy is also exclusionary on the basis of race and religion.

French added: “California law prevents hotels from discriminating on the basis of national origin, race, and religion. We’re calling on the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, which is hosting the ASA’s annual meeting in November, to take steps to ensure that the ASA will not enforce its anti-Semitic policy during its annual meeting scheduled for November 4-9th. Simply put, we’re demanding that the Westin obey California law.”

In an article published at the National Review Online, French observed, “when it passed the Unruh Act, the California legislature was specifically motivated by prior attempts to boycott of Israel and a concern that California businesses would deny goods and services to Jews.”

Law professor William Jacobson, who publicized the controversy at his Legal Insurrection blog, added:

The Westin Bonaventure presumably never would allow conference organizers to apply discriminatory standards to deny or restrict admission to Mexicans and Mexican academic institutions, and it should apply that same legal protection to Israelis and Israeli academic institutions.

This is not a question of free speech. The American Studies Association can advocate whatever positions it wants.

What the Westin Bonaventure cannot legally permit, however, is discriminatory access standards for conferences held on its premises.

[Photo: Jim Winstsead / Flickr ]