Israel

Lawsuit Shows Anti-Israel Boycotters Taking Control of Academic Association

A trail of e-mails uncovered during litigation show that professors who are part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign conducted a “covert campaign” to gain control of the American Studies Association (ASA) and use the association to advance their anti-Israel activism, according to a statement released Thursday by the Louis D. Brandeis Center (LDB).

The lawsuit, which was brought in April 2016 by ASA members Michael L. Barton, Simon Bronner, Charles D. Kupfer,  and Michael Rockland, alleged that ASA officials who promoted an academic boycott of Israel violated the association’s charter.

Earlier this year, a federal judge rejected claims made by Palestine Legal, a group advocating for the boycott, that the lawsuit would “chill speech supporting Palestinian rights,” and ruled that the lawsuit alleging corporate waste, breach of contract, and violation of the D.C. Nonprofit Corporation Act could go forward.

“The evidence shows that members of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel [USACBI], a movement which promotes BDS in the United States, have sought to take over the ASA and similar associations,” Jerome Marcus, of Marcus & Auerbach LLC, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said. Among the defendants in the lawsuit are Sunaina Maira, Neferti Tadiar, J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Jasbir Puar, and Steven Salaita, who are leaders of USACBI.

“This case is about the illegal, hostile takeover of a non-profit, academic association by leaders of an anti-Israel group,” explained Jennifer Gross of the Louis D. Brandeis Center, another attorney for the plaintiffs. “Through a series of misrepresentations and breaches of duty, USACBI activists obtained positions of trust in the ASA, and then abused those positions in order to capture and exploit the assets of the ASA to advance the agenda of the BDS movement.”

The defendants, according to the lawsuit, sought to obtain leadership positions within the ASA with the goal of building “momentum for BDS” within the ASA. Because the membership of ASA is generally opposed to boycotts, the USACBI activists who ran for positions on the ASA board hid their support for BDS. The one activist who acknowledged his support for BDS lost his election.

The effort to take control of the ASA was spearheaded by Puar, who has charged falsely that Israel harvests the organs of dead Palestinians for scientific research.

Once the BDS activists were in position they manipulated the association’s rules in order to pass the anti-Israel boycott resolution.

[Photo: Roger W / Flickr]