A Washington D.C. District Court judge has allowed the expansion of a lawsuit filed against leaders of the American Studies Association (ASA), according to a statement released Tuesday by the Louis D. Brandeis Center, which has assisted in the lawsuit. The defendants used the association to promote an academic boycott of Israel.
The lawsuit, which was initially 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.
E-mails uncovered during the litigation process showed that the pro-BDS members of the association conducted a covert campaign to gain control of the ASA and use it to promote their anti-Israel activism.
Among the allegations added to the lawsuit, the statement says, are the “the defendants deliberately limited nominations for the ASA National Council to pro-boycott candidates, strategically hid their pro-boycott agendas when they stood for office, withheld pertinent information about the boycott resolution from voting members, and froze membership rolls prior to the vote to prevent those opposed from voting.”
In addition, four defendants were added to the complaint, including, John Stephens, the Executive Director of the ASA, Jasbir Puar, J. Kehaulani Kauanui, and Steven Salaita, who led the stealthy campaign to promote the anti-Israel boycott within the ASA. Puar, Kauanui, and Salatia are also all leaders of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), a leading proponent of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in academia.
The amended complaint adds additional claims of breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duties.
The newly discovered e-mails showed a “covert and premeditated plot” by the activists from USACBI to pack ASA’s leadership with academics who promoted boycotts of Israel in order to make sure that the association would adopt pro-boycott positions. This meant that USACBI activists effectively “hijacking the ASA and its resources for their own purposes.”
One e-mail from Puar said, “I think we should prepare for the longer-term struggle by populating elected positions with as [many BDS] supporters as possible.” Other e-mails showed that BDS supporters deliberately hid their position until they were elected to leadership positions.
The amended complaint also alleges that USACBI-affiliated academics raided ASA’s trust fund to pay expenses arising from their activism. These expenses arose from passage of the boycott resolutions as well as declining revenues resulting from the damage suffered by the ASA due to its pursuit of an anti-Israel academic boycott. The complaint further charges that the leaders of the anti-Israel academic boycott “rushed” through a change in the association’s bylaws to allow the withdrawal of nearly $300,000 from the trust fund.
“This latest decision by the federal court is a significant step forward for everyone who is concerned about the anti-Semitic BDS movement, its deleterious impact on academic institutions and the unlawful practices of those attempting to undermine the pillars of higher education to advance a personal, political agenda,” the statement concluded.
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