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Shurat Hadin criticized for threatening to sue ASA over Israel boycott
By YONAH JEREMY BOB
01/12/2014
ASA, other NGOs accuse Shurat Hadin of legal bullying with its lawsuit threat against academic association's BDS campaign.
 
Over the weekend, the American Studies Association (ASA), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and Palestine Solidarity Legal Support (PSLS) criticized Shurat Hadin’s threat to sue the ASA for boycotting Israeli universities.

Shurat Hadin (the Israel Law Center) sent a letter to the ASA on Thursday threatening to sue it for unlawful discrimination in light of the ASA’s December 2013 endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli universities.

Shurat Hadin argued that the ASA boycott violates international, federal, and state laws, which make it unlawful discrimination “for any person to boycott or blacklist, or to refuse to buy from, sell to or trade with, or otherwise discriminate against any person, because of the race, creed, color, or national origin.”

ASA president Curtis Marez responded to the lawsuit saying, “We will not be intimidated by Shurat Hadin and its legal threats. Unlike in Israel, where criticism of the government’s policies toward the Palestinians is increasingly criminalized, our boycott decision is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Thankfully, in the United States we still have the right to speak out against Israel’s racial discrimination against Palestinians.”

Marez added, “As an organization we have the absolute right to oppose the discriminatory practices of Israeli academic institutions and their complicity in Israeli human rights abuses. Everyone knows the First Amendment protects not just speech, but conduct.”

Echoing those comments, the CRC and PSLS issued a joint statement saying, “Shurat Hadin seeks in vain to punish speech that is fully protected by the First Amendment.

The resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions joins a proud history of political and human rights boycotts in the US, which have resisted race discrimination and human rights abuses in the US and around the world, and which the United Sates Supreme Court has held are protected speech.”

The statement concluded, “Shurat Hadin’s attempt to paint this principled action as anti-Semitic and discriminatory against Israelis is not only legally bankrupt, but also trivializes important struggles against anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism.”

Shurat Hadin made the case that BDS is not “protected free speech” as it is “action” and not mere speech, adding that BDS infringes on the free speech of other academics.

The NGO said that, “as of January 8th, 2013, more than 100 college presidents have gone on record as opposing the ASA boycott and at least five universities have withdrawn or plan to withdraw as institutional members of the association.”
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