NGO threatens to sue US academic group which boycotts Israel

The American Studies Association announced in December that it was boycotting Israel and its universities.

Suhrat Hadin founder Nitsana Darshan-Leitner 370 (photo credit: Yonah Jeremy Bob)
Suhrat Hadin founder Nitsana Darshan-Leitner 370
(photo credit: Yonah Jeremy Bob)
In the wake of the American Studies Association’s December- announced boycott of Israel and Israeli universities, Shurat Hadin is considering suing the ASA for unlawful discrimination.
Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center on Thursday sent a letter to the ASA threatening to sue initiate a lawsuit on behalf of various Israeli academics, arguing that the ASA boycott violates international, federal and state laws.
The distributed letter mentioned a number of New York state laws against discrimination that 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, national origin.”
It also mentions Article 1.1 of the international Anti-Racism Convention, which was ratified by the US, as prohibiting discrimination of the kind that it accuses ASA of practicing.
The NGO then wrote that according to the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which the ASA has joined, is at its core not merely anti-Israel, but anti-Semitic.
Further, 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 8, 2013, over 100 college presidents have gone on record as opposing the ASA boycott and at least five universities have withdrawn or plan to withdraw as institutional members of the association.”
Shurat Hadin also cited several other statutes that it said the ASA had violated.
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of Shurat Hadin, said, “It is quite simple, the law in the United States prohibits discrimination on the basis of any protected characteristic, faith, ethnicity, sexuality or disability.”
She continued, “The ASA boycott which targets Israelis because they are Israelis and Jews is illegal. We commend those professors and academic institutions who have distanced themselves from this blinkered and hateful boycott.”
The letter did not give a deadline for the ASA to cancel its boycott, but said that failure to do so would lead to legal action without further notice.
In August 2013, Shrurat Hadin launched similar litigation in Australia against academic Jake Lynch of Sydney University.
Lynch is fighting the case, which had hearings starting in the end of November 2013, and has said he was sued because BDS works and that the point of BDS is not discrimination, but to “contribute to prospects for sustainable peace, peace with justice, for Israelis and Palestinians.”