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September 24, 2014 / 29 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘boycott of Israeli academic institutions’

House Bill to Slap Financial Penalties on anti-Israel Boycotts

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

This week the “Protect Academic Freedom Act” was introduced into the U.S. Congress. If passed, the legislation will block universities from receiving federal funds if they engage in the boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars.

The Bipartisan Protect Academic Freedom Act (H.R. 4009) was introduced on Tuesday, Feb. 4, by Reps. Peter Roskum (R-IL) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL). The measure would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965.

The congressmen said the bill was introduced in order “to address the growing threat of unjustified boycotts against the Jewish State of Israel,” according to a statement they released on Thursday.

By introducing the proposed legislation, Roskam and Lipinski seek “to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund bigoted attacks against Israel that undermine the fundamental principles of academic freedom.”

The much-maligned boycott resolution passed by the American Studies Association in December, 2013, was specifically mentioned as an impetus for the bill. The ASA was the second academic association to pass boycott measures in 2013.  It is anticipated that many more academic associations may consider similar measures this year.

On the floor of the House, Roskam described the ASA boycott as a “shameful thing” which was “clearly an act of anti-Semitism” on the part of those voting in favor of the boycott.

Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren is quoted in the statement released by the congressional co-sponsors announcing the proposed legislation.

“The Protect Academic Freedom Act represents the first legislation that defends Israel against discriminatory boycotts which impede rather than advance the peace process and that seek to deny Israelis the right to free speech on American campuses,” said former Ambassador Michael Oren.

“As a citizen of Israel and its former ambassador to the United States, as well as an historian and visiting professor on leading American campuses, I strongly support this courageous initiative. It can be the turning point in the struggle against the delegitimization of the Jewish State,” was Oren’s strong endorsement of the bill.

“This bipartisan legislation seeks to preserve academic freedom and combat bigotry by shielding Israel from unjust boycotts. It is ludicrous for critics to go after our democratic friend and ally Israel when they should be focusing on the evils perpetrated by repressive, authoritarian regimes like Iran and North Korea,” said Congressman Roskam, the Chief Deputy Whip and co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus.

Roskam explained that academics are protected by the First Amendment to have and to express their views against Israel, “but the American taxpayer doesn’t have to participate in it, the American taxpayer doesn’t have to be complicit in it, and the American taxpayer doesn’t have to take any part in it.”

“As a former university professor, I appreciate the value of academic exchanges involving universities and individuals, particularly between strong international allies with robust academic programs like the United States and Israel. Scholarship and research should be about the pursuit of knowledge, and universities have been and always should be a community where different opinions and ideas are encouraged and nourished,” said Congressman Dan Lipinski.

HOW THE BILL WOULD WORK IN PRACTICE

The language in the proposed bill states that any institution of higher education shall not be eligible for federal funds if the Secretary of Education “determines that such institution is participating in a boycott of  Israeli academic institutions or scholars.”

The way to determine whether a university is participating in a boycott – which is not necessarily obvious as, for example, the ASA is not a part of a specific university – is “if the institutions or any significant part of the institution, or any organization significantly funded by the institution adopts a policy or resolution, issues a statement, or otherwise formally establishes the restriction of discourse, cooperation, exchange, or any other involvement with academic institutions or scholars on the basis of the connection of such institutions or such scholars to the State of Israel.”

Countering Illegal Boycotts of Israel

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Originally published at The Washington Times.

Educational, corporate and political organizations have stepped up efforts to isolate Israel through academic discrimination and economic blacklisting. Wrongly, organizations funded either directly or indirectly by U.S. taxpayers are advocating these boycotts.

The American Studies Association announced a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, following boycotts announced by the Association for Asian American Studies and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. At their recent conference in Chicago, the Modern Language Association debated the issue of boycotting Israel, reportedly narrowly defeating a resolution calling for a boycott, but adopting a resolution condemning Israel. A panel on Jan. 9 consisted of four panelists and a moderator all supportive of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against the state of Israel. One of the panel’s “experts,” Omar Barghouti, is a founding committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and currently studies at Tel Aviv University in Israel. Mr. Barghouti once infamously wrote in the Electronic Intifada on Jan. 6, 2004, “We are witnessing the rapid demise of Zionism, and nothing can be done to save it . I, for one, support euthanasia.”

Boycott methodology was instituted immediately after the 1948 establishment of Israel in hopes of starving the nation of economic sustenance and her legitimate right to exist and to grow as a nation-state of the world.

Previously, Congress enacted two pieces of legislation to discourage U.S. entities from participating in illegal boycotts against Israel or other countries. A 1977 amendment to the Export Administration Act of 1969 instituted criminal and civil penalties for such participation, and an amendment to the Tax Reform Act of 1976 instituted tax penalties for participation in illegal boycotts. Both were partially successful, and congressional intervention is needed now.

Outrageously, the federal government essentially subsidizes these academic boycotts by granting tax-exempt status for many organizations endorsing and encouraging the boycotts. For example, American Studies Association membership includes 2,200 colleges, universities, museums, foundations, societies and other institutions — many of which are tax-exempt — and their revenues often come from tax-deductible contributions. Actions should be taken to highlight — and preclude — charitable organizations from using tax-supported dollars or contributions to engage in illegal conduct.

Economic boycotts of Israel by U.S. companies are also ongoing. In July 2010, a food cooperative with two locations in Olympia, Wash., voted to become the first grocery store in the United States to ban all Israeli-made items from its shelves. Just last month, the office-supply store Staples reportedly announced plans to cease sales of the popular new SodaStream products because the company’s manufacturing facility is located in Israel’s ancient Judea-Samaria area.

An important Supreme Court case shows how Congress should address this issue. In 1970, the Internal Revenue Service informed Bob Jones University, a private religious university, that its tax-exempt status would be revoked owing to its racially discriminatory policies. The Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment’s religious-liberty guarantee does not prohibit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from revoking the tax-exempt status of an educational institution with practices contrary to a compelling state interest. Congress can instruct the IRS to revoke the tax-exempt status of institutions endorsing any Israeli boycott. Although some may argue such action would violate First Amendment “free-speech” rights, Supreme Court precedent clearly shows the First Amendment does not preclude the United States government from taking away tax-exempt status if a “compelling state interest” exists in so doing. Because academic boycotts are contrary to U.S. foreign-policy interests and, in effect, promote hatred and racism, a compelling state interest exists in acting to stop these anti-Israel boycotts by denying tax-exempt status to boycott proponents.

In addition, Congress should create a private cause of action under the Export Administration Act for businesses directly impacted by an unsanctioned boycott. The federal government possesses the power to levy monetary damages in the form of fines against companies that comply with demands by boycott proponents, and the government should do so. The Export Administration Act should be amended to allow private parties harmed by boycotts to pursue punitive and compensatory damages in U.S. courts against the responsible party.

It’s time to put a stop to taxpayer subsidization of boycott advocates, and it’s time to allow victims of these boycotts to pursue justice in a court of law. Illegal boycotts cannot be countenanced and must be stopped, and the offending companies and organizations must be held legally accountable.

Israel Academic Boycott Group’s Tax Status Challenged

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Just as he said he would, and as The Jewish Press reported in December, Cornell Law professor William A. Jacobson has filed a challenge to the American Studies Association’s tax exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service.

Jacobson filed his challenge on Monday, Jan. 6. The essence of the 36 page challenge is that the boycott of Israeli academic institutions is inconsistent with the only purpose for which the ASA was granted tax exempt status, i.e. education.  In addition, the boycott itself constitutes discrimination on the basis of national origin, and therefore it is a violation of American public policy.

According to the 36 page legal document, filed under the federal “Tax Whistleblower Act,” the ASA’s boycott was taken on behalf of “Palestinian civil society” and will impact all Israeli academic institutions and all faculty representing or acting on behalf of Israeli academic institutions or the Israeli government.

But, Jacobson challenges, the ASA’s academic boycott is not consistent with the bases upon which its tax exemption was granted.  The challenge and Jacobson’s explanations can be found at his blog, Legal Insurrection.

The remedy sought by Jacobson’s challenge is the revocation of the ASA’s tax exempt status because, as the result of its decision to pursue the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, the ASA is “no longer ‘organized and operated exclusively for charitable or educational purposes’ and does not primarily serve a public purpose” as required under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israel-academic-boycott-groups-tax-status-challenged/2014/01/08/

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