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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Legal Insurrection’

Cornell Students Firmly Reject Anti-Israel Divestment Resolution

Friday, April 11th, 2014

In yet another failure of the anti-Israel divestment movement, the Cornell University student government voted on Thursday, April 10, against a Resolution to recommend that the school divest its holdings in Israeli companies.

The vote was 15 in favor of indefinitely tabling the Resolution, eight against tabling the Resolution and one abstention.

William A. Jacobson, a clinical professor of law at Cornell Law School, followed the student efforts closely. He writes an authoritative blog on campus activity regarding Israel, Legal Insurrection. His blog was the source of the most up-to-date and complete information regarding the American Studies Association’s vote to boycott Israeli academic institutions last year, as it is of so many other fast-paced and ever-multiplying threats against Israel on U.S. campuses.

“I’m very proud of the way the pro-Israel students were able to mobilize so quickly. Now they all can enjoy their Passover holiday,” Jacobson told The Jewish Press by email.

The Cornell professor was referring to the way in which the Divestment Resolution was brought to the Cornell Student Assembly for a vote. As he detailed in a post two days ago, the students, led by the nefarious campus group Students for Justice in Palestine, in a surprise move, inserted the Resolution onto the calendar just two days before,so that it came up for a vote Thursday, April 10, at 4:30 p.m.

Because the Passover holiday begins on Monday, most Jewish students ordinarily would leave for home during the day on Thursday. If the initial Resolution passed, it would mean that the substantive vote would take place the following Thursday, smack in the middle of the Passover holiday.

That cheap and dirty strategic trick, as Jacobson noted in his blog post describing it, was “reminiscent of the exploitation of the Yom Kippur Jewish holiday in 1973 to launch an attack on Israel.”

And just as effective. They lost. By a lot.

WHAT THE RESOLUTION SAID

Cornell Student Assembly Resolution is titled: Resolution Urging Cornell University to Divest from Companies Profiting from Israeli Occupation and Human Rights Violations.  That Resolution includes the usual panoply of distortions of truth regarding the situation and hyperbole regarding the “crucial role of students and scholars in finding and advocating for solutions to humanity’s various crises” (but not regarding Syria, Sudan, Eritrea, China or any other genocides or true humanitarian disasters currently taking place around the globe).

As always, the “Occupation” is the root of the only evil they recognize. The students point to the “Occupation,” the Separation Barrier and the Israel Defense Forces as the reasons for the misery of the lives of the Palestinian Arabs.

Sadly, most of the clauses cited in the Cornell Divestment Resolution cites United Nations Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions and International Court of Justice rulings.

Specific companies named in the Resolution include SodaStream, IngersollRand and Raytheon.

The students authors are outraged that “Cornell University has portfolio and direct investments in corporations that profit  Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, thereby making Cornell a complicit third party in human rights abuses and violations of international law.”

The Resolution concludes like this:

Be it further resolved, that Cornell University will make information about all of its assets public, pertaining especially to its investments;

And be it finally resolved, that Cornell University will end its complicity with the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and divest its holdings from the aforementioned companies and any other companies that profit directly from Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Moreover, Cornell University will not make further investments in companies that materially support or profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.

Just to be sure everyone understands, this is the student government of Cornell University. Even if the Resolution passed, the student government has absolutely no power to require the university to follow its directives.

Vassar and the BDS War on Campus

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

The anti-Zionist – and sometimes also anti-Semitic – website Mondoweiss recently published a lengthy report by the site’s founder Philip Weiss about a meeting that took place at Vassar in early March.

According to Weiss, the meeting had been scheduled by the school’s Committee on Inclusion and Excellence in order to discuss guidelines for activism after persistent protests by Vassar’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) against a trip to Israel planned by Vassar’s International Studies program.

VASSAR BDS WAR

Weiss began his report by quoting Jill Schneiderman, the professor who had apparently initiated the trip and who had mentioned the meeting in a post on her blog, where she wrote that she “was knocked off-center by a belligerent academic community dedicated to vilifying anyone who dares set foot in Israel.”

Weiss confirmed that the meeting “was truly unsettling,” that “torrents of anger ripped through the gathering” and that “rage against Israel was the theme.” He contrasted this atmosphere favorably with the broad popular support for Israel in the US, asserting that it was very different at Vassar, where “the spirit of that young progressive space was that Israel is a blot on civilization, and boycott is right and necessary. If a student had gotten up and said, I love Israel, he or she would have been mocked and scorned into silence.”

But according to Weiss, Israel’s supporters should expect not just more of the same, but worse to come, because in his view, the “battles we’ve seen so far on campus are just preliminaries.” He predicted that “things are going to get much more belligerent” and asserted that “belligerence may be necessary to the resolution.”

At the end of his detailed report, Weiss offered something like a declaration of war:

“If the SJP students can be obnoxious, their manner is just what feminist Margaret Fuller saw in abolitionists during slavery: tedious, rabid, narrow, prone to exaggeration. And dedicated to a principle worth living and dying for.

Expect many more rage-filled meetings in years to come as the left is broken over this question. How long before students occupy administration buildings of liberal arts colleges that work with Israel? How long before students chain themselves to bulldozers at the Cornell-Technion project in New York city?”

According to Weiss, this militant conduct is also endorsed by BDS leader Omar Barghouti:

“That is what Omar Barghouti is saying to people in the middle now, Get out of the way. The intellectual labors are done, the activists are moving. The public square will increasingly belong to the warriors of both sides. And Vassar shows us clearly which side will win.”

This “war” rhetoric is also reflected in a new book by Ali Abunimah, another leading anti-Israel activist, who is currently touring the US to promote “The Battle for Justice in Palestine” which contains a chapter on “The War on Campus,” and his book tour includes numerous events on campuses.

To understand the growing militancy of anti-Israel activists it is useful to consider for a moment what it means when Weiss declares that the “intellectual labors are done.”

In order to justify the targeting of Israel with campaigns calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), anti-Israel activists have to exaggerate and magnify every failing of the Jewish state in ways that demonize Israel as an evil entity comparable to apartheid South Africa or even Nazi Germany. This demonization is also necessary in view of the fact that all leading BDS advocates insist that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state.

The inevitable result of this indoctrination by activists – and all too often also by professors who support the BDS agenda – is a radicalization of students. As professor Alan Johnson recently noted after an encounter with a group of BDS bullies at an Irish university:

The Pro-Israel Backlash to Anti-Israel Activity Continues

Friday, January 31st, 2014

The forces aligned against Israel have had the playing field to themselves for so long that when there was finally some pushback, it took them by surprise.

First there was the resounding chorus of condemnation from a huge swathe of American academia, condemning a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  Then there was the SodaStream boycott fizzle. And today there is more good news from a new corner, the Philadelphia City Council.

***

What pro-Israel person didn’t cheer when Israeli company SodaStream’s beautiful mega-movie star spokesperson Scarlett Johansson refused to back down from her job as Israel haters demanded? Then she resigned rather than continue as an ambassador to what is supposed to be a non-political, humanitarian organization like Oxfam International when it began making noises suggesting she was committing a political correctness faux pas by sticking with SodaStream?

And for those who haven’t yet seen it, a media outlet no one can suggest is biased in favor of Israel, the Christian Science Monitor, ran a story about the Palestinian Arabs employed by SodaStream who applauded Johansson’s position.

The significance of having someone from the Hollywood world which is so dominated by knee-jerk anti-Israel sentiment is huge.

So, too has been the response from academia to the American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

American academia has long been the restricted playground on which only anti-Israel positions and players were welcome.  But as of this week, 226 universities have condemned the ASA’s boycott.  The anti-boycott movement has had a watershed movement, but there remains much work to be done on college campuses.

Many of the same university presidents who publicly condemned the ASA boycott of Israel are still blind deaf and dumb – emphasis on the last – when it comes to distinguishing between academic freedom and inappropriate and unacceptable vilification of Israel when it is publicly accepted by, and even supported and sponsored by, the institutions themselves.  More on this next week.

Another arena in which pro-Israel, or at least anti- anti-Israel sentiment has not been in great abundance, is in municipal government. Sadly, even less likely to stand up for Israel have been the African American legislators who – or at least whose constituents – have been inclined to identify with the Palestinian Arabs. Who can fault them when national politicians as far apart as President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explicitly and so publicly made those comparisons?

The identification between the two groups of minorities is flawed almost to the point of being obscene. Wasn’t it the African Americans who were the ones being beaten, had summary justice- i.e. summary execution – applied, and were misrepresented as the aggressors? That’s more like the Israelis than the Palestinian Arabs. Nonetheless, the flawed identification remains the view of many.

PHILADELPHIA CITY COUNCIL LEADS THE WAY

But in what appears to be the first of its kind act of municipal government, the Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed a resolution on Thursday, Jan. 30, condemning the ASA boycott.

The sponsor of the Resolution was Council member Kenyatta Johnson, an African American who has served in the Philadelphia City Council for two years. For the three years prior to joining the City Council, Johnson was a Pennsylvania state legislator.

The resolution calls on the City Council, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the State System of Higher Education and all colleges and universities in Pennsylvania to reject the academic boycott of Israel.

Councilman Johnson issued a release stating his pride in the passage of the resolution.

“This Boycott limits the academic freedom that is an indispensable component of a free and democratic society, and should be guarded vigilantly. Furthermore, the boycott is short sighted and diminishes the opportunity of American Universities that may engage in progressive dialogues with Institutions of Higher Learning in Israel.

Congressional Letter: Academic Boycott of Israel is ‘Thinly Veiled Bigotry’

Friday, January 10th, 2014

PLEASE NOTE TWO UPDATES AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE

Dozens of members of the U.S. House of Representatives are busily circulating a request to their colleagues, asking them to sign on to a letter to the leadership of the American Studies Association. That letter condemns the ASA for singling out Israel as the focus of its wrath and for instituting an academic boycott of the Jewish State.

The bi-partisan letter, written and signed by two Democrats and two Republicans, is addressed to Prof. Curtis Marez, current president of the ASA. Marez is a member of the ethnic studies department at the University of California, San Diego.

Marez was famously caught by surprise when a reporter asked him why the ASA was singling out Israel, when there are so many other countries involved in far more serious allegations of human rights abuses. Perhaps the questioner was picturing some countries where the very lives of academics are endangered simply for their thoughts or writings. Oh, places like China, North Korea, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia spring quickly to mind.

But Marez simply answered: “We have to start somewhere.” Right.

The congressional representatives taking the lead on this initiative are House members Peter Roskam (IL-6)(R), Ted Deutch (FL-21)(D), Doug Collins (GA-9)(R) and Bradley S. Schneider (IL-10)(D). Members of Congress from nearly 20 states have already signed on.

The letter itself is strong and unquivocal. It starts out by informing the ASA that the congressional members – as of the time this article was written, representatives from 17 states had already affixed their names – “write in strong opposition” to the ASA’s decision “to blacklist Israeli academic institutions for Israeli government policies with which the ASA disagrees represents a blatant disregard for academic freedom.”

The congressional letter not only condemns the ASA’s boycott of Israel on the grounds of academic freedom, it also denounces it for singling out a single country – Israel, the only Jewish state – for punishment by the ASA when there are so many states engaging in brutal repression of its citizens, including its students and academics, yet about which the ASA remains silent.

Even more concerning is the singular targeting of Israel for boycott. Like all democracies, Israel is not perfect. But to single out Israel, while leaving relationships with universities in autocratic and repressive countries intact, suggests thinly-veiled bigotry and bias against the Jewish State. This morally dishonest double standard has already been rejected by well over 100 university presidents, with several member universities even withdrawing from the organization in protest.

William A. Jacobson, a professor at Cornell Law School, wrote about the congressional letter at Legal Insurrection.  Jacobson said that the members of congress intended to send the letter once they obtained approximately 50 signatures, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

In an email to The Jewish Press, Jacobson explained that those taking the lead on the ASA letter intend to gain as many signatures as possible. He also noted that people were signing on very quickly, “they gained six more names in the space of one-half hour as I was communicating with them.”

“It is not surprising that Congress has taken note given the discriminatory and factually baseless nature of the boycott,” Jacobson wrote. “We will see if Congress takes any action beyond a denunciation.”

Within hours of the letter being circulated, 32 additional members of congress asked to have their names included on the letter.

As of the time this article was published, the signatories included:

Michele Bachmann MN-6 (R), Corrine Brown FL-5 (D), Doug Collins GA-9 (R), Ted Deutch FL-21 (D), Jeff Duncan S-C3

 (R), Eliot Engel NY-16
 (D), Trent Franks AZ-8

 (R), Richard Hudson  NC-8 (R), David Joyce  OH-14 (R), Mike Kelly  PA-3 (R), Peter King NY-2 (R), Doug Lamborn  CO-5 (R), Leonard Lance NJ-7
 (R), Sander Levin MI-9 (D), Tom Marino PA-10

 (R), Betty McCollum MN-4 (D), Grace Meng NY-6

 (D), Patrick Murphy FL-18 (D), Gary Peters MI-14
 (D), Mike Quigley IL-5

 (D), Peter Roskam
 IL-6 (R ), Matt Salmon AZ-5 (R), Adam Schiff  CA-28
 (D), Brad Schneider
 IL-10 (D), Brad Sherman CA 30 (D), Steve Stivers  OH-15

 (R), Eric Swalwell CA-15
 (D), Patrick Tiberi  OH-12

 (R), Dina Titus NV-1 (D), Juan Vargas CA-51
 (D), Tim Walberg  MI-7
 (R), Jackie WalorskiR IN-2 (R), Debbie Wasserman Schultz FL-23, (D) Henry Waxman CA-33 (D), Randy Weber Tx-14 (R), Kevin Yoder  KS-3 (R)

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.

 

Growing Number of Schools Blast Academic Group Boycotting Israel

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

It has been exactly a week since the American Studies Association ratified its vote to boycott Israeli academic institutions.  Since that vote, an ever-growing number of individual professors, American Studies departments, academic associations and universities have come out with statements rejecting the ASA boycott.

Within a day of the ratification, the American Studies Departments of both Penn State University and Brandeis University announced their intent to withdraw from the ASA because of the boycott vote.

Since that time, the Association of American Universities, the umbrella organization for 62 major universities and university-systems, and the Association of American University Professors, which has multiple chapters in more than 35 states, have both firmly rejected the boycott.

In addition to those academic institutions, an additional 23 universities have officially rejected the ASA boycott.

Professor William A. Jacobson, clinical professor at Cornell Law School, has been collecting the information at his website, Legal Insurrection. He has been covering the ASA boycott extensively and continuously. His site is the virtual treasure trove of information regarding responses to the ASA boycott. He gives the reason for his focus in a poignant note he posted on Dec. 17, calling for a boycott

The schools joining Penn State and Brandeis include Harvard University, Princeton University, New York University, Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Jacobson notes that neither he nor anyone else has been able to find a single institution of higher learning in the United States which has endorsed the ASA’s boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

UPDATE Tax Exempt Status of Academics to Be Challenged over Boycott

Monday, December 16th, 2013

SEE UPDATE AT END OF ARTICLE

Members of the American Studies Association, an academic group of university professors of American Studies, voted to approve an academic boycott of Israeli universities.

Its members vote tonight, Sunday, Dec. 15, on whether to ratify that decision.

But one legal academic will use Internal Revenue Service regulations in an effort to hamper anti-Israel activity.

The resolution on which the ASA members are voting calls on it

to support the call for boycott of Israeli universities in protest of the illegal occupation of Palestine, the infringements of the right to education of Palestinian students, and the academic freedom of Palestinian scholars and students in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel.

William A. Jacobson is a clinical professor at Cornell Law School.  He announced Sunday evening on his popular blog, Legal Insurrection, that if the ASA votes in favor of the boycott, he will challenge the ASA’s tax exempt status (I.R.C. § 501 (c)(3)).

His challenge has real teeth.

Jacobson logically points out that such a boycott would violate two essential legal standards of the ASA’s tax exempt status.

First, the ASA’s legal purpose as defined in its bylaws – an essential element in the application for an organization’s tax exempt status application – does not include an academic boycott of Israeli universities. According to the ASA’s mission statement, it is “devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history.” Nothing about instituting boycotts of foreign universities there.

Second, an academic boycott of Israeli universities by the ASA exceeds the bounds of permissible activity under the §501(c)(3) requirements. Under this regulation, an exempt organization must be “organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable,…or educational purposes…”  An academic boycott of Israeli universities is beyond the scope of that legal boundary as well.

Jacobson also points to statements made by ASA members opposing the boycott which provide additional legal challenges to the ASA if the ASA boycott of Israel is ratified. For example, such a boycott may violate the New York State Human Rights Law as well as other anti-discrimination statutes. As the ASA opponents wrote:

In no other context does the ASA discriminate on the basis of national origin—and for good reason. This is discrimination pure and simple. Worse, it is also discrimination that inevitably diminishes the pursuit of knowledge, by discarding knowledge simply because it is produced by a certain group of people.

Jacobson told The Jewish Press Sunday evening that if the ASA ratifies the boycott resolution, his challenge to the tax exempt status of the ASA will be filed with the IRS in Washington, D.C. under the IRS Whistleblower Act, 26 U.S.C. § 7623. The Cornell professor has already engaged the services of an expert in the laws governing non-profit organizations to represent him in this legal challenge.

A final very important point: Jacobson makes clear his challenge has nothing to do with an infringement on the free speech rights of anyone or any organization.  His challenge, instead, is simply an effort to ensure that if the ASA chooses to act beyond the bounds of what is permitted for tax exempt organizations, it cannot expect to continue to benefit from tax exempt status.

UPDATE: Sunday evening, Dec. 15, the American Studies Association voted to ratify the boycott of Israeli universities. As Jacobson noted, although the vote was 2/3s in favor, 1/3 opposed, only one-quarter of the total ASA membership voted.  In other words, just 16 percent of American Studies professors in the official professional organization voted to boycott Israeli universities, but that boycott is now in effect.

EFFECT OF THE BOYCOTT

In practice, the boycott will have very little application beyond the ASA itself not being able to formally collaborate with Israeli universities, or with scholars who represent those universities, or with representatives of the Israeli government.

The boycott is non-binding on individual members of the ASA, and it does not apply to individual Israeli academics, so long as they are neither representatives of the Israeli government or of Israeli academic institutions.

The position of the ASA seems to be that the boycott shall remain in effect until, in their view, the Israeli “occupation” ends and equal rights are extended to Palestinian Arabs.

No mention about the fact that there were no academic institutions of higher learning until the “occupation” began, and that illiteracy rates have plummeted since the “occupation” began.

Professor Jacobson told The Jewish Press he will file his challenge to the ASA very soon, either later this week or next week.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/law-prof-will-challenge-tax-exempt-status-if-asa-votes-to-boycott-israel/2013/12/16/

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