Last month York University in Toronto reversed its decision to suspend a pro-Israel group on campus. A few week before that, New York City changed course and announced that it was treat a subway attack against a Hebrew-speaking woman as a hate crime. A few weeks before that, Columbia University became the first to be accused of anti-Semitic discrimination in wake of President Donald Trump’s Executive Order on Combating Anti-Semitism.
The organization behind all these moves? The Lawfare Project headed by Brooke Goldstein.
“We’re the most persecuted minority community in the world. But if we stand up proudly and demand our civil rights…we will succeed,” Goldstein told The Jewish Press.
Goldstein began fighting for Jewish causes early on. As a student at Cardozo Law School, she filmed the award-winning “The Making of a Martyr” (2006), which highlights the Palestinians’ practice of recruiting children to become suicide bombers. A few years later, in 2010, she was working for the Middle East Forum led by Daniel Pipes, when she sought to assist a Jewish organization devoted to fighting for Jews’ civil rights. To her shock, she learned that no such organization existed, so she decided to found one herself.
So far, the organization has filed 80 legal actions in 17 jurisdictions utilizing the services of 400 lawyers. She explains, “We’ve tapped into a previously untapped resource, which is the pro bono commitment of major law firms. [Our cases are] attractive cases [for them to take up] because they’re pressing issues covered by the media and they have a chance to really do the right thing and be front and center about it.”
The Lawfare Project has chalked up some impressive victories. In addition to the ones mentioned above, it was responsible for The International Chess Federation moving a chess tournament from Saudi Arabia to Russia in 2018 after Saudi Arabia had barred Israeli players from participating in a chess tournament the previous year. Its aggressive legal tactics also forced Kuwait Airlines Corporation – which refuses to sell tickets to Israelis – to cancel all its inter-European flights and its popular JFK-London route.
Goldstein, whose grandfather commanded a Polish partisan unit in World War II, says people don’t realize how effective legal action is. “The change you can make with one lawsuit or even one legal letter is enormous,” she told The Jewish Journal late last year.
Jews, she says, have not taken a firm enough stand against legal civil rights violations. They should start doing so, she says.
In December, The Lawfare Project announced that it would be providing pro bono legal services to any Jew who is the target of anti-Semitism.