On Sunday morning, May 7, LDB’s Director of Legal Initiatives, Aviva Vogelstein, will speak at Congregation Har Tzeon – Agudath Achim on, “Anti-Semitism on Campuses and the BDS Movement.” Vogelstein will discuss the growing problem of anti-Semitism on campuses in the U.S. Since joining the Brandeis Center in 2014, Vogelstein’s work has focused on combating the resurgence of anti-Semitism on American university campuses through legal and public policy approaches, and growing LDB’s law student chapter initiative.
The event is $5 per person, and pre-registration is required. Brunch will be served during the event, which will last from 10:30 AM to 12:00 PM. Congregation Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim is located on 1840 University Boulevard West in Silver Spring, Maryland.
For more information about the event, visit: https://www.htaa.org/event/guest-speaker-aviva-j.-vogelstein-esq..html
The Town of North Hempstead, New York recently passed anti-boycott legislation, unanimously. The town will no longer contract with entities which boycott Israel or the territories it administers.
The legislation adds an amendment to Chapter 24 – “Governmental Operations” – of the Code of the Town of North Hempstead by establishing Article IX – “Contract Restrictions” – in order to prohibit the Town from contracting with companies that participate in the movement to boycott, divest from investing in and sanction Israel. This amendment made the protection of civil rights in the town a priority. It states that “The town is a leader in protecting civil rights and preventing discrimination on the basis of religion, race, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and disability.” It further lists that “Both freedom of speech and religion are cornerstones of law and public policy in the United States, and the Town strongly supports and affirms these important freedoms.” It also included important language regarding discrimination, saying that, “The Town must take action to avoid supporting or financing unlawful discrimination.”.
The Town of North Hempstead joins the growing list of municipalities and states combatting the boycott of Israel through legislation. At least 20 states have passed anti-BDS, most recently Texas and Arkansas.
Earlier this month, U.S. Representatives Peter J. Roskam (R-IL), Co-Chair of the GOP Israel Caucus, Juan Vargas (D-CA), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), and Brad Sherman (D-CA) introduced the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, legislation to further combat the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. A companion bill was submitted in the United States Senate by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD). This bill was originally submitted as the Protecting Israel Agasint Economic Discrimination Act in November of 2016.
The bill aims to amend the Export Administration Act of 1979. The Export Administration Act (EAA) prohibits U.S. companies from participating in boycotts against Israel called for by foreign states. Under the proposed legislation, this prohibition would also apply to boycotts called for by international governmental organizations (IGOs). As with the original version of this bill proposed in 2016, the new bill highlights the actions taken by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in regards to Israel. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act points out that “Item 7,” which is a permanenet item on the UNHRC agenda, exists simply to ensure that Israel will be criticized at every gathering of the UNHRC.
The bill details the events of the 31st session of the UNHRC, where the organization called for a “blacklist” of companies that operate or have business relations within certain areas of Israel. The bill also describes the events of he 32nd session of the UNHRC, where a resolution considered “withhold[ing] assistance from and prevent[ing] trade with ‘territories occupied since 1967’, including East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights” stating that “businesses that engage in economic activity in those areas could face could face civil or criminal legal action.” It is examples such as these that would be used to demonstrate an organization is boycotting Israel, and would therefore be used to discourage and potentially prohibit U.S. entities from supporting these organizations.
The means by which the EAA is relevant to these boycotts is specifically, with the addition of the proposed amended language, the declaration of policy wherein the EAA states that the United States government may restrict the export of goods and technology “where necessary to further significantly the foreign policy of the United States or to fulfill its declared international obligations.” The amended version of the EAA would allow the U.S. government to levy these restrictions against IGOs, such as the UNHRC, that work against U.S. foreign policy as it pertains to Israel.
The text of the bill states clearly that the act does not make any U.S. policy statement regarding Israeli Settlements, in an attempt to distance itself from being bogged down in questions of partisanship, nor does it “establish new United States policy” concerning the Arab-Israel conflict.
The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, by sticking to the sole issue of boycotts, has already garnered bipartisan support, and will hopefully mimic the recent bipartisan successes found by the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2016. As on April 2017, almost half of all U.S. states have enacted their own anti-BDS bills, with several having done so in just the past few weeks. With more and more states now drafting anti-BDS legislation, and the introduction of new bills intended to combat BDS in the House and Senate, the BDS movement is rapidly losing what little legitimacy it has managed to cling onto.
Last week, the Texas House of Representatives unanimously voted in favor of H.B. 89, an anti-BDS and boycott bill that seeks to deny “state contracts and investments in companies that boycott Israel.” This comes on the heels of the passage of a similar bill in the Texas senate on March 23rd. This legislation will now head to the desk of the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, and is expected to be signed into law. Governor Abbott is decidedly against anti-Israel boycotts, writing in 2016 that “”…In the face of the virulent movement to promote anti-Israel boycotts both in this country and around the globe, we strongly condemn the BDS movement as incompatible with the values of our states and our country.”
Numerous other states have passed anti-BDS bills and laws, including Georgia, Alabama, New York, and Michigan. Most recently, the Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill that will penalize companies waging what one lawmaker calls “economic attack” on Israel. The bill, H.B. 2409, passed the Kansas house 116 to 9, and is expected to pass the Kansas Senate with similar results. The North Carolina House of Representatives also recently voted to adopt H.B. 161, a bill aimed at blocking business dealings between the state of North Carolina and those who support boycotts of Israel. Maryland legislators are currently in the process of drafting their own anti-BDS bill, as well.
In addition to anti-BDS legislation, the federal government and several state governments have been attempting to address anti-Semitism through Anti-Semitism Awareness legislation. The large support for both state level anti-BDS legislation and potential Anti-Semitism Awareness legislation at the federal level, shows the tremendous effort on the part of legislators across the country to combat both the growing trend of anti-Semitism and those championing it.
This March 19-20, the Louis D. Brandeis Center hosted its fourth annual National Law Student Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference brought together law student leaders from 13 of LDB’s law student chapters across the country, and educated these students on topics including civil rights law; international law and the Arab-Israeli Conflict; legal responses to terror and how to pursue them; religious liberty; and how to use legal tools to combat anti-Semitism and the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Additionally, the students were presented with networking opportunities amongst their peers, attorneys, and legal scholars.
“The conference was informative, as well as encouraging.” said Daniel Berlinger (University of St. Thomas JD Candidate, 2017). “It helped provide the means to inspire law students to continue the fight against anti-Semitism on campus and beyond.”
Students were given the opportunity to engage with each other in a dialogue about the issues facing them as aspiring lawyers and proponents of civil rights for the Jewish people and all people through a series of lectures, panels, and roundtable discussions. With several prominent figures in academia, government, and professional law as guest speakers and fellow attendees, law students were also given an opportunity to enhance their knowledge and participate in discussions with multiple legal experts.
Participants included law students from LDB chapters at UC Berkeley, Penn, Emory, University of Virginia, and the University of Chicago in addition to students from various other campuses. The LDB law student chapter initiative, launched in 2014, includes 18 chapters nationwide. LDB chapters fill an important gap in American legal education, offering educational programming that connects students’ legal education to pressing Jewish civil rights issues.
Many of the students in attendance were members of their chapters’ respective leadership boards. The conference’s speakers covered a variety of legal and political topics relating to the Brandeis Center’s mission: empowering student leadership, federal protection of the civil rights of Jewish students, and fighting anti-Semitism so that the culture on American college campuses can change into one where anti-Semitism is taken as seriously as other forms of discrimination.
The conference kicked off with LDB Director of Legal Initiatives Aviva Vogelstein welcoming the students to the Fourth Annual National Law Student Leadership Conference. Vogelstein went on to discuss the importance of the role the students were playing at their respective universities, and commended them for the initiative they’ve shown in helping combat anti-Semitism.
LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus then gave opening remarks, focusing on the legal progress that had been made against anti-Semitism, and the many steps yet to be taken. Marcus chronicled the successful adoption of ethno-religious standards within the framework of Title VI and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Marcus then discussed OCR’s history of dealing with campus anti-Semitism cases, attributing the weakness in approach to the absence of a formal OCR definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism. The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016, a bipartisan bill which unanimously passed the U.S. Senate in December, was highlighted as an example of the positive progress being made in the United States in regards to legal means of combating anti-Semitism. Marcus ended his remarks with a spirit of optimism, pointing out the various state legislatures that are currently drafting bills to combat anti-Semitism within their respective states.
After LDB President Kenneth Marcus finished speaking, the floor was turned over to Professor Abraham Bell, of San Diego State University and Bar Ilan University. Bell’s talk, entitled “International Law & The Arab-Israeli Conflict,” focused on Israel and international human rights law. Bell’s talk was a witty, informative, discussion that provided legal and rhetorical strategies, while simultaneously disavowing libels frequently levied against the one Jewish state. Bell’s talk ranged from discussions of the legal status of settlements, to the question of what exactly international law is.
After Professor Bell’s discussion, a keynote address was given over dinner by Richard D. Heideman, of Heideman, Nudelman & Kalik. Heideman’s address, entitled “Holding Sponsors of
Terrorism Legally Accountable,” was a powerful declaration of the power of an individual lawyer to change the world. Heideman discussed overcoming insurmountable odds to bring cases against world leaders, foreign powers, and figures considered generally untouchable in the legal community. Heideman represented clients against Muammar Gaddafi, as well as the nations of Libya and Syria. Heideman sought justice for the victims of the Abu Nidal terrorist organization attacks on the Vienna and Rome airports, along with the American victims of the EgyptAir flight 648 hijacking. Heideman chronicled the difficult road his law firm faced in obtaining justice and compensation for victims of crimes that were perpetrated decades earlier, crimes for which no one believed justice could be obtained. Heideman spoke about the importance of anti-terrorism law, of having a White House committed to the fight against terror, and his theory of confluence: when the victims, lawyers, congressmen, hearings, an amenable White House, and the State Department all come together, anything can be accomplished. Richard Heideman ended his discussion with a piece of advice for all of the aspiring lawyers in the room “Stand up, speak out, and seek justice.”
The second day of the conference began with LDB Director of Legal Initiatives Aviva Vogelstein turning the floor over to various students who had worked on combating anti-Semitism on their own campuses.
After the students concluded their stories, Vogelstein took the floor to discuss “Law and Campus Anti-Semitism.” Vogelstein’s talk discussed the state of anti-Semitism on campus, and delivered eye-opening statistics, such as a highlighting of the fact that over 50% of all Jewish students self-reported facing a situation they would consider anti-Semitic in 2015. Vogelstein discussed cases the Brandeis Center has dealt with, ranging from verbal abuse to physical battery. This discussion also included a breakout session that trained the law students how to represent undergraduates who face anti-Semitic incidents.
Jennifer Gross then spoke about “BDS & The Law.” The talk focused on challenges to BDS resolutions: under state law, corporate charters, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the Export Administration Act, and the Ribicoff Amendment, and other legislation. Gross discussed how certain BDS resolutions, such as the American Studies Association’s unlawful boycott of Israel, and student BDS resolutions on several campuses, are ultra vires (meaning “outside the scope/purpose of”). Gross’s talk highlighted means by which all the students in the room could directly combat anti-Semitic resolution on their campuses firsthand.
Following Gross’s talk on campus anti-Semitism, Alyza Lewin covered several issues relating to constitutional law in her talk,
“Is Religious Liberty in Danger in America?” Lewin, of Lewin & Lewin, has argued before the Supreme Court, and is a staunch supporter of an individual’s rights to free expression of their religious beliefs. Lewin spoke at length about the changing face of the public and legislative approach to religion and its place in American law. Lewin examined the changes beliefs of the U.S. Supreme Court, of the rise and fall of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and various examples of how religious freedom is being inhibited legally throughout the American legal landscape.
After Lewin’s discussion on religious liberty came to a close, a panel was held featuring Eric Fusfield, Director of Legislative Affairs for B’nai B’rith International, as well as Richard Heideman, and Alyza Lewin. The panel was moderated by Kenneth Marcus. The panel, entitled “Legal Career Directions and the Pursuit of Justice,” offered life and career advice to the aspiring lawyers in attendance. The various members of the panel discussed how they got started in the fields they work in, as well as how to successfully balance legal pursuits with personal time. The panel participants also touched upon the importance of believing in your work, and how to rationalize pursuing moral goals instead of mercenary ones. The panel members were very receptive to student questions, and informed all of the students as to how to best proceed in their future endeavors.
The conference wrapped up with Kenneth Marcus giving closing remarks. The remarks highlighted the importance of the work the law students in attendance were doing. Marcus discussed further means of advancing in their goals, as well informing the law students about future opportunities to continue working with the Brandeis Center.
After the closing of the conference, law student David Rosenberg of Emory, said that “The conference was educational due to the fact it enumerated both the steps and actions we should take in pursuing the fight against anti-Semitism. This conference felt very practical in nature, all of the speeches and activities were great because they gave us tangible means to continue pursuing our goals as lawyers entering our respective fields.”
Jared Beim, of the University of Chicago Law School, stated that the “LDB conference was a valuable way to learn about anti-Semitism and how we can all make a difference at this crucial time.”
Jennifer Kleinman, of Cardozo Law School, said “I felt not only inspired and confident in my experiences with those fellow law students I met at the conference, but feel truly secure in our future due to the great allies we have working on our behalf.”
Sharon Rogart, of the University of Virginia Law School, enthusiastically spoke of the conference, saying that “The LDB conference was a wonderful opportunity to meet with like-minded individuals and learn more about how to speak up and take leadership in situations of anti-Semitism.”
Last Wednesday, Arkansas State Governor William Hutchinson signed a law, Act 710, to prohibit Arkansas agencies from investing in or contracting with companies that boycott Israel. Act 710, previously SB 513, was passed by the Arkansas state legislature on March 22nd.
SB 513 was introduced by Sen. Bart Hester to the state Senate, where it passed with a vote of 29-0 and one abstention, and was sent to the House in February. There, the bipartisan measure passed on its third reading by a vote of 69 to 3.
The new act ensures that Arkansas taxpayer funds will not finance the anti-Semitic tactics of the BDS movement. Boycotts have “become a tool of economic warfare” in Arizona that “threatens the sovereignty and security of key allies and trade partners,” namely, the State of Israel. Act 710 maintains that the strategic refusal to engage in commercial relations with Israeli trade partners is discriminatory and unsound.
Arkansas will now “implement Congress’s announced policy of ‘examining a company’s promotion or compliance with unsanctioned boycotts, divestment from, or sanctions against Israel as part of its consideration in awarding grants and contracts.’” The legislation guarantees state divestment of companies that “support or promote actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel,” reaffirming the strong relationship between Arkansas and Israel.
Act 710 makes Arkansas the 19th state to enact a binding anti-BDS law. At the end of last year, Michigan and Ohio passed similar legislation, following measures in Pennsylvania in November, California in September, New Jersey in August, and Rhode Island in June. Maryland and Texas are currently debating anti-BDS laws in their respective legislatures.
The complete text of Act 710 can be found here.
As a co-chair of the Women’s March protesting Donald Trump’s inauguration, Linda Sarsour – who is usually identified as a Palestinian-American progressive political activist – has recently attracted much sympathetic media attention, but also some criticism. Among the issues that critics of Sarsour brought up early on was her open support for BDS, i.e. the movement that singles out Israel as a target for boycott, divestment and sanction, and her stated preference for “a one-state solution that, experts agree, will not be a Jewish state because the larger population will be Palestinian.” While her Wikipedia page currently claims that Sarsour “supports Israel’s right to exist,” she quite obviously does not support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Indeed, Sarsour once asserted [http://archive.is/D42dt]: “Nothing is creepier than Zionism;” she also suggested that Zionism is racism.
“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist” is of course listed as an example for contemporary anti-Semitism in the US State Department definition of anti-Semitism.
However, Sarsour has insisted that she is only “a critic of the State of Israel” and that she firmly opposes anti-Semitism. But given Sarsour’s declared revulsion against Zionism and her openly acknowledged preference for a so-called “one-state solution” that would transform the world’s only Jewish state into yet another Arab-Muslim majority state, it would clearly be more accurate to describe her not as a “critic,” but rather as an outright opponent of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Moreover, there is reason to suspect that Sarsour does not accept common definitions of anti-Semitism: she is listed (#73) among the people who signed on to the truly Orwellian definition of anti-Semitism that veteran anti-Israel activist Ali Abunimah published in fall 2012 on the basis of his preposterous view that Zionism is “one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism in existence today” and that support for Zionism “is not atonement for the Holocaust, but its continuation in spirit.” more »
Earlier this month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott called in his budget for laws which will stop state support for businesses that endorse or adhere to boycotts of Israel. Seventeen states have currently enacted anti-BDS (boycott, divestment and sanction) legislation, with states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio having done so in just the last few months. The Texas law address state pension plans. In a news brief released by the Jewish Telegraph Agency, Abbott is quoted as stating that “[w]hile Texas pension plans have the goal of maximizing returns…this mission should not come at the expense of our principles.” Abbott elaborated further, saying that “Texas funds…should be prohibited from making investments that directly fund our nation’s enemies or those…with stated anti-Israel policies.” Texas, like many other states, currently bans state pensions and retirement funds from investing in Iran. Abbott met with Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, last year. During his time with the ambassador, as reported by The Algemeiner, Abbott stated that both Iran and the BDS movement against Israel “actively engage” in attempts to delegitimize the Jewish state. Texas is no stranger to BDS and BDS-aligned groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
Governor Abbott’s calls for Texas anti-BDS legislation mirror the attempts by Maryland legislators. Maryland lawmakers and Jewish advocacy groups are currently putting the final touches on a bill that would ban companies that support the BDS movement from doing business with the state. This new bill comes after a failed attempt to introduce similar legislation last April. The previous attempt never saw the proposed bill introduced, which opponents of the bill credit to “intense opposition from public and state legislators.” The text for the proposed bill uses language similar to that of U.S. Senator Ben Cardin’s (D-MD) anti-BDS bill, which defined BDS as “actions…intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations” with Israel. Cardin’s anti-BDS bill, H.R. 6298, was not enacted.
Both the Texas and Maryland attempts at anti-BDS legislation will face stiff resistance from the active members of BDS groups within both states. Critics of the Texas legislation claim it “infringes upon the First Amendment right to free speech,” specifically in regards to state issued funds. Defenders of anti-BDS legislation, such as Eugene Volokh, have responded that such anti-BDS bills do not restrict speech. Volokh explains that “a [business] doesn’t lose [federal/state] money just for condemning Israel or even praising a boycott, but only for actually boycotting Israel: refusing to deal with Israeli institutions or scholars.” Maryland’s legislation may face more intense opposition, since Mayland BDS groups believe that they helped to stop similar legislation from being passed last year, a belief that will no doubt embolden their resistance. Regardless of the challenges, legislators in both states are pressing on in their pursuit of legislation against the undue pressures targeting Israel and Israel’s supporters.
BDS is rapidly losing ground to the onslaught of legislation it faces at both the state and federal level. The BDS campaign’s attempts to stifle academic freedom and to demonize Israel are facing stiff opposition from an informed public, a public that became informed due to the now publicly litigated nature of the anti-Israel movement. Every attempt at a boycott motion, and the subsequent reaction from the states, leads to discrediting of the BDS movement. With more and more states now drafting anti-BDS legislation and several bills introduced through congress as well, it is only a matter of time before the BDS movement loses what little credibility it has left.
StandWithUs, an international non-profit organization dedicated to informing the public about Israel and combatting anti-Semitism, will be holding their third annual Anti-BDS conference in Los Angeles from March 4-6. For the past three years, StandWithUs has invited international experts to discuss strategies to combat the global boycott movement against Israel. LDB President & General Counsel Kenneth L. Marcus will be participating as an expert speaker for the third year in a row, discussing “BDS in Lawfare.”
The conference will focus on combatting the BDS movement as well as understanding the BDS movement’s new strategies and tactics. In addition to LDB’S President Marcus, internationally renowned experts will discuss the global boycott movement against Israel and how it targets college campuses, businesses, legislation, and more. The conference’s keynote speaker will be Alan Dershowitz, a former Harvard Law Professor, Author, and Political Commentator. Other speakers include StandWithUs CEO and co-founder Roz Rothstein, New York Times Best-Selling author Edwin Black, Comedy Central and Showtime actor Avi Liberman, and many more.
The exact location of the event is sent to participants upon completion of reservation. To learn more about the event and speakers, click here.
In late January, as reported by Jpost, Israeli student Stav Daron was told by the administrators at the British Columbia Island School of Building Arts (ISBA), a Canadian trade school, that he could not attend their school due “to the conflict and illegal settlement activity in the region.” The school’s response to Daron’s interest in enrolling was ended with the following proclamation: “[W]e are not accepting applications from Israel.” Daron, a civil engineering student and amateur carpenter, had gone as far as already purchasing a book from the school in preparation for his classes.
The news of Daron’s plight soon reached Jewish organizations throughout Canada. Canada’s Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), as well as B’nai Birth Canada, demanded clarification and a retraction of the policy. After the media began reporting the story of Daron’s rejection, ISBA quickly reversed their initial decision. An email sent to the CIJA clarified ISBA’s new position, stating that “[a]fter significant thought and listening to all interested parties, ISBA has decided to rescind any restriction placed on accepting students from Israel…ISBA remains acceptant to all and will continue to do so without restrictions.”
Michael Mostyn, chief executive officer of B’nai Brith Canada, said he was “pleased with the speedy resolution,” though questioned why the incident had occurred in the first place. Regardless of the quick action taken by the Canadian Jewish community, as well as the final reversal of the decision, the damage was dealt. Daron, posting publicly on his Facebook profile page, has said that he will not reapply to the school following this incident.
This attempted boycott of a student highlights a disturbing reality of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement within academic circles: the human cost. While BDS stipulates a repudiation of perceived crimes committed by Israel, it goes much further than just refusing to buy Israeli products or refusing to attend Israeli academic conferences. The actions promoted by BDS lead to these situations, where simply having been born as an Israeli Jew is enough for a person to be ostracized and rebuffed from a community that is supposedly “acceptant to all.”
ISBA, as reported by Haaretz, stated in its final email to Daron that the policy had been in an effort to “[stay] in line with our moral compass.” ISBA finished by stating that “[we] are still inclusive and cannot support that which is not inclusive.” The fallacy of this logic was pointed out by Daron in his final contact with the school; he stated that “not taking applications from Israeli students just because they are from Israel is racism, which is basically what you are protesting against.”