Dr. Diane B. Kunz, Esq.
Equal treatment before United States law and government. That is a foundational American principle. Its aspirational neutrality, usually achieved, is one reason why people from so many nations with different ethnicities and differing religious beliefs have thrived in this country. Now J Street would challenge this basic principle in the purported service of helping to bring about a two state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. This discriminatory and wrong-headed idea must be opposed by anyone who supports an objective government of laws not ideology.
J Street calls “on its supporters and all who support a just Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement to urge the US Treasury to review the tax-deductibility status of contributions to groups working to entrench or expand Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank.” The rationale is that because the U.S. government has expressed opposition to Jewish settlments in the contested territories, charitable contributions that concretely aid such settlements should not be tax deductible under the U.S. tax code.
Does J Street and its allies, really want the IRS to determine which organizations supports goals and ideas that in some way oppose some aspect of federal government policy and which do not pass inspection?
Tax deductibility can be obtained by: A community chest, corporation, trust, fund, or foundation, organized or created in the United States or its possessions, or under the laws of the United States, any state, the District of Columbia or any possession of the United States, and organized and operated exclusively for charitable, religious, educational, scientific, or literary purposes, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals. See here.
If so, here is a partial list of organizations that may lose tax exempt status:
- Save the Children, since it aids Morocco whose annexation of parts of the Western Sahara is not recognized by international law.
- SOS Children’s Villages, because it aids Turkish controlled North Cyprus, whose existence as an independent nation is recognized only by Turkey;
- Unicef, because it aids Indian Kashmir and Jammu, whose borders have been contested since 1948.
Most on point, any organization which in anyway supports the BDS movement because one of BDS’ founding principles is Israel is not and cannot ever be “a state like any other.” The” Israel as international pariah” position violates U.S and well as International law.
How about domestic policy? Should donations to Catholic churches and Evangelical Christian churches be denied because their priests and ministers preach against abortion? Should donations to Islamic mosques be denied because Imams preach against gay marriage?
To ask these questions is to show how disastrous the policy J Street advocates would be were it ever to be applied. But the “peace” advocates do not see past their one-sided obsession with Israel.They are willing to jeopardize a basic American core belief that federal agencies like the IRS must treat all taxpayers, including 501 (c) 3 non-profit organizations equally, regardless of whether or not they are for or against abortion, for or against giving aid to Turkish Cyprus or for or against settlements in the West Bank When Richard Nixon misused the IRS we rightly called foul. We call foul now.
Dreams Deferred: A Concise Guide to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict & the Movement to Boycott IsraelMichelle Yabes : August 31, 2016 9:22 am : Anti-Israelism, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Religious Freedom
Cary Nelson has published his latest book Dreams Deferred: A Concise Guide to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict & the Movement to Boycott Israel. Nelson is a professor of English at University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign and has published a wide array of works, Dreams Deferred marking his second book after The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel to strike back at the BDS Movement. His most recent publication provides an informative and succinct reference guide to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Comprising of 60 essays from experts and scholars, including LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus, Dreams Deferred offers a comprehensive look into various aspects of the conflict.
Each essay is illuminating, and highlights different issues on the topics of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, in addition to providing concise historical background. The expert contributors of this work delved into the connection between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, anti-Jewish boycott movements including BDS, contemporary anti-Semitism, and how the term “apartheid” has been used, among many other subjects. LDB President Marcus contributed several fascinating pieces on the history of anti-Jewish boycotts, anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism, and Jewish anti-Zionists.
This book makes a great encyclopedic guide for casual readers unfamiliar with the subject matter, as well as for other experts. With its vast range of perspectives and in-depth analyses of common debates, Nelson’s latest work provides a strong reference point for research into the various aspects of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism compacted into one source. Easily accessible and highly enlightening, Dreams Deferred is a must-read for those interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the issues and history surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
‘Dreams Deferred: A Concise Guide to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict & the Movement to Boycott Israel’ is now available on Amazon.
We have more exciting news for our readers! The Canadian Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism (CISA) and Indiana University Press has announced that they are releasing a new scholarly periodical Antisemitism Studies in April 2017. Antisemitism Studies will join The Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism and the Journal of Contemporary European Antisemitism in rounding out the field for next spring. Catherine Chatterley, founding director of CISA, serves as Editor-in-Chief for this upcoming periodical and is also a member of LDB’s Academic Advisory Board.
A Call For Papers is forthcoming.
About Antisemitism Studies:
Antisemitism Studies will provide the leading forum for scholarship on the millennial phenomenon of antisemitism, both its past and present manifestations. Multidisciplinary and international in scope, the journal will offer a variety of perspectives on, and interpretations of, the problem of antisemitism and its impact on society.
Each issue is composed of a brief introduction by the editor, a selection of scholarly articles, and several reviews of significant new books published on the subject.
For more information on this upcoming publication, please click here.
Our friends at the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism – Birkbeck, in partnership with the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, will host a symposium entitled ‘Protecting and Offending Jews: Speech, Law and Policy’ on June 28. The event take place from noon to 4 pm in the Jubilee Room, Westminster Hall, House of Commons, London.
The symposium aims to consider the aspects of discourse which offend Jews. It will address the questions, “Is offensive discourse necessarily antisemitic? Do people take offense too readily and endanger free debate? At what point does criticism of Israel become offensive?” Secondly, the symposium will ask whether, in view of growing concern over antisemitism, the law should be augmented or amended to protect Jews further or whether current laws that target discrimination and prejudice give adequate protection. The presentations will be short and will allow for plenty of time for discussion. more »
Our colleagues at the Academic Studies Press have recently announced a Call For Papers for the new issue of The Journal of Contemporary European Antisemitism (JCEA), set to publish in spring 2017. Lesley Klaff, senior lecturer of law at Sheffield Hallam University, serves as an editor for JCEA and is also a member of LDB’s Academic Advisory Board. We are happy to share this announcement with our readers who may be interested in contributing. The deadline for submissions to the first issue is August 1, 2016.
LDB is pleased to once again partner with our friends at The Israel Forever Foundation in co-sponsoring the upcoming Institute for Law and Policy Summer Program for International Students and Attorneys, hosted by The Hebrew University at Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem. The program will span three weeks from June 27 to July 14, and will offer timely and informative courses on topics such as International Economic Law, International Criminal Court, Israel’s Human Rights Challenges, and the Legal aspects of the Middle East Conflict.
Our friends at Indiana University have alerted us to a conference on “The New Unease: Antisemitism in Europe Today – Variations, Impact, Counter-Strategies,” which will be held in Berlin, Germany on July 7. The event is sponsored in cooperation with The Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism (ISCA) at Indiana University, Indiana University Europe Gateway, the Moses Mendelssohn Center (MMZ) at the University of Potsdam, and the International Institute for Education and Research on Antisemitism (IIBSA). LDB Academic Advisory Board member Professor Alvin Rosenfeld serves as the Director of ISCA, as well as Professor of Jewish Studies and English at Indiana University.
For the full list of panels and for more information about the event in English, please click here.
Lawfare Project Announces Victory: LP Legal Actions Force Shutdown of ALL Kuwait Airways Inter-European FlightsMichelle Yabes : May 4, 2016 2:38 pm : Anti-Israelism, Anti-Semitism, General, Litigation, Religious Freedom
The Lawfare Project (LP) recently announced a major victory against Kuwait Airways Corporation (KAC) and the Arab League boycott of Israel. LP’s Swiss Counsel Philippe Grumbach filed civil and criminal complaints against KAC in Geneva, for refusing service to Israeli nationals, in violation of anti-discrimination laws.
The complaints against the airline were filed on behalf of an Israeli national living in Switzerland, after being denied a ticket on a KAC flight from Geneva to Frankfurt, Germany. The criminal complaint against KAC was filed with the Prosecutor General, and is based on the “airline’s violation of the Swiss Penal Code as well as Swiss constitutional provisions that protect individuals facing discrimination based on race, religion or ethnicity.” The civil complaint, filed with the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), argues that the KAC “is violating the fundamental rights of Swiss residents and those traveling through Switzerland,” and also “asks that the FOCA demand an end to KAC’s discrimination and withdraw the airline’s operating license until such time as the airline comes into compliance with Swiss law.”
Kuwait’s law prohibits “all domestic companies from conducting business with Israeli citizens,” including “KAC flights between third countries.”
KAC flights between the United States and Europe have been terminated since last December, following U.S. Department of Transportation’s investigation of airline’s policies and practices. Their findings lead them to determine that the airline “was unequivocally operating in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws.”
The Lawfare Project stated, “[b]y cancelling these lucrative flight paths rather than admitting Israelis on KAC flights, the airline–a wholly owned instrumentality of the Kuwaiti government–is demonstrating its commitment to discrimination even while exposing itself to enormous pecuniary loss… National origin discrimination has no place in global commerce, and these practices will be prosecuted and penalized whenever and wherever they are attempted in the Western world.”
This victory sets an important precedent in halting illegal attempts to boycott the Jewish state.
To read the original article, please click here
The government’s relationship with religion, if anything, means that the government may not categorically subject a particular religious group to heightened requirements for religious exercise, may not endorse and codify a particular interpretation of religious doctrine, and may not limit the religious exercise of an individual because the government disagrees with the individual’s interpretation of his faith.
In Ben-Levi v. Brown, each of these first principles was violated. A federal district court and federal appeals court determined nonetheless that the plaintiff’s constitutional and statutory challenges could not go before a jury. For its part, the Supreme Court of the United States declined review. Only Associate Justice Samuel Alito, writing for himself, identified the fundamental problems in this case. In what follows, I will comment on why this case warrants serious concern and Justice Alito significant credit.
The “Ben-Levi” in the case is Israel Ben-Levi, a Jewish inmate housed by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (DPS). According to the DPS, inmates may not hold group meetings without prior approval. In 2012, Ben-Levi sought permission to hold a minyan, or Jewish study group. The request was submitted to Betty Brown, the DPS Director of Chaplaincy Services. Brown in turn consulted with a local rabbi by email and, based on this correspondence, determined that a minyan requires at least ten adult Jews or the presence of a rabbi. As Ben-Levi’s proposed group consisted only of three members and as a volunteer rabbi was not available, Brown denied Ben-Levi’s request.
In general, the First Amendment prevents a prison from substantially burdening the religious exercise of an inmate, unless the prison can demonstrate that the relevant prison policy is “reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.” The district court ruled that the DPS minyan policy did not infringe upon Ben-Levi’s religious exercise because DPS merely enforced its policy.
That policy, however, embodies DPS’s interpretation of Jewish doctrine. DPS admitted as such, writing that its “position was based upon its understanding of the basic tenets of the Jewish faith[.]” But evaluating and determining religious tenets is a solemn function reserved to the individual. Government is not to arbitrate among, or have veto power over, differing religious perspectives considered by the individual.
Even if DPS believes that its policy contains the correct interpretation of a minyan, the Supreme Court has never insisted upon accuracy or consensus, or otherwise indicated that only a single interpretation may give rise to protected religious exercise. Rather, the Court has permitted religious exercise to spring forth from a range of religious interpretations, provided that the individual’s interpretation is sincerely held.
Here, there is no basis to dispute the sincerity of Ben-Levi’s view that it would be better to have a Jewish study group of three than no group at all. As Justice Alito stated, “Ben-Levi believes that relaxing the minyan requirement promotes his faith more than sacrificing group Torah study altogether.” Similarly, in Holt v. Hobbs, the Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice Alito, unanimously recognized the sincerity of a Muslim inmate’s belief that, while Islam required he be completely unshaven, it is preferable to grow a 1/2-inch beard than to have no beard as mandated by the prison’s grooming policies. For Ben-Levi, the district court wrongly focused on the DPS policy and not, as Justice Alito pointed out, whether the DPS “policy imposed a substantial burden on Ben-Levi’s ability to exercise his religious beliefs, as he understands them.”
In this case, the denial of the request to hold a Jewish study group prevented Ben-Levi from exercising his faith as he sincerely interpreted it.
The district court also concluded that, in the absence of a minyan, Ben-Levi could have engaged in private or corporate worship. It is no answer that Ben-Levi may have had other ways to practice his faith; the law does not give the government an “alternative means” safe harbor or permit the government to cherry-pick how an inmate can pursue his religion. The relevant question is whether DPS burdened this particular means of religious expression. Brown’s denial of Ben-Levi’s request settles this threshold question.
Next, DPS stated that, assuming that it substantially burdened Ben-Levi’s faith, that the policy was nonetheless supported by several interests. Brown herself declared that group gatherings “can compromise order, security, operation, safety, and inmate relationships in the prison system,” and can operate as a cover for “gang activity.” But, as courts nationwide and the Supreme Court in Holt have pointed out, prisons may not rely on generalized, conclusory justifications for their policies. Instead, courts are to assess whether the inmate has given rise to penological concerns justifying the relevant policy.
Here, there is nothing to suggest that Ben-Levi has undermined prison security or is affiliated with a gang. “Nor is there any indication that a Jewish study group is more likely… to impede order, compromise inmate relationships, or absorb personnel resources,” Justice Alito noted. Accordingly, there is no basis for holding Ben-Levi or Jewish inmates as a whole to a standard — ten members or a volunteer religious leader present — that is not imposed on other religious groups seeking group study.
In the end, Ben-Levi’s case is troubling because the DPS strayed from corrections to theology. In doing so, DPS deprived Ben-Levi of his religious rights and, more broadly, breached otherwise central principles concerning the role of government in religious affairs, principles that still exist within prison walls. The injury to Ben-Levi and these principles is doubled by the fact that the lower courts did not permit a jury to weigh the parties’ assertions; the courts found the issues too clear to warrant jury involvement. Justice Alito should be commended for being the lone Justice to recognize the problematic conclusions reached by the courts below and for signaling to future judges that such deprivations of religious freedom in the prison context will not go unnoticed.
On February 21-22, the Louis D. Brandeis Center hosted its third annual National Law Student Leadership Conference in Berkeley, California. The conference brought together 26 law student leaders from 14 law schools across the country, and educated these students on topics including civil rights law; international law and the Arab-Israeli Conflict; international anti-Semitism and the European response; and how to use legal tools to combat anti-Semitism and the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, while in law school and in their future legal careers. Additionally, the students were presented with networking opportunities amongst their peers, attorneys, and legal scholars.
“The LDB conference provided me with a comprehensive overview of anti-Semitism and methods to combat such bigotry in a very brief two-day period,” said Saman Azimtash (Univ. of Minnesota, JD ’18, MBA ’19). “It was an incredibly stimulating and educational conference.”
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 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 where also given an opportunity to enhance their knowledge and participate in discussions with multiple legal experts.
Law students from LDB chapters at UC Berkeley, Penn, Emory, University of Virginia, and many others were in attendance in addition to students in the process of forming their own chapters. The LDB law student chapter initiative, launched in 2014, has since expanded to 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 chapter’s leadership board. 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 staff attorney Aviva Vogelstein, and UC Berkeley Law Professor Steven Davidoff Solomon, addressing the students at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union building at UC Berkeley. After Vogelstein welcomed the students and guests to the conference, Professor Solomon began the event by encouraging the students, telling them “you are our future.” He urged participants to start playing the offensive rather than the defensive when it comes to fighting anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli activity on campus. Professor Solomon illustrated that how, even though Israel experiences difficulties like many other nations, the Israeli state is doing well as one of the countries with the most freedoms in its region, and has come a long way. He went on to discuss the disturbing movement of anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe, as well as how academic discourse over the state of Israel has turned into “political venom”. Noting how anti-Semitism has been “dressed up as pseudo-academic jargon”, he explained how such rhetoric ignored the facts. He left the audience with two questions to remember throughout the conference: ‘How do we stand up and tell the facts’, and ‘how can we protect the next generation?’
LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus then gave opening remarks, noting the importance of the conference’s location. He stated how it was fitting to have a civil rights conference in a building named after a great civil rights leader, who fought for fair housing, for the end of segregation, and against anti-Semitism. Dr. King once said: “when people criticize Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism.” Marcus went on to explain how our location was also near the site of where Mario Savio, one of the key members of the Berkeley Free Speech movement, made his famous “Bodies Upon the Gears” speech. Then decades later in the same spot, a young Jewish student, Jessica Felber, who did just that as she held up an “Israel wants Peace” sign, was assailed by a shopping cart pushed towards her by an anti-Israel student. Marcus then noted the alarming joint report by LDB and Trinity College, which revealed that 54% of the Jewish students surveyed had experienced anti-Semitism on their campuses during the 2013-14 academic year. He explained the trends in anti-Semitism in the United States, as well as globally, and discussed how the spillover effects from movements such as BDS can create a hostile environment for Jewish students. Marcus also detailed how legal advocacy can be a step to raising public awareness of such incidents and how LDB chapters play a critical role in the fight against campus anti-Semitism. “What students glean from conference,” Marcus stated, “is for their clients in the future, for current undergrads that they may mentor, and for their communities, as it will be important for them to support those who take a stand against discrimination.”
Marcus and Vogelstein then gave a workshop on Title VI, and discussed how students could combat campus anti-Semitism and BDS at their universities. This workshop was aimed at explaining the protections offered by Title VI, and educating the students on legal strategies they can utilize against anti-Semitism, as well as legal tools on the both federal and state levels available to them. The workshop also gave an engaging exercise on what constitutes a Title VI case, which gave students the opportunity to challenge their knowledge and discuss examples with each other. To conclude her presentation, Vogelstein explained how BDS campaigns can violate school rules with their actions, such as illegal flyering, unlawful access to dorms, breaking ‘time, place, and manner’ rules, and restricting pedestrian access during their demonstrations.
After the workshop, participants headed to a delicious dinner at the Great Hall inside of the Bancroft Hotel, where they were treated to remarks by Arthur Zeidman, Regional Director of the U.S Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and an address by Joel Siegel, attorney at Joel H. Siegal and Associated Council and member of LDB’s Legal Advisory Board. Zeidman highlighted how it is important to record incidents of anti-Semitism that students may see on their campuses. He explained how documentation can make a difference in a case, and urged students to “be strong, be brave.” Siegal then gave an informative address entitled “Using the Courts to Address Anti-Semitism, Racism and Bullying at Schools and Universities,” that drew upon his extensive experience. He detailed several cases that he had represented, such as the case of Jessica Felber, and explained their backgrounds, strategies, as well as outcomes. He encouraged students to be more proactive and to become involved in their student governments so that they may help to make an impact.
The next morning’s events began with President Marcus and Vogelstein’s discussion of LDB chapter activities, such as the Brandeis Center’s impressive and extensive list of speakers that can be invited for events at each chapter’s university, as well as other chapter programs and functions. Vogelstein also explained the many opportunities LDB offers its law students, such as pro bono research and career opportunities, including summer clerkships and post-grad fellowships. She also discussed how chapters play an important role in helping LDB monitor college campuses and in achieving strong administrator responses.
Avi Bell, a professor of law at the University of San Diego School of Law, then gave an enlightening presentation on “International Law and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.” Professor Bell debunked the myths that Israel is the worst violator of international law and human rights, by noting the Human Rights rankings by Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy worldwide. As shown on their website and in their rankings, Israel has the most freedoms in the region and in terms of its human rights record, has 172 countries ranked below it. He explained how the cause for international law is often used as the rhetoric of choice to justify anti-Israel and anti-Jewish actions. He argued that Israel should not be singled out, and explained how there are many counties who do not comply with or have violated international law, including the United States. Bell also noted that for proponents of BDS and other anti-Israel movements, the ultimatum of “…until Israel complies with international law” is an empty one, as no action will be satisfactory enough for them. Professor Bell told the audience that it is important to know the facts, and concluded his speech by encouraging them to investigate and educate themselves about the issues, as well as to go on the offensive rather than be in the defensive.
The final speaker of the conference was Dr. Aleksandra Gliszczyńska-Grabias, a Senior Researcher at the Poznan Human Rights Centre, and Institute of Legal Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Dr. Gliszczyńska-Grabias began her presentation, entitled “Anti-Israel Hatred and Discrimination: Legal Response in Europe,” by discussing the resurgence of anti-Semitism in recent years in Europe. In one incident that occurred on November 1, 2015, the burning of a Jewish effigy during an anti-refugee rally in Poland, much like the burnings of effigies of Jews during pre-WWII Europe, was not met with legal penalties thereafter despite strict laws. She detailed how there are many laws present to fight hatful and discriminatory actions in Europe, and explained, however, that a crucial problem is with their implementation.
After a short coffee break and conference photo session, Professor Davidoff Solomon, Avi bell, Joel Siegal and Michael Kleinmen, a former Brandeis Center Legal Fellow, came together for a Career Panel in which they provided advice for students and insights into their occupation. Each panelist described what lead them to their career path and discussed their experiences. The panelists encouraged participants to pursue what interests them or is meaningful to them. When asked how one can stay involved in the fight against anti-Semitism if they an unrelated profession or if they are away from an active environment, the panelists advised students to remain active in their local communities and to share their knowledge. They encouraged students to become a resource for their community, and stated that law could be used as a vehicle for change.
The last event of the conference was a student-led roundtable discussion led by Melanie Goldberg (Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law), Bethany Hanson (Saint Thomas School of Law), and Jaclyn Newman (Cornell Law School). Each of the three panelists is an accomplished board member of their chapter. Goldberg founded an LDB chapter at Cardozo after the Brandeis Center represented her as an undergrad after she was wrongfully ejected from an anti-Israel event. Hanson had organized many of the events of the LDB Saint Thomas chapter, including a weeklong WWII Symposium that had the participation of every student organization. Newman co-spearheaded the Statement in Support of Professor Ami Pedahzur, an Israel Studies professor at the University of Texas at Austin who had been assailed by anti-Israel activists for his effort to host an academic presentation on the Israeli Defense Forces. The panelists began the session by discussing how they became involved in LDB and as well as the work their chapters have accomplished. They then were able to answer questions on how to establish chapters, events and activities, and exchange ideas with their peers.
Throughout the conference, students spoke highly of the event and its speakers, they also enjoyed the opportunity to network and exchange ideas with one another. Talia Shifron, a 1L at Chicago Loyola, commented that she “liked learning about international law” and the implementation of European law from this conference. Asher Herzog, a 3L at Harvard, found the speakers to be very helpful and felt that what they had discussed during the conference was “valuable to any law student.” Asher is now returning home to start an LDB chapter at Harvard. Talia Schwartz, founder of LDB’s Berkeley chapter, commented that, “the conference was great. I feel like I learned a lot.” Schwartz went on to say that she feels more informed and has “learned important tools that can be used” to fight back against anti-Semitism.