Mark Bloome, the Seattle-based, national and local Jewish community leader and strategist, has become an expert at coalition-building and finding innovative ways to fight the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel and its anti-Semitism on a national basis. Mark has tirelessly advocated for the Jewish community for over 35 years. For the past…
It’s been a rough year for the American Studies Association (“ASA”), legally speaking. Earlier this week, a lawsuit was filed in New York State Court against the New York Metro chapter of the ASA, alleging “unlawful discrimination under the New York City and State Human Rights Laws,” in relation to the ASA’s boycott of Israeli academic institutions. In…
Today, LDB issued a statement (below) expressing our continued support for Milan Chatterjee, the former President of the UCLA Graduate Student Association (GSA) who has been subjected to months of harassment by supporters of the BDS movement for his neutral stance regarding BDS. This is an important time to reiterate our support for Mr. Chatterjee, as the UCLA Discrimination Prevention Office (DPO) recently issued a report which alleged that his refusal to fund either side of the BDS debate was a violation of university policy. Additionally, this news from UCLA serves as a reminder of the concerning spread of anti-Semitism on University of California campuses such as UCLA and UC Irvine, and underscores the importance of putting the policy of the UC Regents’ Statement of Principles Against Intolerance into practice.
LBD Deeply Concerned by UCLA Response to Milan Chatterjee
July 18, 2016, Washington, D.C.: The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) is disturbed by a recent report from the UCLA Discrimination Prevention Office (DPO) alleging that Milan Chatterjee, former President of the Graduate Student Association (GSA), violated university policy by stipulating that the GSA would maintain neutrality regarding the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in allocating funds for a campus event. LDB is a national civil rights legal advocacy organization, known for its work in fighting anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in higher education.
BDS proponents harassed GSA President Chatterjee for months after the event last November because he would not fund either side of the debate over BDS, and led an impeachment campaign against him. In April, LDB’s UCLA law student chapter wrote a letter to the GSA forum in his support, explaining that the threat of “ousting a student government official from office for his good faith pursuit of his responsibilities discourages student participation and sends a chilling message to the student body.”
“The UCLA report sending a chilling message to not only to Jewish pro-Israel students but also to non-Jewish student government officials who recognize the divisiveness and hatefulness of the BDS movement,” said LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus. “It is troubling that the campaign by BDS supporters against Milan Chatterjee affected the administration’s judgment, both in the report’s findings and in allowing it to be leaked to the media in apparent violation of the Federal Education Records Privacy Act (FERPA).”
On July 12th, UNESCO (The UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) delayed a vote on a draft resolution that would damage ties Israel and the Jewish people as a whole have with the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Jordanian and Palestinian representatives in UNESCO proposed the draft resolution in an attempt to return the…
Our friends at The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists are holding their annual conference on September 21st through the 24th in Paris, France. This year’s theme is “Continuing the Dialogue: Combatting Antisemitism in Europe through Legal and Other Means”. The conference will feature a variety of different speakers which can be found on…
Last week, the Dutch parliament passed a nonbinding motion calling on the government to deny funding to organizations calling for a boycott against Israel. Passed in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, the motion was co-signed on June 16 by a prominent politician of the ruling People’s Party for Freedom and…
The Judicial Board of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) recently declared in a board decision, called a “Reference,” that BDS and “similar motions” are “unconstitutional.” The Reference was created in response to an earlier petition filed in March by a “student upset over the third BDS motion proposed at the university” in 18 months.
Gil Troy, a history professor and anti-BDS advocate at McGill University, was enthusiastic, telling Algemeiner, “[t]his decision is huge! It means that Jewish concerns are respected with all others, and that antisemitism is also recognized as bigotry, as well as something that triggers macro-aggressions.” Professor Troy was among 150 academics at the University who recently signed a letter condemning BDS.
Although an initial General Assembly voted in favor of the BDS motion, SSMU’s Membership ultimately voted down the motion by a margin of 57-43%. The reference declared the “BDS Motion, and similar motions, incompatible with SSMU’s by-laws, internal regulations, and legal structure more generally.”
The document also notes that “[d]uring the period that led to the GA vote and the general Referendum there was a sharp increase in harassment…around campus.” The Judicial Board went on to state that those who campaigned against the BDS motion were subjected to a “barrage of hostilities”.
According to an article by the Montreal Gazette, many students reported that they had been “targeted for their opposition” to the BDS motion, and that social media was “chock-full of anti-Semitic remarks” following the initial General Assembly vote. One such post from the anonymous social networking site Yik Yak read, “[l]ittle Zionist jewboys not happy that McGill students don’t support their genocide.” In another report, one student was “followed home and verbally harassed” after speaking once the result of vote was announced.
In the Reference, the Judicial Board explained the framework of SSMU’s Constitution to illustrate how BDS conflicts with the university’s legal structure. The preamble succinctly describes the Society’s three broad goals, which BDS would violate: Service, Representation, and Leadership. These goals reiterate the Society’s mission to serve all student groups equally, act in their best interest, and act without discrimination.
Next, the Judicial Board explained how BDS would violate the “Equity Policy, which recognizes SSMU’s long-standing commitment to leadership on issues of equity and social justice.” The Judicial Board also added, “SSMU dedicates itself to creating an ‘anti-oppressive’ atmosphere where all of its membership feels included.”
The Judicial Board noted that BDS contradicts the below listed SSMU regulations and policies, as it would call on the SSMU to discriminate on the basis of national origin, and thus violate the Constitution:
On June 5, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law Executive Order No. 157, directing state agencies and authorities to divest public funds from supporting BDS campaigns against Israel. Governor Cuomo announced the order in a speech to an audience including local Jewish leaders and lawmakers and sent a very strong message. In his…
The Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel took a big blow earlier this week when the American Anthropological Association (AAA) narrowly rejected a resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions (2,423 against; 2,384 in favor). This BDS failure was remarkable in light of the overwhelming support that it had enjoyed just a few months before – at the AAA’s annual meeting last November, 88% of the membership in attendance approved the decision to bring the resolution.
The BDS movement attributes this dramatic defeat in part to LDB’s lawsuit against the American Studies Association (ASA) for passing the same type of resolution. Some AAA members apparently understood that their anti-Semitic resolution would likely be unlawful and could subject the association to costly litigation and humiliating defeat.
In April, the Brandeis Center, along with prominent litigators at Marcus & Auerbach and Barnes & Thornburg, filed suit on behalf of four distinguished American Studies professors, against the ASA, for its unlawful boycott of Israel.
The Brandeis Center’s clients, well-known academics in the field of American Studies, filed suit “to restore the ASA to its stated mission – the promotion of the study of American culture – so that the members of the ASA can once again faithfully exercise their membership.” Our clients wrote about how, over the past few years, the ASA “has been diverted from its scholarly mission —promoting the study of American culture—to a political one, by leaders seeking to turn the ASA into an organization that advocates for social change far beyond American borders, and with an unwavering focus on delegitimizing Israel.”
As LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus explained, when the boycott was initiated, the ASA’s Constitution stated that, “[t]he object of the association [is] the promotion of the study of American culture….” Similar to the ASA, the AAA’s stated purpose is to further its scholarly purpose, and would not authorize a boycott of Israel.
“‘This is not just about the American Studies Association,’” said LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus to Inside Higher Ed. “‘It’s about any association officer or director who is thinking about using their association as a tool to advance their own ideological agenda. This should send a signal that if association activists are not concerned that BDS resolutions are anti-Semitic and may be a violation of academic freedom they should certainly be concerned that they may violate corporations law.’” Additionally, in his op-ed in Newsweek, Marcus discussed the potential illegality of the AAA’s impending vote in the context of the Brandeis Center’s ASA litigation.
In addition to media coverage, at least two major anti-BDS reports were sent directly to the AAA. In one of these reports, posted on the LDB blog – Selective, Biased and Discriminatory: The American Anthropological Association Task Force Report on Israel Palestine – Elihu Richter, a founder of the Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention, addressed the selective, biased and discriminatory nature of the AAA’s Task Force Report (TFR) in respect to Public Health, the ethics of Operation Protective Edge and the effects of cradle-to-grave incitement in Palestinian society, and recommended retraction of the TFR. Further, a whole website was created – Against Anthro Boycott – for anthropologists to discuss, post news, and sign a statement against the boycott.
You might remember reading about Milan Chatterjee, the President of the Graduate Student Association (GSA) at UCLA, who came under fire last November for his decision, and that of his GSA cabinet, to remain neutral on the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Against Israel Movement. Following this decision, Mr. Chatterjee faced months of harassment (largely…