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April 22, 2016 10:42 am

Jewish Rights Advocate: ‘BDS Making a Laughing Stock out of the American Studies Association’

avatar by Lea Speyer

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Kenneth Marcus, president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. Photo: Brandeis Center.

Kenneth Marcus, president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. Photo: Brandeis Center.

“The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has really made a laughing stock out of the American Studies Association (ASA),” the head of a Jewish rights-focused legal organization told The Algemeiner.

Kenneth Marcus, president and general counsel of the the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, made his comments in the wake of a recent suit filed by his company on behalf of a group of distinguished ASA professors and members who are suing the academic body for its boycott of Israel. The ASA — a scholarly organization devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history –passed a boycott resolution in December 2013 which, according to the Brandeis Center, “was a concerted effort by a small number of BDS activists…who used their leadership positions in ASA to make anti-Israel activism the central focus of the association.”

The lawsuit maintains that the “ASA’s blatant politicization of an academic association violates District of Columbia (DC) law governing nonprofit organizations.” As a tax-exempt organization, the ASA’s stated mission of being “devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history” is being violated by the organization’s adoption of a boycott against Israel, according to the Brandeis Center.

“In a short period of time, the ASA managed to get its long-honored institution dragged through the mud, castigated by dozens of university presidents and countless other groups,” Marcus told The Algemeiner. “The cost of this is born not so much by the state of Israel as by the state of American scholarship and especially the state of American studies.”

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The lawsuit, Marcus said, is a warning to other academic institutions where boycotting Israel is concerned. “The Brandeis Center is concerned that other associations may have the perception that the wrongdoers have been able to escape accountability for their shenanigans,” Marcus said. “This can have a deleterious long-term impact on other fields of study, as well.”

“Academic associations should think twice before abusing their missions and betraying the lawful purposes for which they were established in favor of the personal political agendas of their noisiest and most politicized activist members,” he stated.

According to the Brandeis Center, at least two ASA chapters have refused to honor the boycott, and numerous ASA members have either resigned from — or stopped donating funds to — the academic institution. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and 134 members of Congress also condemned the ASA for its boycott.

“To my mind, this is not only about the mission of the ASA,” Marcus said, “but also about whether academic activists will be encouraged to adopt antisemitic policies that undermine the pillars of higher education.”

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, according to its website, “is a nonprofit corporation established to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all.  LDB conducts research, education, and advocacy to combat the resurgence of anti-Semitism on college and university campuses.”

 

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