Israel Advocacy Lawyer Calls Suit Against American Studies Association for ‘Discriminatory’ Boycott of Jewish State ‘Test Case’ for US Judicial System (INTERVIEW)
A new lawsuit challenging the American Studies Association’s (ASA) “discriminatory” academic boycott of Israel is a “test case” for the US judicial system, the attorney filing the suit told The Algemeiner on Thursday.
“This case has two main purposes, one academic and the other to advocate for Israel,” said New York lawyer David Abrams, executive director of the Zionist Advocacy Center.
In a complaint filed Wednesday at the Kings County Court, the plaintiff — Athenaeum Blue & White — alleges it is being “unlawfully denied” joining the ASA as an institutional member on the basis of its Israeli origin, thereby violating the New York City Human Rights Law.
“Although the Defendants [ASA] are nominally open to membership to all not-for-profit organizations such as the Plaintiff, they have announced, in substance and effect, that Israeli organizations such as the Plaintiff are not welcome,” the lawsuit maintains.
Athenaeum Blue & White, according to the lawsuit, “was recently organized to educate and promote sharing and criticism of scholarly, religious, and academic books and other written materials, particularly older work, and to advocate for acceptance of Israeli institutions worldwide.”
“The way I became involved in this case is I started the ball rolling to set up the plaintiff. This case is no different from school discrimination cases back in Topeka in the 1950s,” Abrams said, referencing the landmark civil rights Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education. “The NAACP found Oliver Brown and had him apply to white schools to challenge the discrimination. My case is set up to challenge the anti-Israel boycott the ASA adopted some time ago.”
As reported by The Algemeiner, the ASA — a scholarly organization devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history — passed a boycott resolution in December 2013. The academic group is already facing a different suit — filed in Washington, DC — for its “blatant politicization of an academic association [which] violates District of Columbia (DC) law governing nonprofit organizations.”
The ASA lawsuit is the second Israel-advocacy case Abrams is currently undertaking.
“A few weeks ago, I filed a lawsuit against the National Lawyers Guild (NLG). Another plaintiff I represent tried to purchase advertising in their dinner journal. He was denied because, as he was told by the NLG, he is Israeli,” Abrams told The Algemeiner.
“The ASA and NLG lawsuits are very similar. What’s important about these cases is that the anti-Israel and boycott folks have been saying they have a constitutional right to boycott Israel. As far as I can tell, this claim has never been tested in a US court,” he said.
In the US, laws prohibit discriminating against another person on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or gender. According to Abrams, “There is certainly a right to advocate against Israel; I am not disputing that. But boycotting Israel does not trump anti-discrimination laws. That’s really the conflict: the right to advocate against Israel versus the right not to be a victim of unlawful discrimination.”
“Where is the boundary between those two things? Both organizations have crossed the line,” he added.
Abrams said he is “optimistic” about the outcome of the lawsuits. He told The Algemeiner he has not yet heard back from the ASA or the NLG.
“This has never been tested in the courts,” he said. “People have been arguing about the constitutional right to boycott Israel for some time now. We will probably finally find out what the courts have to say about all this.”
In response to The Algemeiner’s request for comment, a spokesman from the ASA said, “If Athenaeum Blue & White had attempted to join the American Studies Association before suing us, they would have been able to do so.”