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April 5, 2017 3:13 pm

Jewish Rights Advocate: Tide Starting to Turn Against Academic Boycotts of Israel, Following Court’s Rejection of Attempt to Stop Anti-BDS Lawsuit

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

A court’s rejection of the American Studies Association’s (ASA) attempt to stop a lawsuit brought against its academic boycott of Israel signified “the turning of the tide against BDS,” the head of a Jewish rights-focused legal organization told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.

Kenneth Marcus, president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, applauded the Washington, DC district court’s Monday decision to allow the complaint — filed last year by a group of prominent professors — to move forward against the ASA’s December 2013 boycott resolution.

“This is a pivotal point in the case, as we can now move on to discovery,” Marcus said. “But it also signals to other associations that they can be held liable if they engage in BDS activities that violate their own internal rules, violate the laws of incorporation and constitute a breach of trust with their members.”

“This decision has generated an enormous amount of not just relief, but excitement from those people, genuine scholars, who hate academic boycotts and want to see academic associations returning to scholarship,” he continued.

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“From the moment this complaint was filed, it has had an impact,” Marcus added, noting that the case was cited as being partially responsible for the Modern Language Association’s failed attempt in January to pass a BDS motion.

According to the Brandeis Center, the suit’s plaintiffs consider the ASA’s boycott campaign “a concerted effort by a small number of BDS activists…who abused their leadership positions in ASA to make anti-Israel activism the central focus of the Association.”

Marcus said those who stand in opposition to BDS have been facing challenges on a number of fronts.

“As Jews, they are beleaguered, in some respects harassed; as supporters of Israel, they feel the Jewish state is being unfairly maligned; as academics, they are facing junk scholarship used as a basis for resolutions that are factually ridiculous; as professors, they are concerned that the politicization of their field is lowering the academic standards,” he explained.

One of the plaintiffs’ claims that the ASA did succeed in getting thrown out was the charge that an academic boycott falls outside the purview of the association’s charter, a development Marcus called “disappointing” in a statement.

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