January 10, 2014, New York - Yesterday, Shurat HaDin, an Israeli legal organization, threatened to sue the American Studies Association (ASA) for its December, 2013 endorsement of a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions in protest of Israel’s discrimination and human rights abuses against Palestinians.
Shurat HaDin seeks in vain to punish speech that is fully protected by the First Amendment. The resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions joins a proud history of political and human rights boycotts in the U.S., which have resisted race discrimination and human rights abuses in the U.S. and around the world, and which the United Sates Supreme Court has held are protected speech. The threat to sue the ASA cynically claims that the academic boycott resolution constitutes discrimination under U.S. law, and under the International Convention to End all Forms of Racial Discrimination – a Convention that Israel itself violates in its abuse of Palestinians. It is those violations of Palestinian rights that academic boycott protests.This threat is the latest in a pattern of legal bullying that has escalated in the U.S. as the movement for Palestinian rights has grown. An academic boycott in fact violates no anti-discrimination laws because it does not target any individual or institution based on their Jewish identity or Israeli citizenship. Rather, it is aimed at institutions with direct relationships to the Israeli government. Shurat HaDin’s attempt to paint this principled action as anti-Semitic and discriminatory against Israelis is not only legally bankrupt, but also trivializes important struggles against anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism.
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