Academic boycott not in furtherance of American Studies Association’s exempt purpose and violates public policy.
When the National Council of the American Studies Association endorsed the academic boycott of Israel in early December, and put the boycott Resolution to a quick membership vote, I wondered how the ASA National Council could do such a thing not just on the merits, but because the boycott put ASA’s tax-exempt status at risk.
I stated my intention of filing a challenge to that tax-exempt status should the Resolution pass and the academic boycott go into effect.
The ASA membership approved the boycott Resolution with less than a quarter of the total membership voting for it (there was such low turnout, that was enough).
The reaction to ASA’s boycott has been overwhelmingly negative. At least 125 universities and leading academic organizations have spoken out against the boycott and issued strong statements as to the damage to higher education such boycotts inflict.
Earlier today my attorneys filed with the IRS a whistleblower complaint challenging ASA’s 501(c)(3) tax exempt status in light of the academic boycott.
Here is the Introduction, which summarizes the reasons why ASA no longer is organized and operating exclusively in accordance with its educational exempt purpose, and no longer is entitled to its 501(c)(3) status under the IRS Code and Regulations.
This submission is made pursuant to 26 U.S.C. §7623 et seq. (the “Tax Whistleblower Act”). This matter concerns the recent actions taken by the American Studies Association (“ASA”) to implement a perpetual academic boycott of Israel. The history, scope and operation of this academic boycott are discussed in detail below.
We respectfully request the Internal Revenue Service (“Service”) to review this matter and make a determination that ASA’s academic boycott of Israel adversely impacts ASA’s §501(c)(3) tax-exempt status and that revocation of its §501(c)(3) tax-exempt status is warranted under the law.
In brief, ASA has undertaken, as an organization, to enter into a wide-ranging academic boycott of Israel as called for by international and U.S. organizations acting on behalf of a call from “Palestinian civil society.” Although by resolution ASA has committed itself to the full scope of the international academic boycott, ASA has issued guidelines purporting to scale back the scope of the boycott. Even under ASA’s guidelines, however, ASA as an organization will boycott all Israeli academic institutions and all faculty representing or acting on behalf of Israeli academic institutions or the Israeli government. Public statements by ASA that it will not boycott individuals are not correct.
ASA’s academic boycott is not consistent with its educational exempt purpose. ASA’s academic boycott is anti-educational, seeking to sever the free exchange of ideas and interactions among scholars and institutions so critical to higher education. ASA’s academic boycott is deemed such a threat to academic freedom and the educational process that major non-partisan organizations representing virtually every higher educational institution and almost 50,000 university professors have denounced the academic boycott. Over 100 individual university presidents have done the same, and the number is growing.
These denunciations have been without regard to where one stands on the Middle East dispute, and are grounded in the threat academic boycotts present to education, not Middle East politics. ASA’s exempt purpose would be violated even if ASA took the other side of the political issue, and boycotted Arab universities and scholars.
Whether other forms of boycott in other contexts by organizations with other exempt purposes passes muster is not something the Service need resolve on this complaint. The issue here is very specific to an exempt “educational” organization engaging in an academic boycott.
This particular ASA academic boycott is even worse, because in addition to being anti-educational, it is based explicitly on national origin in violation of the public policy against such discrimination. In addition, the international boycott of which ASA now is a part traces its roots directly to the anti-Semitic Durban NGO conference in 2001 and the anti-Jewish sentiment of the Palestinian boycott movement.
In examining whether the ASA boycott is a proper exempt purpose, the Service cannot ignore the anti-Semitic context and roots of the boycott movement ASA has joined.
The ASA academic boycott also violates clear U.S. public policy, expressed in federal and state laws, against international boycotts singling out Israel.
We suggest that under relevant statutory, regulatory and case law authority, revocation is required.
- List of Universities rejecting academic boycott of Israel
- University statements rejecting academic boycott of Israel