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Anti-Israel academic boycott group’s tax-exempt status challenged

Anti-Israel academic boycott group’s tax-exempt status challenged

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.

The Complaint without Exhibits is embedded below. The Complaint with Exhibits is available here.

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.

American Studies Association IRS Whistleblower _w Out Exhibits_ (1)

Related Posts:

(Featured image: Future Cornell-Technion campus in NYC, which would be subject to the ASA boycott, credit Kilograph)


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Not A Member of Any Organized Political | January 6, 2014 at 7:36 pm

If their tax exempt status is revoked, can it be retro-actively pulled back for the years they have been pushing evil?

On the list of universities rejecting the boycott: I am sad that my alma mater (Texas A&M – Class of ’84) is not on that list.

It is true that A&M is part of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. But that is not enough.

Most people in Texas think that UT-Austin is the “liberal” campus and A&M the “conservative” one. That may be true for the student body. But I have attended both schools, and the faculty and administration at A&M is by far the more left-wing of the two. That might explain why UT-Austin has come out against the boycott, while A&M has not.

I love you, Wm. You are a fighter going after the enemy with hammer and tongs, guns blazing, coming at them from every side to ensure that evil does not flourish.

innocent bystander | January 6, 2014 at 8:37 pm


Lot of hard work there.


Excellent! Thank you.

Tremendous. Please keep us up to date; response, no response (will there be an ongoing investgation?) from the IRS and reaction from the benighted folks at the ASA.

In a more perfect world this filing would have its intended effect of ensuring tax-exempt entities adhere to the regulations governing that status.

In Obama’s world, it hits the memory hole quickly.

IRS is a union-dominated, Democratic hit squad of tens of thousands. The most difficult task of all is getting them to follow their own rules.

Go get’em. If they really believe in their boycott make them defend it and how it fits into their IRS designation.

The Washington Post ran a small story about the boycott again today, although Legal Insurrection wasn’t mentioned (perhaps for the Post, giving attribution to a conservative source is akin to Dracula kissing a silver cross…)

[…] You can read more about it at the website, Legal Insurrection. […]

Thank you, Professor. Glad to see people on the right using the Alinsky tactics (make them play by their own rules) to expose the left’s hypocrisy.

Keep up the good work!

The IRS will fast track that investigation if they suspect any Tea Party members are involved.

Cheers, sir!

I can’t wait to read the ASA’s response to this, which I’m sure the professor will post.

[…] challenged the American Studies Association’s non-profit 501(c)(3) tax exemption charter in a whistleblower complaint to the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. tax […]

Hey professor! This would make a good course to teach for credit.

At some point, will you present to us a list of all the universities that did NOt disavow the ASA boycott?

The wheels of Justice do turn ever so slowly, but they do keep turning thanks to people like William Jacobson, who’s not content with sitting on his hands just spectating, grousing and watching our world slowly burn. Much deep respect and abiding affection to Professor Jacobson for his love of country, Truth, and Liberty which envelops us all.

The ASA National Council has certainly royally screwed the pooch. And, ostensibly, those are among the sharpest scholastic minds this country has to offer. We, as a country, are very ill, and we really, really need to get well soon. Before we’re beyond redemption, beyond cure, and utterly terminal.

Just sent a link to the Prof’s post to the Daily Caller tip line, even tho DC editors probably read LI directly for tips.

I was seized by the Prof’s identification of this ASA issue as the right fight at the right time (paraphrase). Proving out as LI is not just making news but making real world effects: insanity — particularly of this immoral strain — will be shut down.

Thank you. This is awesome!

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Please purge these clowns from our education system; they make a mockery of everyone who has worked and paid for a college degree!

alyssatkaplan | January 7, 2014 at 4:30 pm

you need to go after mla who is also a non profit organization
Tax Deductibility

To comply with the United States Internal Revenue Code, the amount of dues paid in excess of $63 is tax-deductible as a charitable contribution.

To comply with postal regulations governing periodicals-class mail, the MLA calculates the cost of a Newsletter subscription at $8.00, which is included in membership dues.

[…] William A. Jacobson announced on his blog that his attorneys filed a whistleblower complaint with the IRS on Monday which challenges the ASA’s tax exempt status “in light of the academic […]

[…] and it has nothing to do with the association’s mission. The MLA’s resolution may land them inhot water with the Internal Revenue Service, but the entire process is also a disservice to those of their members who expect the association […]