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Virginia State Bar Boycotts Israel, Cancels Jerusalem Seminar

Virginia State Bar Boycotts Israel, Cancels Jerusalem Seminar

Judicial Watch to work with Legal Insurrection to obtain information under FOIA

On Friday, March 27, 2015, Virginia State Bar President Kevin E. Martingayle sent an email to the membership cancelling a planned Mid-Year Legal Seminar in Jerusalem. It is unclear what time it went out, with some members referencing late afternoon or evening.

The full letter is reprinted later in this post. The letter cites unspecified complaints by unspecified people about unspecified discriminatory practices as the basis for the decision.

This appears to be the first time — at least as far as I know — that the anti-Israel boycott movement has infiltrated a professional lawyer organization, and one that is a state agency at that.

There have been worldwide attempts to prevent scholarly and professional associations holding conferences in Israel, and a conference boycott is a key part of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.  The VA State Bar has become another cog in the large anti-Israel boycott wheel, and is being used by those pushing the boycott agenda.

We have seen at the Modern Language Association, the American Historical Association, and other academic groups that false and misleading claims of discriminatory travel treatment are made against Israel. Those boycotts mostly have failed when there was an open airing of the claims and an ability of members to push back against the anti-Israel propaganda.

There does not appear, to have been such an open and public process at the Virginia State Bar. Certainly a plan to effectively boycott Israel would have garnered substantial national attention, as this boycott will.

David Bernstein at Volokh Conspiracy (The Washington Post), makes several points, including this:

The American Bar Association has recently held meetings in Israel, for example here and here [update: along with hundreds of international conferences that are held in Israel every year, including, for example, a conference on Arabic literature with Muslim attendees from abroad.] Virginia has a state agency called the Virginia Israel Advisory Board “that proactively serves as the bridge and facilitator between Israeli companies and the Commonwealth of Virginia.” The idea that either the state bar as an attorney organization or as a state agency has some obligation to avoid Israel is nonsense. Surely Martingayle and colleagues can’t be so naive and out-of-touch to think that the concerns raised are not part of the broader divestment, sanctions, and boycott movement meant to delegitimize Israel.

This clearly was a well-planned, under-the-radar move, and it is odd that the email was circulated on a Friday night long after the seminar was planned.

The VA State Bar already had a hotel reserved for the event, which was well-advertised, and had registration and travel procedures in place.

Virginia State Bar Mid Year Legal Seminar Brochure Jerusalem top

There was a full brochure produced for the trip:

Virginia State Bar Mid Year Legal Seminar Brochure Jerusalem by Legal Insurrection

Here is the original website entry (now removed):

Virginia State Bar Mid Year Legal Seminar Update 2-27-2015

It has been replaced with an entry with destination to be announced:

Virginia State Bar Mid Year Legal Seminar Update 3-27-2015

Here is the email from the VA State Bar President, as printed in Bernstein’s column (and also sent to me by another VA State Bar member):

Virginia State Bar President Banner

Dear Fellow Members of the Virginia State Bar,

Certain members of the Virginia State Bar and other individuals have expressed objections to the VSB’s plan to take the Midyear Legal Seminar trip in November to Jerusalem. It was stated that there are some unacceptable discriminatory policies and practices pertaining to border security that affect travelers to the nation. Upon review of U.S. State Department advisories and other research, and after consultation with our leaders, it has been determined that there is enough legitimate concern to warrant cancellation of the Israel trip and exploration of alternative locations.

Undoubtedly, this news will disappoint some VSB members. But we are a state agency that strives for maximum inclusion and equality, and that explains this action. Fortunately, we still anticipate being able to find a suitable location for the November seminar trip, and we will send out further news very soon.

Finally, we are pleased that our members and citizens feel able to express concerns and look to us to protect rights. In the end, we are all part of the same team, and the VSB will continue to stay focused on advancing its primary objectives—public protection, access to justice, and improvement of the profession.

As always, I appreciate having the honor of serving as your president.

Best regards,

Kevin E. Martingayle,

President, Virginia State Bar

Who was behind this? Its unclear. There was a petition that garnered only 39 signatures, but claimed this as a victory:

Virginia State Bar Petition

Here are the comments as of this writing:

Virginia State Bar Petition Signatories 2

Virginia State Bar Petition Signatories 1

Because of the vague nature of the email announcement, I emailed VA State Bar President Martingayle (and also the professional staff of the VA State Bar), as follows:

I read the article in The Washington Post about a letter you apparently sent out on behalf of the Virginia State Bar cancelling a seminar in Israel.

Can you answer the following questions:

1. Who are the “Certain members of the Virginia State Bar” and the “other individuals” who “expressed objections to the VSB’s plan to take the Midyear Legal Seminar trip in November to Jerusalem”

2. What exactly were the allegedly “unacceptable discriminatory policies and practices pertaining to border security that affect travelers to the nation” and who provided you with such information?

3. What was the “other research” upon which you relied and who provided it?

4. Who were the “leaders” consulted with prior to the determination “that there is enough legitimate concern to warrant cancellation of the Israel trip and exploration of alternative locations.”

As of this writing, I have received no responses. I also emailed the press contacts for  Gov. Terry McAuliffe for a reaction, but have not heard back.

Bernstein also makes the point that the VA State Bar is subject to Virginia’s FOIA statute.

Judicial Watch has agreed to work with Legal Insurrection in filing and pursuing a FOIA request to find out who was behind this, who was involved, what the process was, and more. We will spare no effort to get to the truth of what happened here, how the anti-Israel boycott movement infiltrated the Virginia State Bar, and how this sneak attack on the legitimacy of Israel flew under the radar for so long.

Working with Judicial Watch, it took us two years to get the key documents out of the District of Columbia regarding the non-prosecution of David Gregory.

We will get to the bottom of this.  No matter how long it takes.

[Note 3-29-105: The Virginia State Bar, a state agency, is not the same thing as the Virginia Bar Association, a voluntary non-governmental entity.]

UPDATE 2-29-2015: Virginia Speaker demands State Bar reverse Israel boycott


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“Finally, we are pleased that our members and citizens feel able to express concerns and look to us to protect rights. In the end, we are all part of the same team…”

Um…I call bullshit. I’m a member of the State Bar Of Texas, and I damn sure am not part of a “team”. I am a member of the bar because I’m compelled to be in order to practice law. There are any number of positions some bar members take that I violently oppose, and the idea we’re a
“team” is just beee-zaarrre.

Go get ’em, Prof. This is an affront to any sense of fairness and reality-based decision-making, and it reeks of BDS arm-twisting.

I hope the members of the Virgina bar get fighting mad about this.

DINORightMarie | March 28, 2015 at 4:42 pm

Is the VSB President Martingayle an apointee of the state (i.e. by the governor) or elected/selected to the post by the Bar Assoc.? If it involved McAuliffe, your ability to smell rats is working agian!

I definitely smell the wafting stench of leftist progressive BDS via the McAuliffe state gov’t. McAuliffe is dirty; he is a Hillary lover, a Clinton crony, who is being groomed, IMHO, to be the VP nom. for a Hillary presidency.

Given the latest IG visa corruption report on Dirty Harry – which included our illustrious VA gov. McAuliffe in the cronyism and shady dealings – I believe that the roots of this BDS stealth move reside in the Richmond capitol.

Hope it doesn’t take two years to expose this – IMHO, it could have some tangental relationship to 2016.

I lived in Virginia – Richmond area, mainly, except for school years in Charlottesvill, an hour away – for 23 years, but I left in the mid-’80s. It was a different world then; Reagan was President and America was on the upswing and Virginia was for lovers.

Since they’ve gone for Obama twice and elected that two-bit crook McAuliffe, I don’t know them anymore. Remaining friends and family have to come visit me: I refuse to set foot in the state again until they clean house.

    Conservative Beaner in reply to Estragon. | March 28, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    Virginia may be for lovers but not for sailors. I never liked the Tidewater area because many of the locals only saw the Navy as a paycheck and little else.

    My first experience with NoF#$k, Vagina was at the barbershop where one of the locals commented on my employer (the navy) required a haircut. I think some of the old local ignorance is still there but directed toward different groups.

    Many of the northern counties are DC wannabes and are now populated by a bunch of worthless civil service pukes.

    The remaining western counties of Virginia should do what WV did during the civil war and make for greener pastures.

Uncle Samuel | March 28, 2015 at 5:21 pm

Obviously, some of the members of the Virginia State Bar are terrorists or supporters or relatives of terrorists and are likely not to be allowed in Israel for darned good reasons.

Israel is somewhat like a fortress state with the whole of Islam aligned against her, and so she must carefully and wisely screen the people who are allowed to enter.

The USA should do much the same since 9/11/01 and the constant rantings of ‘Death to America’ by the followers of Mohammedanism.

Sickening but not surprising display of anti Semitism.

filiusdextris | March 28, 2015 at 7:57 pm

I’m a VSB member. I had no intention of going for family and finance reasons, but my first destination out-of-county when I can afford it will likely be the Holy Land. I am appalled at the VSB leadership’s decision unless something concrete and major is known (though I usually give deference to leadership without knowing all the facts). I am glad you’re planning to get to the bottom of this.

One can only hope that the VSB was just unfamiliar with the incredibly over-exaggerated manner in which State describes travel risks and border anywhere. One day, I’d like them to do one of Chicago, organizations would be cancelling trips left and right.

I’m wondering if “State Department advisory” plays a role here. I believe that the State Department has some type of travel advisory for US citizens traveling to Israel and this may be used as an excuse for this type of action. I believe that this is also used as the rationale for why colleges have cut back on student abroad programs in Israel. Pathetic and very very disturbing.

I have some ideas that might be of assistance in their “exploration of alternative locations”….

I think Tehran would relish the opportunity to host a group that is not comfortable meeting in Jerusalem.

I think Moscow (Moskva) would be glad to accommodate “independent-thinking Amerikans”.

I think Havana would welcome the opportunity to become a destination for tourism-conferences.

These Jew-haters will soon be calling out “Heil Hitler!” with pride. They will surely deny they are modern “moderate” neo-Nazis. | March 29, 2015 at 1:32 am

You’d think that a bunch of lawyers wouldn’t invite a lawsuit. From the conference brochure:

Neither the Virginia State Bar nor Tour Plan International is responsible for losses caused by cancellation of the seminar in whole or in part, and/or non-performance of all or any part of this agreement when such cancellation or non-performance is attributable in whole or part to any event, natural disaster, fire, flood, government regulation, travel or transportation restriction, non-availability of food, beverages, or other supplies, riot, war, national emergency, acts of terrorism, acts of God, or other circumstances not within the reasonable control of the Bar or Tour Plan International, which either prevents or inhibits their performance hereunder in any manner.

Som, the Virginia Bar Association has gone Nazi. Sad.

The White House instigated this.

Maybe someone should have retooled the trip… centered on staying in Gaza or the West Bank. Side trips to learn how to dig terror tunnels and bomb making. Maybe another side trip to see justice in action under ISIS. Or “see the enemy from inside… tour Israel.. and learn first hand about apartheid from your Hamas and Fatah guides.” No use missing out on a trip of a lifetime… especially if they get hijacked…

“unacceptable… discriminatory policies and practices pertaining to border security that affect travelers to the nation…”

In other words, Israel will prevent supporters of Palestinian terrorists from entering the country. The lawyers complaining probably protest with Hamas and joined the Gaza flotilla terrorists.