The Boycott, Divest & Sanction (“BDS”) movement and the broader campaign to delegitimize Israel has had a tough few weeks.  In academia and industry, the boycott campaign has been exposed as potentially discriminatory and unlawful, and yet another panel of experts has affirmed that Israel’s use of force against Hamas is not only legitimate, but exemplary.

Law Professors Eugene Kontorovich and Steven Davidoff Solomon of the Northwestern University and University of California – Berkeley, respectively, make the case that boycotts by academic associations are unlawful.  As one might expect, academic associations each have a stated purpose, typically to collect, share, expand and advance knowledge in the relevant field.  Profs. Kontorovich and Davidoff explain that such associations cannot legally do anything other than pursue those stated purposes, and:

Boycott resolutions that are beyond the powers of an organization are void, and individual members can sue to have a court declare them invalid. The individuals serving on the boards of these organizations may be liable for damages.

Consider the American Historical Association. Its constitution—a corporate charter—states that its purpose “shall be the promotion of historical studies” and the “broadening of historical knowledge among the general public.” There’s nothing in this charter that would authorize a boycott. And an anti-Israel boycott will do nothing to promote “historical studies” or broaden “historical knowledge.”

A boycott by definition restricts study and research: The explanatory material attached to the [American Anthropological Association (“AAA”)] resolution, for example, says it would restrict the organization from sharing scholarly journals with Israeli universities.

Important as it is to defeat BDS however possible, winning on technicalities does nothing to address the false, insidious underlying narrative.

Of all places, the United Auto Workers see through to the core of the issue.  The students workers’ union for all of the University of California, UAW Local 2865 adopted a resolution in support of BDS last year.

Last week, the UAW International Executive Board stepped in and rejected the vote.  The Board noted that BDS “espouses discrimination and vilification against Israelis and UAW members who are of Jewish lineage,” and that

The provisions of the BDS Resolution, despite semantical claims to the contrary by the local union, can easily be construed as academic and cultural discrimination against union members on the basis of their national origin and religion.

Recognizing that BDS seeks to hijack civil institutions to vilify and discriminate against Jews is critical.

Perhaps the most important development of recent weeks, though, is yet more analysis not just clearing Israel of charges related to the 2014 Gaza War, but praising Israel’s conduct of the war. The High Level Military Group (“HLMG”) comprised primarily of senior retired military officers from Germany, Italy, the United States, Spain, Australia, India, France, the United Kingdom and Colombia produced “An Assessment Of The 2014 Gaza Conflict.”  Rejecting accusations of Israeli belligerence, heartlessness or war crimes, the HLMG concluded:

No country would accept the threat against its civilian population that these rockets and tunnels present to Israeli population centres.  Members of the High Level Military Group, some of whom had never visited the country prior to our fact-finding visits, were united in our view that Israel’s efforts were entirely necessary and justified in the defence of that country’s national security.

We can further be categorically clear that Israel’s conduct in the 2014 Gaza Conflict met and in some respects exceeded the highest standards we set for our own nations’ militaries.  It is our view that Israel fought an exemplary campaign, adequately conceived with appropriately limited objectives, displaying both a very high level of operational capability as well as a total commitment to the Law of Armed Conflict. The IDF not only met its obligations under the Law of Armed Conflict, but often exceeded these on the battlefield at significant tactical cost, as well as in the humanitarian relief efforts that accompanied its operation.

HLMG’s unequivocal statement in support of Israel’s conduct of the Gaza War joins a growing body of work supporting Israel, including the “2014 Gaza Assessment: The New Face of Conflict,” by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs’s Gaza Conflict Task Force, and the Israeli government’s own “The 2014 Gaza Conflict; Factual And Legal Aspects.”

Of course, objective and informed observers have long known that accusations of Israeli atrocities were untrue.  The UAW’s recognition that BDS is not objective, and the development of legal tools to combat academic vilification of Israel are new and positive developments.


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