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Has the anti-Israel boycott movement peaked?

Has the anti-Israel boycott movement peaked?

Increasingly, BDS is in the hot seat.

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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Application of the principle that actions beyond the scope of a corporate charter are void (ultra vires acts) is not merely “winning on a technicality” but proper use of a well-known instrument of corporate control. When people entrust resources to small and vulnerable entities such as private companies, charities, homeowner’s associations and academic associations, the charter with its stated, limited purpose is a means of protecting the entity from predators who would hijack it for their own ends.

There is always somebody who wants to divert an entity from its purpose. For example, I observed when a homeowner’s association was asked to buy textbooks for the local schools. This was proposed as a benefit the community. The short, ready answer was that the purpose of the entity was to manage the grounds and provide for recreational facilities, not schools. The reply would have been similar if someone had proposed that the homeowner’s association vote to boycott Israel: the purpose of the entity was to manage the grounds and provide for recreational facilities, not make political statements that are beyond is purpose or competence.

BDS can only function were people do not understand their organizational purpose.

No one is actually boycotting Israel. Not seriously. It’s just too difficult. BDS is not a serious threat to Israel, so it doesn’t need to be defeated by any means necessary — instead it needs to be shown up for the antisemitism that it is.

    Valerie in reply to Milhouse. | December 23, 2015 at 6:11 am

    BDS is the current JV team. Stoping them now is only a matter of housekeeping, and we should make sure it stays that way.

    peg_c in reply to Milhouse. | December 23, 2015 at 9:40 am

    I disagree. From little socialisms big Marxism and Communism grow. This is the way of all movements. For example, we Americans would not be facing what we are now had little socialisms not finally culminated in the 0bama White House run by domestic enemies. BDS must be killed in its crib (if it hasn’t actually advanced to kindergarten). It’s a product of derangement.

    clintack in reply to Milhouse. | December 23, 2015 at 9:43 am

    The whole point of “Boycott” in the name is about conflating Israel with the South Africa of a generation ago.

    The BDS movement is about shouting down speakers, intimidating Jewish students and faculty, and mainstreaming antisemitism.

      Milhouse in reply to clintack. | December 24, 2015 at 12:33 am

      That is exactly the point of the article I linked, if you’d bothered to read it. BDS is not about actually boycotting Israel, it is not an economic threat to Israel, it is simply a boorish antisemitic movement, and that should determine the sort of response it calls for. It doesn’t need to be defeated by any means necessary, it needs to be shown up for what it is.

Jonathan, the movement will never peak. It will morph into something else and change its name. There will be new leaders, but all the usual suspects will be there … as long as there are 12 Jews left alive. That’s the depth of the Jew-hatred. They say BDS from Israel and Zionism. BS. It’s all about extermination.

Israel should break all relations with all universities that engage in this and should bar entry to Israel by all persons involved as well as all members of all these organizations for life. Including confiscation of all their assets in Israel to be used to compensate victims of terrorism. That means no shared research, no intellectual property, no patents, no exchange of ideas or staff, no licensing no royalties and no financial investment in those universities at all, forever. They want a boycott, give it to them. What’s the worse that happens? They scream how much they hate Jews? Doing that anyway.

With more and more Muslims entering the US who believe that Israel is a theologically condemned Satan-state – anti Israel feelings will not peak they will just subside. Like waves coming into the shore, the next rise will come in before you know it.

That is the problem with the insanity of hate, you can try to hide it, but eventually it always comes out. BDS isn’t about justice or compassion or any of the other crap they spout, it is hate plain and simple.