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December 03, 2015

Academic Boycotts of Israel Not Just Stupid and Immoral, Also Illegal

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On December 2, The Wall Street Journal published an Op-Ed by law school professors Eugene Kontorovich and Steven Davidoff Solomon, “Those Israel Boycotts Are Illegal.” In it, the professors take on the increasingly frequent boycott resolutions under consideration at –and approved by many– academic associations such as the American Anthropological Association and the American Studies Association. They note:

The moral myopia and academic perversity of these boycotts have been widely discussed. Less well understood is that in many cases they also are illegal. Under corporate law, an organization, including a nonprofit, can do only what is permitted under the purposes specified in its charter.

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.

[…]

Saying that organizations cannot act beyond the purposes specified in their charters is no mere legal nitpicking. The charter is an explicit contract with members, declaring that their money will be dedicated to agreed-upon goals and that their group will not turn into a motorcycle club or a political party.

On its face, an academic boycott undermines academic freedom, a broad-based education and the exchange of ideas. That’s stupid. Holding only Israel to some imaginary standard and holding Israeli academics responsible for Israeli policy, whatever one thinks of it, is clearly immoral. Academic associations don’t seem to care about this. A couple of well-prosecuted lawsuits might, however, make them take notice.

Posted by SC at December 3, 2015 12:28 PM

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