On December 1, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an oped titled, “Those Israel Boycotts Are Illegal” after members of the American Anthropological Association overwhelmingly voted in favor of endorsing a resolution calling for the academic boycott of Israeli institutions. The following is a letter to the editor in response which the WSJ did not publish.
To the Editor:
Re “Those Israel Boycotts Are Illegal (opinion, Dec. 1):
Sure, educational associations “may be sued” for endorsing the academic boycott of Israel — anyone can be sued for anything — but any such suit would be a sure loser.
This is probably why the authors have cited exactly zero cases where a court has found a nonprofit boardmember liable for violating the purpose of their corporate charter — much less a case where the so-called violation is taking a principled stance on a human rights issue.
The authors’ reasoning is also laughable: that because an association’s charter says “nothing about social change” its boycott of Israeli academic institutions “[is] illegal.” As any law student who’s taken a Corporations 101 course can tell you: modern statutes impose almost no limits on corporate purpose or powers. Such “ultra vires” suits went into decline along with jello salad and hot rods.
Even so, educational associations’ decisions to boycott Israeli institutions are aimed at promoting academic freedom for Palestinian scholars and students and thus fall squarely within the educational purposes for which such scholarly societies are established.
Less laughable is how such meritless threats are increasingly being used for the purpose of intimidating groups from engaging in protected First Amendment activity; a tactic documented in a recent report by Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Center for Constitutional Rights
New York City