Federal court upholds anti-BDS bill in Arkansas

A federal judge upheld an Arkansas law that forbids state agencies from investing in or contracting with companies that boycott Israel.

https://www.jns.org/federal-court-upholds-anti-bds-bill-in-arkansas/

 A federal judge upheld an Arkansas law that forbids state agencies from investing in or contracting with companies that boycott Israel.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Miller threw out a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Arkansas Times, claiming that the measure violated the First Amendment.

“It [the Times] may even call upon others to boycott Israel, write in support of such boycotts, and engage in picketing and pamphleteering to that effect,” wrote Miller. “This does not mean, however, that its decision to refuse to deal, or to refrain from purchasing certain goods, is protected by the First Amendment.”

The judge added, “Israel in particular is known for its dynamic and innovative approach in many business sectors, and therefore a company’s decision to discriminate against Israel, Israeli entities, or entities that do business with or in Israel, is an unsound business practice, making the company an unduly risky contracting partner or vehicle for investment.”

Although the Times does not currently engage in or advocate for BDS, the outlet refused to sign a pledge never to boycott Israel after one of its advertisers, the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College, requested they do so in accordance with the state law. In response, the school ceased business with the paper.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and StandWithUs applauded Miller’s ruling.

“Attorney General Rutledge is pleased with Judge Miller’s ruling dismissing the Arkansas Times’ meritless lawsuit and upholding state law prohibiting discrimination against Israel, an important American ally,” Amanda Priest, spokesperson for Rutledge, told the Associated Press.

“We commend the wisdom of the judge’s decision,” said StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein. “As the court recognized, taxpayers need to be protected from being complicit in discrimination, which both undermines state policy and harms its economy.”

However, ACLU Arkansas legal director Holly Dickson told the Associated Press: “We disagree with the district court’s decision, which contradicts two recent federal court decisions and which would radically limit the First Amendment right to boycott.”

The ACLU has won rulings in federal courts in both Kansas and Arizona, blocking those states from enforcing their anti-BDS laws. While the ACLU claims that it does not have a position on BDS, it argues that the laws infringe on First Amendment rights.

Eugene Kontorovich, a legal expert with the Kohelet Policy Forum and George Mason Law School, told JNS that the decision in Arkansas “correctly concluded what Supreme Court precedent clearly says: a company’s decision to refuse to do business with a particular group is simply not speech at all, it is commercial conduct.”

“The false claims that such laws violate the Constitution were just a veil for the ACLU and other progressives, who for now are shy to admit they oppose regulating BDS as policy matter,” he said.

Marc Greendorfer, the president of the Zachor Legal Institute, which has worked on crafting and defending the state anti-BDS laws, told JNS that “we applaud the Arkansas district court judge for his honesty and fidelity to the Constitution.”

“Any court that does its research in the issue has to arrive at the same conclusion that the Arkansas court did.  BDS movement activity is discrimination and anti-discrimination laws generally comport with the First Amendment.  Further, BDS is not a civil rights movement and the caselaw on civil rights boycotts is not applicable to BDS boycotts.”

Greendorfer said that he expects the Arkansas ruling will have an affect on the other BDS cases in the federal courts, especially the Arizona law, which is currently being appealed in the Ninth Circuit.

“We expect that the Ninth Circuit, currently hearing the appeal of the Arizona lower court’s grant of a preliminary injunction, will follow the legal analysis set forth in the Arkansas court’s order and find the Arizona law to be constitutional as well.”

Elite Universities Hide Information on Funding from Ultraconservative Nation of Qatar

The nation of Qatar, a Sharia-law monarchy that has been accused of trying to influence other countries’ governments, gave $1 billion to elite American universities since 2011, according to Department of Education data.

Some universities have refused to discuss where strings are attached to that money. The Qatar Foundation, for example, filed a lawsuit against the Texas attorney general Oct. 12 to hide information about the $225 million Qatar has awarded to Texas A&M University since 2011.

The Qatar Foundation hired the politically connected powerhouse law firm Squire Patton Boggs for the suit, which was filed in response to a researcher’s public information request regarding the foreign funding.

The biggest recipient of Qatar’s educational funding, Georgetown University, repeatedly ignored requests from The Daily Caller News Foundation for basic information about the funding and whether it implicates academic independence.

Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have accused Qatar of meddling in other nations’ internal affairs as well as funding terrorism. Qatar also wields influence through its media group, Al Jazeera.

For a nation seeking sway over the U.S., Georgetown University would be a particularly tactical site of influence. Georgetown has received nearly $333 million from Qatar since 2011 — far more than any other U.S. school has received from any foreign nation.

Georgetown is situated in the seat of power, near the State Department, and its experts are frequently cited by groups shaping policy. In fact, the Jesuit Catholic university trains many of the United States’ future diplomats at its Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Its website notes that “At SFS, you can study with former Secretaries of State” and access “connections to diplomats from just about every country, and of course, the seat of the U.S. government. Our location gives SFS the extraordinary opportunity for us to engage (and sometimes even influence) the debates that lead to real action.”

Thanks to the Qatari funding, Georgetown and its foreign service program has an entire outpost in Qatar. “Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) is an additional location of Georgetown University, based in Education City in Doha,” its website says. “The University offers a four year undergraduate program in international affairs leading to the Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service (BSFS) degree.”

The magnitude of liberal-leaning universities’ reliance on the foreign nation, a poster child for income inequality, provides a stark contrast. As U.S. college students clamor for university endowments to divest from fossil fuels, the schools take money from the oil-rich kingdom. As they rally for social justice causes, Qatar has a checkered human rights record.

Qatar has only 313,000 citizens, and 2.3 million foreigners dwelling there, many of them laborers serving the country’s elite, according to 2017 data.

“The tragedy of 1.7 million migrant workers trapped in Qatar defines modern day slavery,” the International Trade Union Confederation said in 2015.

Nepalese laborers died at a rate of almost one a day in Qatar, according to The Guardian.

“We were working on an empty stomach for 24 hours; 12 hours’ work and then no food all night,” one said. “When I complained, my manager assaulted me, kicked me out of the labor camp I lived in and refused to pay me anything.”

In Washington, professors of Islamic issues have engaged in activism. Jonathan A. C. Brown, a convert to Islam and the director of the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown, which Qatar rival Saudi Arabia funds, offered an Islam-based defense of slavery, concubinage and non-consensual sex.

“The Prophet of God had slaves. He had slaves. There’s no denying that,” he said in 2017 at an International Institute of Islamic Thought talk. “Was he — are you more morally mature than the Prophet of God? No, you’re not. I’ll answer your question for you.” (RELATED: Before Killing Of Journalist, Elite Universities Took $600M From Saudis)

Studying abroad forms a bond between U.S. students and Qatar and helps Qatari nationals learn about the U.S., according to marketing materials.

Meanwhile, college students have adopted a fondness for the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions to Israel movement.

The vast majority of funds from Qatar were contracts, the Education Department data shows, requiring Georgetown to do something in return for the money, unlike gifts.

Georgetown spokesman Matt Hill ignored questions from The DCNF about the strings attached to such funds and whether they could influence curriculum and would not provide the contract governing them.

The dean of Georgetown’s Qatar campus is Ahmad Dallal, who the Middle East Forum describes as “a long-time and enthusiastic supporter of the State Department-designated terrorist group Hezbollah. Dallal, who chaired Georgetown’s Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies from 2003 to 2009, is also pro-Hamas, pro-Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, co-author of an Arabic textbook whose maps omit Israel, and signatory of a letter warning that Israel would engage in ‘ethnic cleansing’ at the start of the Iraq war.”

The Zachor Legal Institute, which opposes the movement to sanction and boycott Israel, submitted a Freedom of Information request in May to Texas A&M (TAMU), a state university, for “a summary of all amounts of funding or donations received” from Qatar and a long list of proxies.

The office of state Attorney General Ken Paxton ruled “the university must withhold the donors’ identifying information … the university must release the remaining information.”

Most of the money to TAMU were contracts, not donations.

The Qatar Foundation’s high-powered lawyers intervened, arguing the relevant portion of the attorney general’s ruling “requiring release of all remaining information other than donor identity is incorrect and without force or effect.”

They wrote:

This is an action to prevent disclosure of confidential financial information concerning the relationship between QF and Texas A&M University … QF operates programs dedicated to education, science, and community development. It is responsible for funding much of the development in Education City, a hub for higher education outside Doha. … In addition to TAMU, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Georgetown, Northwestern, and Virginia Commonwealth University have all established campuses in Education City.

The Attorney General concluded that TAMU could withhold information identifying ‘donors’ under section 552.1235. But the Attorney General stated that TAMU would be required to release all remaining information requested, which would include information related to payments made by QF to TAMU pursuant to a contract. In so doing, the Attorney General implicitly ruled that those payments were not ‘donations,’ and therefore not exempt from disclosure under the PIA … The information related to these grants and donations is also confidential commercial information and constitutes a trade secret.

The Qatar Foundation’s general counsel is Michael Mitchell, a former vice president of Ohio State University.

Marc Greendorfer, an attorney for the Zachor Legal Institute, responded to the Texas attorney general Nov. 8: “One of the Qatari entities that was the subject of our original request has taken the extraordinary step of taking the Texas Attorney General to court to suppress the information that we requested. Now, with the most recent attempt by TAMU to prevent public disclosure of information as to how Qatari entities are involved with a Texas public university, the intrigue grows, and we have to wonder what it is they are trying to keep from the public.”

TAMU and the Qatar Foundation did not return requests for comment.

The university operations by Qatar are just one prong in a massive public relations and influence push that includes millions to lobbyists and public relations firms in the U.S.

It is also not the only involvement of Squire Patton Boggs with Middle Eastern countries. The same law firm also has a $100,000-a-month contract with Qatar’s rival Saudi Arabia for the kingdom to retain former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and former Democratic Louisiana Sen. John Breaux.

According to Foreign Agent Registration Act disclosures, it worked directly with Saud al-Qahtani, the same aide who allegedly organized the killing of a Washington Post columnist.

Evidence mounting that US BDS groups are fronts for terror organizations

Evidence mounting that US BDS groups are fronts for terror organizations

Emerging evidence suggests that the BDS movement has extensive ties to Palestinian terrorist organizations, using the “social justice” movement as a veritable human shield for anti-Israel ideology and activism.

 Over the past decade, the BDS movement has emerged as one of the principle challenges towards the legitimacy of the State of Israel. A modern distortion of the South African anti-apartheid campaign, the movement seeks to put economic pressure on Israel and to isolate it politically. While Israel continues to thrive on both fronts—with a booming economy and expanding relations throughout the developing world—the ongoing threat of boycotts remains a constant challenge, especially for pro-Israel advocates in the Diaspora.

At the same time, emerging evidence suggests that the BDS movement has extensive ties to Palestinian terrorist organizations. By using the “social justice” movement as a veritable human shield for anti-Israel ideology and activism, terror groups are now succeeding in a type of reputational and commercial warfare against Israel.

This evidence has surfaced in a recent court case in Arizona, where for the first time a U.S. government body has formally acknowledged that the BDS movement aids actors engaged in terror.

In a brief filed by Arizona’s Attorney General Mark Brnovich as part of a case before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals concerning his state’s anti-BDS law, Brnovich noted that the BDS campaign was not only motivated by anti-Semitism, but that it aids Palestinian terrorist groups, including Hamas, as well as the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the latter of which provides payments and stipends to convicted terrorists or their families.

“That is particularly true as the effect, and often goal, of BDS boycotts is to strengthen the hand of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which pays cash stipends to the families of terrorists, and its governmental coalition partner and terrorist organization, Hamas,” said Brnovich.

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan called Brnovich’s stance “a significant achievement in the fight against the boycott organizations. … This step strips the mask off the boycott organizations, most of which maintain deep ties with terrorist groups while seeking to enjoy immunity as human-rights groups.”

Marc Greendorfer, founder of the Zachor Legal Institute, said the ties between BDS and terror organizations are “extensive.”

“The ties are extensive and quite serious,” he told JNS. “Some of the BDS groups, like Dream Defenders, send members to the Middle East to meet directly with terror groups like the PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine], and there has been testimony before Congress that financial backers of Hamas are also providing support to BDS groups. Further reports to Congress showed that the PLO has a ‘war room’ in Europe from which they coordinate and fund BDS groups in the U.S.,” he explained.

Last year, the Zachor Legal Institute submitted a letter to the Department of Justice urging the U.S. government to open an investigation into the ties between Palestinian terror groups and several U.S.-based BDS groups, including American Muslims for Palestine (and its affiliated entity, Americans for Justice in Palestine Educational Foundation), Dream Defenders, the Muslim Students Association, Samidoun and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

“We believe—and there is copious evidence to support the allegation—that these organizations are working with designated foreign terror organizations in the United States, often as part of the BDS movement to target Israeli companies, academics and institutions,” Zachor stated in a memo provided to JNS.

Greendorfer said Zachor has used publicly available information to document these group’s ties with terror organization.

“As part of our research into BDS groups, we developed reports on each of the groups we named in the letter and how they provide support for designated terror groups,” he said. “The evidence comes from reviewing social media and other publicly available information, such as congressional testimony.”

Greendorfer added: “Taken as a whole, the reports demonstrate that BDS groups have frequent contact with representatives of terror groups, disseminate propaganda from terror groups and are funded by terror groups.”

Tax deductions and tax-exempt donations related to terror groups

Concern has been generating over links between terror and BDS groups for several years now.

In testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2016, Jonathan Schanzer, who serves as senior researcher for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, presented evidence of how former leaders of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, the Islamic Association for Palestine and KindHearts for Charitable Development—three organizations implicated in financing Hamas between 2001 and 2011—have gravitated towards a new organization called the American Muslims for Palestine.

“AMP is a Chicago-based organization that is a leading driver of the BDS campaign,” Schanzer told lawmakers at the time. “AMP is arguably the most important sponsor and organizer for Students for Justice in Palestine, which is the most visible arm of the BDS campaign on campuses in the United States.

“The overlap of former employees of organizations that provided support to Hamas who now play important roles in AMP speaks volumes about the real agenda of key components of the BDS campaign,” said Schanzer.

He noted that the IRS, unlike its European counterparts, pays only scant attention to the prior histories of Section 501 entities and their officers or directors, and he urged lawmakers “to look at legislating a more transparent disclosure process for charity employees and board members previously implicated in terror finance.”

“Americans have a right to know who is behind the BDS campaign. And so do those members of the BDS campaign who may not fully understand its history,” he told lawmakers.

Additionally, earlier this year, Tablet magazine uncovered how the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), an organization that coordinates the efforts of 329 different pro-BDS organizations, helps to facilitate tax-exempt donations “to a Palestinian coalition that includes Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups the U.S. State Department designates as terror organizations.”

According to the report, the USCPR is the “fiscal sponsor” of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), which is a Palestinian-based group that serves as the Palestinian arm of the BDS movement and helps to coordinate international BDS efforts. The BNC operates the website Bdsmovement.net that serves to educate and update readers on the BDS movement, as well as allow for American supporters to make tax-deductible donations to the group through the Education for Just Peace in the Middle East, a 501(c)3 charitable organization linked to the USCPR.

In its memo provided to JNS, Zachor Legal Institute noted that a group called the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces (PNIF), a founding member and current managing entity of BNC, includes as members five organizations designated by the United States as foreign terror organizations, as well as the PLO.

One organization that evinces the ties between BDS and terrorism is a group called Samidoun, points out Greendorfer.

“While other BDS groups like SJP tend to have layers of obfuscation between their operations and the terror groups, Samidoun appears to act as a direct proxy for the PFLP,” he said.

According to Greendorfer, two of Samidoun’s leaders (Khaled Barakat and his wife, Charlotte Kates) are also PFLP members, with Barakat being the head of PFLP’s foreign operations. Other Samidoun officials, like Mohammed Khatib and Mustafa Awad, are also PFLP members.  Samidoun members also have close ties to Hamas, and Hamas’s chief of security (Tawfeek Abu Naim) in particular. Furthermore, Samidoun members such as Sayel Kayed is also a board member of another BDS group, American Muslims for Palestine, and Lamis Deek, another Samidoun member, is a board member of Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) (an unindicted co-conspirator in the funding of Hamas).

“While Samidoun is not the most visible promoter of BDS, they definitely are active in BDS, especially behind the scenes,” said Greendorfer. “Samidoun is a perfect example of a BDS group that operates in the U.S. having direct ties to terror groups, as well as involvement in sister BDS organizations.”

Urging the U.S. government to investigate

While Israel continues to see trivial effects from the BDS movement, supporters of Israel in North American and Europe face a more challenging situation. This is especially true on college campuses, where pro-Israel and Jewish students confront mounting boycott challengesfrom fellow students and even faculty.

Similarly, concern is growing as well for bipartisan support for Israel with the election of several new congress members who openly support the BDS movement.

“BDS is a proxy for foreign terror groups, and it is becoming increasingly popular with the American left,” said Greendorfer. “BDS promotes discrimination and normalizes the message of terror groups by cloaking it in the vernacular of civil rights. It is a mistake to take BDS lightly. The most important thing that the pro-Israel community can do is to spread the facts that BDS is discriminatory, a front for terror and is the nonviolent arm of terror groups whose ultimate goal is to disenfranchise Jews from their right to their own country.”

As such, Greendorfer said that his organization has resubmitted its letter to investigate BDS groups to Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and will also urge nominee William Barr to do the same once confirmed.

“We have been able to obtain copious evidence of the ties between BDS and terror, but we don’t have the power to actually investigate BDS groups to find how deep the terror ties are,” he said. “Only government has that power and we have provided the DOJ with more than enough evidence to start an investigation.”

Israel advocates mobilize to defend Arizona’s anti-BDS law following setback in Kansas-JNS

During the last few years, more than 20 U.S. states have targeted the BDS movement with legislation aimed at preventing state entities from doing business with companies that seek to boycott Israel. But this success in pro-Israel advocacy has been met with some pushback, as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and some pro-Palestinian legal groups have argued that anti-BDS legislation violates the Constitution.

Read more 

 

EXCLUSIVE: PAYPAL CLOSES ACCOUNT OF FRENCH BDS ORGANIZATION- JERUSALEM POST

The US online payment company PayPal closed the account of one of France’s most powerful boycott Israel organizations – the France-Palestine Solidarity Association – The Jerusalem Post learned on Friday.

As part of an investigative series into funding streams for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions organizations targeting Israel, the Post had asked PayPal on Tuesday: Is the association’s account with PayPal in violation of France’s anti-discrimination law? Is the account in violation of PayPal’s anti-hate policy? France has one of the most robust anti-BDS laws in Europe, the Lellouche Law, which bans discrimination based on national origin.

Read more 

NEW JERSEY FAILS TO ENFORCE ANTI-BDS LAW WITH DANISH BANK- JERUSALEM POST

The State of New Jersey has come under fire for allegedly not punishing a giant Danish bank that engages in anti-Israel economic activity. Danske Bank, the largest bank in the Scandinavian country, is blacklisted by New York State for violating its anti-BDS law shielding Israel from economic warfare. An intense row over whether Danske – a financial institution that seeks to aid its clients in Iran – is in violation of New Jersey’s 2016 anti-BDS law unfolded in August.

Read more 

COLORADO SANCTIONS DANISH BANK FOR BDS ACTIVITY AGAINST ISRAELI COMPANIES- JERUSALEM POST

Colorado has added Danish banking giant Danske to a blacklist for its anti-Israel business activities. Danske Bank has faced criticism and economic penalties for barring two Israeli defense companies – Aryt Industries and Elbit Systems – from its customers’ investments.

Read more 

Md. General Assembly Hears Impassioned Debate on Anti-BDS Legislation- Jewish Times

Amid the rising number of hate incidents she has witnessed on Baltimore-area college campuses — from swastikas on buildings, false eviction notices on dorm doors of Jewish students to the vandalism of a Hillel — Taylor Ann Gonzalez felt the need to speak up.

Read more 

The BDS Hubbub- Jewish Times

Freedom of speech. It’s a right so engrained in our psyche as Americans that we react viscerally to most attempts to curtail it.

But all speech is not free. As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. observed in 1919: You can’t falsely yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

Read more 

Zachor Legal Institute: A Giant Step Forward+ Jewish Press

One legal step forward, two political steps back. Such is the sorry lot of current diplomacy in Israel. While frustrating, the challenge lies in expanding the scope and potential of that forward step.

Read more