SUBMISSION TO THE
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE
UNDER THE TAX WHISTLEBLOWER ACT,
26 U.S.C. § 7623(b)
AMERICAN STUDIES ASSOCIATION
ACADEMIC BOYCOTT OF ISRAEL
IS NOT IN FURTHERANCE OF ASA’S EXEMPT PURPOSE
AND VIOLATES PUBLIC POLICY –
REVOCATION OF §501(c)(3) TAX-EXEMPT STATUS IS REQUIRED
January 6, 2014
Submitted on behalf of William A. Jacobson by:
Alan P. Dye, Esq.
Webster, Chamberlain & Bean, LLP
1747 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 1000
Washington, D.C. 20006-4693
Tel: (202) 785-9500
Fax: (202) 835-0243
This submission is made pursuant to 26 U.S.C. §7623 et seq. (the “Tax Whistleblower
Act”). This matter concerns the recent actions taken by the American Studies Association (“ASA”)
to implement a perpetual academic boycott of Israel. The history, scope and operation of this
academic boycott are discussed in detail below.
We respectfully request the Internal Revenue Service (“Service”) to review this matter and
make a determination that ASA’s academic boycott of Israel adversely impacts ASA’s §501(c)(3)
tax-exempt status and that revocation of its §501(c)(3) tax-exempt status is warranted under the law.
In brief, ASA has undertaken, as an organization, to enter into a wide-ranging academic
boycott of Israel as called for by international and U.S. organizations acting on behalf of a call from
“Palestinian civil society.” Although by resolution ASA has committed itself to the full scope of
the international academic boycott, ASA has issued guidelines purporting to scale back the scope of
the boycott. Even under ASA’s guidelines, however, ASA as an organization will boycott all Israeli
academic institutions and all faculty representing or acting on behalf of Israeli academic institutions
or the Israeli government. Public statements by ASA that it will not boycott individuals are not
ASA’s academic boycott is not consistent with its educational exempt purpose. ASA’s
academic boycott is anti-educational, seeking to sever the free exchange of ideas and interactions
among scholars and institutions so critical to higher education. ASA’s academic boycott is deemed
such a threat to academic freedom and the educational process that major non-partisan organizations
representing virtually every higher educational institution and almost 50,000 university professors
have denounced the academic boycott. Over 100 individual university presidents have done the
same, and the number is growing.
These denunciations have been without regard to where one stands on the Middle East
dispute, and are grounded in the threat academic boycotts present to education, not Middle East
politics. ASA’s exempt purpose would be violated even if ASA took the other side of the political
issue, and boycotted Arab universities and scholars.
Whether other forms of boycott in other contexts by organizations with other exempt
purposes passes muster is not something the Service need resolve on this complaint. The issue
here is very specific to an exempt “educational” organization engaging in an academic boycott.
This particular ASA academic boycott is even worse, because in addition to being anti-
educational, it is based explicitly on national origin in violation of the public policy against such
discrimination. In addition, the international boycott of which ASA now is a part traces its roots
directly to the anti-Semitic Durban NGO conference in 2001 and the anti-Jewish sentiment of the
Palestinian boycott movement. In examining whether the ASA boycott is a proper exempt purpose,
the Service cannot ignore the anti-Semitic context and roots of the boycott movement ASA has
The ASA academic boycott also violates clear U.S. public policy, expressed in federal and
state laws, against international boycotts singling out Israel.
We suggest that under relevant statutory, regulatory and case law authority, revocation is
A. ASA’s §501(c)(3) EXEMPT PURPOSE
ASA is a District of Columbia non-profit corporation recognized by the Service as exempt
from federal income tax under §501(c)(3) of the Code. ASA’s Articles of Incorporation provide,
in pertinent part, that (emphasis added):
[t]he corporation is organized exclusively for educational and academic study
purposes…[e]xcept as restricted herein, the corporation shall engage in any and all
lawful activities incidental to the foregoing purposes including but not limited to the
study of American civilization. Among the specific ways in which the corporation shall
attempt to achieve this objective are the following: facilitating communication among
those disciplines which deal with phases of American civilization; fostering
interdisciplinary research; encouraging the establishment of regional societies for
American studies; and attempting to attract interested laymen to membership of the
Further, ASA’s Constitution provides as follows:
ARTICLE I: Name and Object
Sec. 1. The name of this society shall be the American Studies Association
Sec. 2. The object of the association shall be the promotion of the study of American
culture through the encouragement of research, teaching, publication, the strengthening of
relations among persons and institutions in this country and abroad devoted to such
studies, and the broadening of knowledge among the general public about American
culture in all its diversity and complexity. 2
Consistent with the above, ASA’s Form 990 for 2011, the most recent publicly available,
provides that ASA’s mission or most significant activities (Part I, Line 1) and Mission (Part III,
Line 1) are as follows:
THE AMERICAN STUDIES ASSOCIATION IS THE NATION'S OLDEST AND
LARGEST ASSOCIATION DEVOTED TO THE INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDY OF
AMERICAN CULTURE AND HISTORY
B. ANTI-SEMITIC ROOTS OF MODERN BOYCOTT MOVEMENT
The history of Arab boycotts of Jews predates the creation of the State of Israel and was
directed at Jews in the then British Mandate of Palestine at least as far back as the early 1920s. 3 The
Arab League was formed in 1944 and its boycott started in 1945, 4 prior to the creation of the State
of Israel, and was directed at denying Jews a state. The Arab League boycott, which picked up
steam in the early 1970s, led to the passage of federal and state anti-boycott legislation in the United
ASA Articles of Incorporation, as amended. Exhibit A, attached hereto.
http://www.theasa net/about/page/constitution_and_bylaws/ Exhibit B, attached hereto.
The earliest Arab boycotts? http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-earliest-arab-boycotts html#.UsGOpD-
Congressional Research Service, Arab League Boycott of Israel (Dec. 19, 2013),
States, an expression of U.S. public policy against international boycotts singling out Israel. 5
The modern Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement, including the Palestinian
Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel (PACBI) 6 and U.S. Campaign for
the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel (“USACBI”), 7 was an outgrowth of the NGO
Forum 8 held at the 2001 Durbin conference in South Africa. The Durban conference and NGO
forum devolved into such blatant anti-Semitism that the United States walked out. 9
On the grounds of the U.N. conference itself, the Arab Lawyers Union distributed
pamphlets filled with grotesque caricatures of hook-nosed Jews depicted as Nazis,
spearing Palestinian children, dripping blood from their fangs, with missiles bulging from
their eyes or with pots of money nearby. Attempts to have the group's U.N. accreditation
revoked were refused.
Under the tent where the final NGO declaration was approved over the weekend -- a
document that indicts Israel as a "racist, apartheid state" guilty of genocide and ethnic
cleansing -- fliers were found with a photo of Hitler and the following question: "What if
Hitler had won? There would be no Israel, and no Palestinian bloodshed."
In a Palestinian-led march with thousands of participants, a placard was held aloft that
read "Hitler Should Have Finished the Job." Nearby, someone was selling the most
notorious of anti-Jewish tracts, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." 10
Former Congressman Tom Lantos was a witness 11 to the Durban Conference and the NGO
forum in particular:
Another ring in the Durban circus was the NGO forum, taking place just outside the
conference center. Although the NGO proceedings were intended to provide a platform for
the wide range of civil society groups interested in the conference’s conciliatory mission,
Congressional Research Service, Arab League Boycott of Israel (April 19, 2006),
NGO FORUM AT DURBAN CONFERENCE 2001, http://www.ngo-
U.S., Israel Walk out of U.N. Conference, http://archive.adl.org/durban/durban_090401d.html
Jewish Activists Stunned by Hostility, Anti-Semitism at Durban Conference,
http://www.jewishfederations.org/page.aspx?id=2279; see also, Anti-Semitic Materials and Slogans Continue to
Proliferate; Jewish Delegates Met With Chant: "Kill The Jews", http://archive.adl.org/durban/durban_083101 html;
Congressman Tom Lantos has more on the
The Durban Debacle: An Insider’s View of the UN World Conference Against Racism,
the forum quickly became stacked with Palestinian and fundamentalist Arab groups. Each
day, these groups organized anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic rallies around the meetings,
attracting thousands. One flyer which was widely distributed showed a photograph of
Hitler and the question “What if I had won?” The answer: “There would be NO Israel…”
At a press conference held by Jewish NGO’s to discuss their concerns with the direction
the conference was taking, an accredited NGO, the Arab Lawyers Union, distributed a
booklet filled with anti-Semitic caricatures frighteningly like those seen in the Nazi hate
literature printed in the 1930s. Jewish leaders and I who were in Durban were shocked at
this blatant display of anti-Semitism. For me, having experienced the horrors of the
Holocaust first hand, this was the most sickening and unabashed display of hate for Jews I
had seen since the Nazi period.
Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the official NGO document that was later adopted by
a majority of the 3,000 NGOs in the forum branded Israel a “racist apartheid state” guilty
of “genocide” and called for an end to its “racist crimes” against Palestinians….
The result of the NGO forum at Durban was the issuance of demands and accusations 12
which form the core of the BDS, PACBI and USACBI boycott campaigns and rhetoric:
423. Call for the launch of an international anti Israeli Apartheid movement as
implemented against South African Apartheid through a global solidarity campaign
network of international civil society, UN bodies and agencies, business communities and
to end the conspiracy of silence among states, particularly the European Union and the
424. Call upon the international community to impose a policy of complete and total
isolation of Israel as an apartheid state as in the case of South Africa which means the
imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation
of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between
all states and Israel. Call upon the Government of South Africa to take the lead in this
policy of isolation, bearing in mind its own historical success in countering the
undermining policy of "constructive engagement" with its own past Apartheid regime.
The BDS movement quickly took up the Durban NGO forum anti-Israel boycott agenda.
There is no doubt that the academic boycott movement is part of the larger BDS movement
spawned by the Durban NGO Forum. One of the founders of the academic boycott movement,
after the ASA vote, wrote: 13
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is an
Omar Barghouti, A Tipping Point?, http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2014/01/03/essay-growth-support-
integral part of the BDS movement….
Starting in 2002 14 and thereafter in 2004, 15 the BDS movement issued calls for wide-ranging
boycotts of Israel. The 2005 final boycott call by “Palestinian civil society” led to the PACBI and
USACBI guidelines, which ASA referenced in the process leading up to the ASA Resolution, all as
C. HISTORY OF ASA BOYCOTT RESOLUTION
By July 2005, a group of Palestinian non-governmental organizations and individuals had
issued a final call (the “Boycott Call”) for a worldwide economic, cultural, political and
academic boycott of the State of Israel, premised on a variety of alleged Israeli offenses (which
of course, supporters of Israel dispute). The Boycott Call text 16 provided, in pertinent part, as
We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society
organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and
implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in
the apartheid era. We appeal to you to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes
and sanctions against Israel. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support this Call, for
the sake of justice and genuine peace.
These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation
to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully
complies with the precepts of international law by:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their
homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
In 2005, guidelines as to how this boycott call would be applied to academic boycotts
Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, July 6, 2004, http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869
http://www.bdsmovement net/activecamps/academic-boycott Exhibit C, attached hereto.
were issued by PACBI. 17 In 2009, USACBI, 18 a U.S. version of PACBI, was formed to pursue
the PACBI guidelines.
Beginning no later than the ASA’s Annual Meeting in November 2012, the ASA Caucus
on Academic and Community Activism (the “Activism Caucus”) took under consideration an
academic boycott resolution modeled on the Boycott Call and the PACBI and USACBI
guidelines (emphasis added):
Nearly 80 people attending the American Studies Association annual meeting in San Juan
took part in a Caucus on Academic and Community Activism session calling for the
American Studies Association to support the call for boycott of Israeli universities in
protest of the illegal occupation of Palestine, the infringements of the right to education of
Palestinian students, and the academic freedom of Palestinian scholars and students in the
West Bank, Gaza, and Israel.
The Caucus gathered nearly 150 signatures from conference attendees supporting a
resolution asking ASA to honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli
academic institutions and to support the protected rights of students and scholars
everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support
of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
The ASA resolution is modeled on PACBI, the 2004 call by Palestinian academics and
intellectuals for an academic and cultural boycott which took inspiration from the
Boycott campaign against South African apartheid. 19
At some point during or after the 2012 Annual Meeting, the Activism Caucus began a
Petition drive 20 calling upon ASA to adhere to the academic boycott of Israel as delineated by
USACBI (emphasis added, italics in original):
* * *
Be it resolved that the American Studies Association endorses and will honor the call of
Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
http://www.pacbi.org/ Exhibit D, attached hereto.
http://www.theasa net/caucus_activism/item/academic_and_cultural_boycott_campaign/ Exhibit E, attached hereto.
Exhibit F, attached hereto.
Be it also resolved that the ASA supports the protected rights of students and scholars
everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in
support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
IMPORTANT: When you sign this petition, please make sure to put your institution in the
"street address field."
For more information, please see http://www.usacbi.org
At some point after the 2012 Annual Meeting, the Activism Caucus presented the
Resolution to the ASA National Council:
The ASA Caucus on Academic and Community Activism will present a Resolution to the
ASA executive committee to Honor the Call of Palestinian Civil Society for a Boycott of
Israeli Academic Institutions. We urge all ASA members to sign in support of the
resolution. You can read and sign the resolution at
On or about December 4, 2013, the ASA National Council approved the boycott
Resolution, resolving as follows, in operative part (emphasis added):
It is resolved that the American Studies Association (ASA) endorses and will honor the
call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. It is also
resolved that the ASA supports the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to
engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support of the boycott,
divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. 22
After the National Council vote endorsing the academic boycott, the Resolution was put to
an online membership vote concluding on December 15, 2013. A group of eight past Presidents of
ASA objected that ASA was engaged in what amounted to a one-sided propaganda campaign: 23
We believe academic boycotts to be antithetical to the mission of free and open inquiry for
which a scholarly organization stands. For all the reasons outlined in a letter to the
Council signed by many ASA members including the eight former presidents writing you
today, we see an academic boycott as setting a dangerous precedent by sponsoring an
inequitable and discriminatory policy that would punish one nation’s universities and
scholars. Our task is to open conversation, not to close it off, and to do so with those who
http://www.theasa net/caucus_activism/ Exhibit G, attached hereto.
http://www.theasa net/american_studies_association_resolution_on_academic_boycott_of_israel Exhibit H,
http://www.scribd.com/doc/190925302/ASA-President-s-Letter-Opposing-Boycott-Israel-Resolution Exhibit I,
reflect ideas (and support policies) with which many of us may strongly disagree.
We are also deeply concerned by the process by which the ASA Council has put this
decision to the membership. ASA Members were provided only the resolution and a link
to a website supporting it. Despite explicit requests, the National Council refused to
circulate or post to the ASA’s website alternative perspectives. That the membership vote
is being undertaken with only one side of a complex question presented seems to us to
amplify the profound contradictions of the academic boycott strategy, and to compound its
potentially pernicious consequences….
A majority of those members voting passed the Resolution. Depending upon which
membership numbers are used (total versus eligible), approximately 25-35% of the membership
voted, with the vote passing by a 2/3 majority of those voting. 24
D. SCOPE AND NATURE OF THE ASA BOYCOTT
The academic Boycott Call guidelines of the USACBI, 25 which mirror the PACBI26
guidelines, provide in pertinent part:
* * *
Academic Boycott Guidelines
Inspired by the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa as well as the long tradition of civil
resistance against settler-colonialism in Palestine, the PACBI Call  urges academics
and cultural workers to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and
cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation,
colonization and system of apartheid, by applying the following:
1. Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation,
collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions;
2. Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and
international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these
3. Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic
4. Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be
adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;
http://www.usacbi.org/guidelines-for-applying-the-international-cultural-boycott-of-israel/ Exhibit J, attached
See supra note 17 and Exhibit D, attached hereto.
5. Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to
partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.”
* * *
….PACBI urges academics, academics’ associations/unions and academic institutions
around the world, where possible and as relevant, to boycott and/or work towards the
cancellation or annulment of events, activities, agreements, or projects that promote the
normalization of Israel in the global academy, whitewash Israel’s violations of
international law and Palestinians rights, or violate the boycott. Specifically, the
Palestinian academic boycott against Israel applies to the following events, activities, or
1. Academic events (such as conferences, symposia, workshops, book and museum
exhibits) convened or co-sponsored by Israeli institutions. All academic events, whether
held in Israel or abroad, and convened or co-sponsored by Israeli academic institutions or
their departments and institutes, deserve to be boycotted on institutional grounds. These
boycottable activities include panels and other activities sponsored or organized by Israeli
academic bodies or associations at international conferences outside Israel. Importantly,
they also include the convening in Israel of meetings of international bodies and
2. Institutional cooperation agreements with Israeli universities or research institutes.
These agreements, concluded between international and Israeli universities, typically
involve the exchange of faculty and students and, more importantly, the conduct of joint
research. Many of these schemes are sponsored and funded by the European Union (in the
case of Europe), and independent and government foundations elsewhere. For example,
the five-year EU Framework programs, in which Israel has been the only non-European
participant, have been crucial to the development of research at Israeli universities.
European academic activists have been campaigning for the suspension of the EU-Israel
Association Agreement since 2002; under this Agreement, Israeli and European
universities exchange academic staff and students and engage in other activities, mainly
through the Erasmus Mundus and Tempus schemes . It should be noted that Israel is in
violation of the terms of this Agreement, particularly of the second article .
3. Study abroad schemes in Israel for international students. These programs are usually
housed at Israeli universities and are part of the Israeli propaganda effort, designed to give
international students a “positive experience” of Israel. Publicity and recruitment for these
schemes are organized through students’ affairs offices or academic departments (such as
Middle East and international studies centers) at universities abroad.
4. Addresses and talks at international venues by official representatives of Israeli
academic institutions such as presidents and rectors.
5. Special honors or recognition granted to official representatives of Israeli academic
institutions (such as the bestowal of honorary degrees and other awards) or to Israeli
academic or research institutions. Such institutions and their official representatives are
complicit and as such should be denied this recognition.
6. Palestinian/Arab-Israeli collaborative research projects or events, especially those
funded by the various EU and international grant-giving bodies. It is widely known that
the easiest route to securing a research grant for a Palestinian academic is to apply with an
7. Research and development activities in the framework of agreements or contracts
between the Israeli government and other governments or institutions. Researchers in such
projects are based at American, European or other universities. Examples include the
United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF), an institution established by the
US and Israeli governments in 1972 to sponsor research by Israelis and Americans, and
the “Eureka Initiative,” a European inter-governmental initiative set up in 1985 that
includes Israel as the only non-European member.
8. Research and development activities on behalf of international corporations involving
contracts or other institutional agreements with departments or centers at Israeli
9. Institutional membership of Israeli associations in world bodies. While challenging such
membership is not easy, targeted and selective campaigns demanding the suspension of
Israeli membership in international forums contribute towards pressuring the state until it
respects international law. Just as South Africa’s membership was suspended in world
academic–among other–bodies during apartheid, so must Israel’s.
10. Publishing in or refereeing articles for academic journals based at Israeli universities.
These journals include those published by international associations but housed at Israeli
universities. Efforts should be made to re-locate the editorial offices of these journals to
universities outside Israel.
11. Advising on hiring or promotion decisions at Israeli universities through refereeing the
work of candidates , or refereeing research proposals for Israeli funding institutions.
Such services, routinely provided by academics to their profession, must be withheld from
complicit institutions. [footnotes omitted]
* * *
The ASA National Council, in conjunction with endorsing the boycott Resolution, issued
certain of its own guidelines purporting to limit its understanding of the scope of the boycott. Those
limitations, however, were not incorporated into the Resolution and are not binding on ASA. The
ASA guidelines purporting to scale back the scope of the boycott can be changed, altered, expanded
or disregarded at any time.
The purported ASA boycott limitations as to how the USACBI boycott would be
implemented were set forth in the following documents:
1. What Does the Academic Boycott Mean for the ASA? 27
2. Frequently Asked Questions about the Academic Boycott (PDF) 28
3. Sample Letter to Administrators (PDF) 29
4. ASA Website - ASA Points_for_talking_to_administrators_about_boycott 30
Even these ASA boycott guidelines, not expressed in the Resolution, commit ASA as an
organization to boycott all interactions with Israeli academic institutions, all faculty of such
institutions to the extent acting as representatives of such institutions or the Israeli government, and
all faculty having administrative titles indicating an official capacity or acting on behalf of the
government of Israel.
Public statements by ASA that the boycott does not apply to individual Israel faculty
members are incorrect. Under the Resolution and even ASA’s purported guidelines, the boycott
covers all Israeli faculty members, but exempts some from the boycott’s sanctions.
Accordingly, under these ASA operational guidelines a faculty member or researcher at an
Israeli academic institution would not be boycotted only if able to show that he or she was not
acting in a representative or official capacity. No other academic from any other nation is subjected
to such a litmus test by ASA.
An Israeli faculty member or researcher who also held an administrative title, such as
Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, would be sanctioned under the boycott automatically, without
exception. The boycott also would apply to Israeli academics visiting at universities in the United
States or holding joint appointments, if they act in a representative or administrative capacity.
The ASA boycott also will apply to programs run jointly by U.S. and Israeli academic
http://www.theasa net/what_does_the_academic_boycott_mean_for_the_asa/ Exhibit K, attached hereto.
http://www.theasa net/images/uploads/ASA_Boycott_FAQs.pdf Exhibit L, attached hereto.
http://www.theasa net/images/uploads/Sample_letter_to_administrators.pdf Exhibit M, attached hereto.
No longer available on ASA website, Exhibit N, attached hereto.
institutions, such as the pending Cornell-Technion campus in New York City. 31
The ASA boycott has no end date or identifiable objective which would cause the ASA
boycott to end. Instead, ASA will look for guidance to USCABI and PACBI, as reflected in the
document What Does the Academic Boycott Mean for the ASA?, referenced above:
7) What is required for an Israeli university to no longer be subject to the boycott?
This is a difficult question to answer. The boycott is designed to put real and symbolic
pressure on universities to take an active role in ending the Israeli occupation and in
extending equal rights to Palestinians. The international boycott, divestment, and sanctions
movement has called for a boycott to be in effect until these conditions are met. (See
E. ASA BOYCOTT IS NOT IN FURTHERANCE OF ASA’s EXEMPT PURPOSE
BECAUSE IT IS NOT “EDUCATIONAL” UNDER THE CODE
§501(c)(3) of the Code provides for the exemption from federal income tax of
organizations organized and operated exclusively for charitable and educational purposes
Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated
exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or
educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition
(but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or
equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net
earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no
substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise
attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)), and
which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of
statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for
public office. (26 U.S.C.A. § 501(c) (3))
Similarly, Treas. Reg. § 1.501(c)(3)-1(d) provides that the exempt purpose must be
exclusive (emphasis added):
Ground-breaking on new Cornell-Technion Institute of Technology in NYC to begin next month,
(d) Exempt purposes--(1) In general. (i) An organization may be exempt as an
organization described in section 501(c)(3) if it is organized and operated exclusively
for one or more of the following purposes:
(d) Testing for public safety,
(f) Educational, or
(g) Prevention of cruelty to children or animals.
Treas. Reg. § 1.501(c)(3)-1 provides, in pertinent part, that there is both an organizational
and operational test (emphasis added):
(a) Organizational and operational tests.
(1) In order to be exempt as an organization described in section 501(c)(3), an
organization must be both organized and operated exclusively for one or more of the
purposes specified in such section. If an organization fails to meet either the
organizational test or the operational test, it is not exempt.
(2) The term exempt purpose or purposes, as used in this section, means any purpose or
purposes specified in section 501(c)(3), as defined and elaborated in paragraph (d) of this
* * *
(c) Operational test—
(1) Primary activities. An organization will be regarded as operated exclusively for one
or more exempt purposes only if it engages primarily in activities which accomplish one
or more of such exempt purposes specified in section 501(c)(3). An organization will
not be so regarded if more than an insubstantial part of its activities is not in furtherance of
an exempt purpose.
An organization will not be recognized as tax-exempt if more than an insubstantial part of
its activities are not in furtherance of an exempt purpose. 32
To operate “exclusively” for exempt purposes does not mean that there must be an
absence of nonexempt purposes…. A single activity might be directed to both an exempt
and a nonexempt purpose. Our inquiry must determine whether the nonexempt purpose is
incidental and not substantial. If the nonexempt purpose is substantial, the organization
Treas. Reg. § 1.501(c)(3)-1(c)(1).
will not satisfy the operational test regardless of the number or importance of truly exempt
The test for whether an activity is “substantial” is a matter not just of quantity, but of the
quality of the act.
“To determine when disqualifying activities are present to a “significant extent” (that is,
when they become “substantial”), more must be considered than the ratio they bear to
activities in furtherance of exempt purposes. The quality of such acts are as important as
their quantity.” 34
ASA’s boycott Resolution causes ASA to fail to meet both the organizational and
operational tests. While ASA was originally organized exclusively for an exempt purpose, the
Resolution changes the nature of ASA’s organization. As an organization, ASA now is
organized to operate the academic boycott of Israel as part of the larger BDS campaign, in
addition to other activities. Moreover, the ASA Resolution now also is an operational activity of
The academic boycott, however, is not an educational activity as defined in the Code and
Regulations. Treas. Reg. § 1.501(c)(3)-1 provides, in pertinent part (emphasis added):
(d) (3) Educational defined--(i) In general. The term educational, as used in section
501(c)(3), relates to:
(a) The instruction or training of the individual for the purpose of improving or
developing his capabilities; or (b) The instruction of the public on subjects useful to
the individual and beneficial to the community. An organization may be educational
even though it advocates a particular position or viewpoint so long as it presents a
sufficiently full and fair exposition of the pertinent facts as to permit an individual or the
public to form an independent opinion or conclusion. On the other hand, an organization is
not educational if its principal function is the mere presentation of unsupported opinion.
While there is no per se rule that boycotts vitiate exempt status, the Service has considered
the lack of “economic boycotts, reprisals, or picketing” as important in upholding exemption for
In Re Peoples Prize, T.C. Memo 2004-12, 87 T.C.M. 813 (2004) (citations omitted).
GCM 34631, at 4 (Oct. 04, 1971).
non-educational organizations devoted to social causes. 35 For educational organizations, the
concept of an academic boycott (putting aside the national origin and religious aspects) is even
more contrary to the purpose of an educational exemption.
ASA’s academic boycott does not fulfill ASA’s exempt purpose in that it is not
instructional to individuals in improving or developing their capabilities or instruction of the
public. The holding of seminars or other instructional events would not require the cutting off of
relations with other academics.
The act of academic boycott, as distinct from expressions of opinion or providing education
on the subject of the Middle East dispute, is a uniquely anti-educational act.
An academic boycott, if implemented as required by the Boycott Call, PACBI and
USACBI guidelines restricts collaboration between U.S. and Israeli academic institutions and
therefore stifles academic freedom and weakens relations among persons and institutions. That
is what ASA has committed itself to in the Resolution. Even taking ASA’s own guidelines into
account, the academic boycott cuts off much of the Israeli academic world from interaction with
ASA, and encourages members to honor the boycott as well.
ASA’s boycott also is not in furtherance of ASA’s educational exempt purpose of
promoting the study of American civilization and culture. By cutting off Israeli academic
institutions and faculty from the ASA, the ASA is not promoting the study of American
civilization and culture, but rather, making such study more difficult.
In addition, ASA’s discriminatory boycott of only Israeli academic institutions is not
reasonably related to the accomplishment of its educational purpose of promoting the study of
Rev. Rul. 68-438, 1968-2 C.B. 209 (An organization formed and operated to lessen racial and religious prejudice in
housing and public accommodations by disseminating the results of its investigations and research and does not
engage in economic boycotts, reprisals, or picketing is exempt under section 501(c)(3)); Rev. Rul. 72-228, 172-1
C.B. 148 (An organization formed to promote equal rights for women by investigating instances of discrimination in
American civilization and culture. The singling out of Israel is a political act, but it is not an
“educational” act as defined in the Code and Regulations.
The anti-educational nature of ASA’s academic boycott is reflected in the condemnation
of the ASA boycott as anti-educational and anti-academic freedom by the leading non-partisan
American Council on Education
The American Council on Education (“ACE”) is “the nation’s most visible and influential
higher education association.” 36 ACE represents over 1700 mostly higher education institutional
members. ACE has termed academic boycotts in general, and anti-Israel boycotts such as that
passed by ASA specifically, as contrary to educational purposes: 37 ACE President Molly Corbett
Broad’s Statement on Boycotts of Israeli Academic Institutions:
In recent weeks, several scholarly associations have voted on formal motions to boycott
activities involving faculty and staff at Israeli academic institutions. Such actions are
misguided and greatly troubling, as they strike at the heart of academic freedom—a
central tenet of the teaching, research and service that takes place every day at colleges
and universities worldwide. This is why the American Council on Education has
consistently opposed such boycotts throughout its nearly 100-year history.
Many of these same scholars would decry efforts by trustees, governors or state legislators
to infringe on faculty teaching and research activities at their own institutions, and yet
these boycotts involve more sweeping repercussions, impeding global academic
relationships and the constructive exchange of ideas among countries and cultures. One
could easily see such boycotts moving to other countries and scholarly pursuits, which
would only lead to a further erosion of academic freedom and free thought in a world that
is so desperate for it.
We hope the leadership of these organizations soon reconsiders their actions and trust that
other scholarly organizations will see the troubling implications of such boycotts and
avoid similar votes.
employment and does not engage in economic boycotts, reprisals, or picketing, is exempt under section 501(c)(3)).
Association of American Universities
The Association of American Universities (“AAU”) 38 is the leading university
association comprising over 60 public university systems and major individual private
universities. The AAU issued the following statement 39 in response to the ASA boycott:
The Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities strongly opposes a
boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Three U.S. scholarly organizations have now
expressed support for such a boycott. Any such boycott of academic institutions directly
violates academic freedom, which is a fundamental principle of AAU universities and of
American higher education in general.
Academic freedom is the freedom of university faculty responsibly to produce and
disseminate knowledge through research, teaching, and service, without undue constraint.
It is a principle that should not be abridged by political considerations. American colleges
and universities, as well as like institutions elsewhere, must stand as the first line of
defense against attacks on academic freedom.
Efforts to address political issues, or to address restrictions on academic freedom, should
not themselves infringe upon academic freedom. Restrictions imposed on the ability of
scholars of any particular country to work with their fellow academics in other countries,
participate in meetings and organizations, or otherwise carry out their scholarly activities
violate academic freedom. The boycott of Israeli academic institutions therefore clearly
violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars
who might be pressured to comply with it. We urge American scholars and scholars
around the world who believe in academic freedom to oppose this and other such
William C. Powers, President, The University of Texas at Austin – Chair
Amy Gutmann, President, University of Pennsylvania – Vice Chair
Scott S. Cowen, President, Tulane University – Past Chair
Richard H. Brodhead, President, Duke University
Michael V. Drake, Chancellor, University of California, Irvine
Bernadette Gray-Little, The University of Kansas
Mark A. Nordenberg, Chancellor, University of Pittsburgh
Morton O. Schapiro, President, Northwestern University
Lou Anna K. Simon, President, Michigan State University
David Skorton, President, Cornell University
Hunter R. Rawlings III, President, Association of American Universities – ex-officio
Association of Public and Land Grant Universities
http://www.aaup.org/report/academic-boycotts also available at
The Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (“APLU”)
is a research, policy, and advocacy organization representing 219 public research
universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and related organizations.
Founded in 1887, APLU is the nation's oldest higher education association with member
institutions in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories. 40
The APLU has issued the following statement 41 opposing the ASA boycott:
APLU Statement in Opposition to Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions
January 2, 2014—The Executive Committee and the President of the Association of Public
and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today issued the following statement on the recent
call by some scholarly associations for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
The Executive Committee and President of the Association of Public and Land-grant
Universities (APLU) strongly oppose the boycott of Israeli academic institutions
supported by certain U.S. scholarly organizations.
The core mission of the academic community is to create and disseminate knowledge
through research, teaching and service. Freedom of inquiry and expression are the
foundational principles of this vital work, and free exchange of ideas is its lifeblood. This
boycott wrongly limits the ability of American and Israeli academic institutions and their
faculty members to exchange ideas and collaborate on critical projects that advance
humanity, develop new technologies, and improve health and well-being across the globe.
Members of the academic community certainly have the right to express their views, but
the call for a boycott in this case is severely misguided and wrongheaded. We urge others
to express their opposition as well.
Randy Woodson, Chancellor, North Carolina State University, APLU Board Chair
Sally Mason, President, University of Iowa, APLU Board Immediate Past Chair
Jim Clements, President, Clemson University, APLU Board Chair-Elect
Bernadette Gray-Little, Chancellor, University of Kansas, APLU Council of Presidents
Teresa Sullivan, President, University of Virginia, APLU Council of Presidents Secretary
Peter McPherson, President, APLU
American Association of University Professors
The American Association of University Professors (“AAUP”) 42 has been a leader in
protecting academic freedom for close to a century. 43 In 2005, in response to the rise of the
anti-Israel academic boycott movement in Great Britain, AAUP issued a statement 44 rejecting
academic boycotts as an inherent threat to educational value and academic freedom:
… since its founding in 1915, the AAUP has been committed to preserving and advancing
the free exchange of ideas among academics irrespective of governmental policies and
however unpalatable those policies may be viewed. We reject proposals that curtail the
freedom of teachers and researchers to engage in work with academic colleagues, and we
reaffirm the paramount importance of the freest possible international movement of
scholars and ideas.
In 2006, a committee of the AAUP reiterated its position against academic boycotts, 45
and made the following recommendations, among others:
1. In view of the Association’s long-standing commitment to the free exchange of ideas,
we oppose academic boycotts.
2. On the same grounds, we recommend that other academic associations oppose
academic boycotts. We urge that they seek alternative means, less inimical to the principle
of academic freedom, to pursue their concerns.
3. We especially oppose selective academic boycotts that entail an ideological litmus test.
We understand that such selective boycotts may be intended to preserve academic
exchange with those more open to the views of boycott proponents, but we cannot endorse
the use of political or religious views as a test of eligibility for participation in the
5. Consistent with our long-standing principles and practice, we consider other forms of
protest, such as the adoption of resolutions of condemnation by higher education
groups intended to publicize documented threats to or violations of academic freedom at
offending institutions, to be entirely appropriate…..
8. We understand that threats to or infringements of academic freedom may occasionally
seem so dire as to require compromising basic precepts of academic freedom, but we resist
the argument that extraordinary circumstances should be the basis for limiting our
fundamental commitment to the free exchange of ideas and their free expression.
In May 2013, after a small academic association passed the first an anti-Israel boycott
resolution by a U.S. academic organization, 46 AAUP once again came out against academic
http://www.aaup.org/file/On-Academic-Boycotts.pdf Exhibit O, attached hereto.
See note 44 and Exhibit O, attached hereto.
The Association for Asian American Studies resolution was passed at a forum held at its annual meeting, not by a
No scholar should be required to participate in any academic activity that violates his or
her own principles. In addition, faculty members have to right to organize for or against
economic boycotts, divestment, or other forms of sanction. However, an organized
academic boycott is a different matter and we are disappointed by the resolution of the
Association for Asian American Studies and would instead urge that organization and its
members to find other means to register their opposition to Israeli policies.
When the ASA boycott resolution was approved by the ASA National Council and put
to a membership vote, AAUP again opposed the academic boycott and issued an Open Letter 48
which reads, in part:
The AAUP, as an organization, neither supports nor opposes Israeli government or Palestinian
policies, although many of our members certainly have strong beliefs on one side or the other.
As the principal and oldest organization of American college and university faculty defending
academic freedom, we understand that we do not have the organizational capacity to monitor
academic freedom at institutions in other countries, nor are we in a position to pick and choose
which countries we, as an organization, might judge. However, the AAUP does stand in
opposition to academic boycotts as a matter of principle….
In light of these principles the AAUP recognizes the right of individual scholars to act in
accordance with their own personal consciences. No scholar should be required to participate
in any academic activity that violates his or her own principles. In addition, faculty members
have the right to organize for or against economic boycotts, divestment, or other forms of
sanction. However, an organized academic boycott is a different matter. In seeking to punish
alleged violations of academic freedom elsewhere, such boycotts threaten the academic
freedom of American scholars to engage the broadest variety of viewpoints.
Individual Universities and Colleges
As of this this filing, over 100 49 individual university and college presidents have
denounced the ASA academic boycott as a grave threat to the free exchange of ideas necessary
for higher education.
Here is just a sample of the many dozens of statements issues by university presidents
vote open to the full membership. The resolution is available here:
df. The National Council of an even smaller group, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association has
come out in support of the boycott but no membership vote has taken place yet. http://naisa.org/node/719
http://aaup.org/news/aaup-statement-academic-boycotts Exhibit P, attached hereto.
http://www.aaup.org/file/OpenLettertoASA.pdf Exhibit Q, attached hereto.
List of Universities rejecting academic boycott of Israel, http://legalinsurrection.com/2013/12/list-of-universities-
and provosts, all of which are available online. 50
Harvard University 51
Office of the President:
Academic boycotts subvert the academic freedoms and values necessary to the free flow
of ideas, which is the lifeblood of the worldwide community of scholars. The recent
resolution of the ASA proposing to boycott Israeli universities represents a direct threat to
these ideals, ideals which universities and scholarly associations should be dedicated to
New York University 52
To the Executive Committee of the American Studies Association:
We write on behalf of New York University to express our disappointment, disagreement,
and opposition to the boycott advocated by your organization of Israeli academics and
This boycott is at heart a disavowal of the free exchange of ideas and the free association
of scholars that undergird academic freedom; as such, it is antithetical to the values and
tenets of institutions of advanced learning.
We urge your organization to overturn this boycott.
University of California (System)
UC President Janet Napolitano made the following statement about the American Studies
Association’s vote for an academic boycott of Israel:
The University of California prides itself on a rich tradition of free speech and diversity of
thought. Universities depend on the unrestrained exchange of ideas, and it is our role to
defend academic freedom and our scholars’ ability to pursue research of their choice. An
University statements rejecting academic boycott of Israel, http://legalinsurrection.com/2013/12/indiana-wash-u-st-
academic boycott goes against the spirit of the University of California, which has long
championed open dialogue and collaboration with international scholars.
As a Jesuit university, Fordham has always been devoted to the pursuit of wisdom and
learning, a pursuit that is dependent upon and advanced by spirited, principled debate
between and among scholars. Therefore, although the University certainly recognizes and
reveres the freedom of conscience of the individual scholars who comprise its faculty, it
stands resolutely in opposition to the call for the boycott of Israeli universities recently
advocated by the members of the American Studies Association. We believe that boycotts
of this kind seriously undermine and hinder the efforts of any intellectual community to
fulfill its mission in the service of wisdom and learning.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J.
Lafayette College 53
Our mission statement begins, “In an environment that fosters the free exchange of ideas,
Lafayette College seeks to nurture the inquiring mind.” I am proud that the principle of
academic freedom is central to our institutional ethos. I believe that any form of academic
boycott is contrary to that ethos. An economic boycott expresses opposition by
withholding financial support. Such boycotts can be effective by putting a price tag on
important values. Restraining the free exchange of ideas, however, and treating
intellectual discourse as a commodity, cheapens the value of those ideas.
Rice University highly values the free exchange of ideas and points of view, and we fully
support the statement of the Association of American Universities (AAU), of which Rice
is a member. The open exchange of ideas, especially those with which we may disagree, is
essential to an academic institution and the learning experience. A critical part of our role
is enabling scholars from all backgrounds and countries to collaborate, exchange ideas and
explore controversies. For this reason, we do not support the boycott of Israeli academic
institutions, and we condemn the attempts of some American academic organizations to
organize and support such boycotts. As the AAU noted, the principle of academic freedom
should not be compromised by political agendas or differences. We cannot advocate that
scholars anywhere be deprived of the academic freedom that we so strongly encourage on
our own campus.
David W. Leebron
President of Rice University
Swarthmore College 54
Statement from President Rebecca Chopp on ASA Resolution
December 28, 2013
Academic freedom is the most cherished of all principles within the academy and the
foundation stone of what makes the academy invaluable in a democratic society. I strongly
oppose the recent resolution of the ASA proposing to boycott Israeli universities, which
represents a direct threat to that freedom.
Barnard College 55
Barnard College President Debora Spar issued the following statement on December 29,
As President of Barnard, I stand with the Executive Committee of the Association of
American Universities in my strong opposition to a boycott of Israeli academic
institutions. All scholars have the right to speak out against issues or policies with which
they disagree, but academic boycotts pose a threat to the intellectual exchange and open
debate that sit at the very core of our educational mission. I would urge fellow scholars
and their affiliated academic associations to seek alternative forms of protest that do not
jeopardize academia’s crucial role as a marketplace for independent thinking and
Florida Atlantic University 56
We support academic freedom and the freedoms of speech and association it entails, and
we reject the boycott passed by the American Studies Association in the strongest terms.
Their decision contradicts the very foundation of higher education in our society—to serve
as a place where the civil exchange of ideas is fostered. We call on the American Studies
Association to rescind their disturbing decision immediately.
* * *
These denunciations of the ASA academic boycott are important not just because they
show that ASA has engaged in an unpopular view. As the Service has held, 57 mere expression
of an unpopular view is not ground for tax exemption revocation.
Rather, an academic boycott is an act that is anti-educational, that seeks to deprive
everyone, not just those boycotted, of the interaction among scholars that the higher educational
community considers essential to education and the protection of academic freedom.
ASA’s academic boycott, and its damaging effects on education, cannot be viewed in
isolation. ASA subjects academic institutions and faculty from no other nation to restrictions or
litmus tests. The current President of ASA justified singling out Israel because “one has to start
While it is unlikely that ASA itself will boycott any nation other than Israel given the
nature of the BDS movement, 59 the justifications offered by the ASA President would justify
academic boycotts against many nations.
Despite the massive U.S. aid to Egypt, and restrictions on academic freedoms there,
Egyptian universities are not boycotted. So too, Chinese universities are not boycotted despite the
occupation of Tibet and restrictions on academic and other freedoms. Turkish universities are not
boycotted even though Turkey occupies northern Cyprus and represses Kurdish nationalism. 60
Universities in Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, where there is explicit discrimination against
non-Muslims and women, are not boycotted. An official from an Iranian university will be
welcomed by ASA, but an official from an Israeli university will be boycotted.
Certainly academic boycotts would not stop at water’s edge if the anti-Israel boycotters were
intellectually consistent. Given intense and routine academic complaints of institutionalized racism
and violation of indigenous rights in the United States, the wide involvement of U.S. universities in
defense research, and various fences, walls and other border barriers, surely the anti-Israel
Rev. Rul. 80-278, 1980-2 C.B. 175.
Alan Dershowitz, Boycotting Israeli universities: A victory for bigotry, http://www haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-
Turkey also is building a tall wall to keep out Syrians, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-builds-new-wall-
along-syria-border.aspx?pageID=238&nID=60427&NewsCatID=341. The Israeli separation barrier built after a
relentless suicide bombing campaign, is a frequent complaint of the BDS movement and part of the alleged
justification for boycotts.
boycotters would have to support a boycott of their own universities and themselves. And so too,
the anti-Israel academic boycotters would have to support foreign boycotts of American universities
for the same reason.
Now you can understand why the leadership of American academia is so strongly
against academic boycotts and views such efforts as anti-educational. If academic boycotts start
with Israel, where do they stop?
As AAUP points out, there are other truly educational means of expressing disagreement
with the policies of a foreign government, and as the President of Lafayette College pointed out,
an academic boycott is unlike an economic boycott in the quality of the act.
As Henry Richman, chair of AAUP's Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, wrote
in opposition to the academic boycott, ASA has engaged in condemnations of governmental
policy in the past, falling far short of an academic boycott: 61
In 2006 the ASA adopted a resolution condemning the U.S. invasion of Iraq, noting
among other things that the invasion "threaten[ed] academic freedom" (whether in Iraq,
the U.S., or both is unclear). Were I an ASA member I would surely have supported that
resolution. Yet the ASA did not even consider an academic boycott of American
universities in response to the American occupation of Iraq as they do now in response to
the less murderous Israeli occupation of Palestine. Well, some might say, they can't really
advocate a boycott of themselves, can they?
If ASA wanted to express disapproval or somehow educate the public, there were many ways to
do so consistent with its exempt purpose, but an anti-educational academic boycott that puts all of
academia under threat was not one of those ways.
The fact that ASA has generated a lot of attention from the academic boycott does not
make the act of boycott educational. On July 31, 2002, a bomb planted by Hamas blew up in
the cafeteria of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, one of the institutions boycotted by ASA,
Against Academic Boycotts, http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2013/12/12/essay-criticizing-concept-academic-
killing seven people including five Americans. 62 That bombing generated a lot of attention for
the Palestinian cause, but it was not educational. So too ASA’s act of destroying academic
freedom through an academic boycott may generate publicity, but it is not an educational act.
The resolution of whether the academic boycott is educational also does not turn on the
anti-Israeli hostility of those members of ASA who pursued and passed the resolution. The
issue as to tax exempt status would be the same if ASA implemented an academic boycott of
academic institutions and faculty in Arab countries as an expression of support for Israel.
Many of the university Presidents and non-partisan associations have gone out of their
way to point out that they take no sides in the Middle East dispute, but view academic boycotts
as inherently destructive to the educational process. The consensus is overwhelming
throughout non-partisan higher education leadership, as demonstrated above. 63
We urge the Service to put great weight on this non-partisan consensus, which is
completely consistent with the term “educational” as used in the Code and Regulations.
“Palestinian civil society” cannot override the Code and Regulations, or the consensus of
American civil society as to what promotes education.
The gravity of threat posed by the ASA academic boycott to education itself should
guide the Service in finding that the act of engaging in the academic boycott by ASA is not
“educational” under the Code and Regulations.
There also is no doubt that the academic boycott is a significant act of ASA. The
boycott will require monitoring and implementation by ASA. More important, the academic
boycott has come to define ASA for the academic community.
There are, of course, individuals hostile to Israel who believe that ASA has a right to boycott Israel to put pressure
on the government. Whether ASA has that “right” is irrelevant, since the issue here is only whether the boycott is
Whether other forms of boycott in other contexts by organizations with other exempt
purposes passes muster is not something the Service need resolve on this complaint. The issue
here is very specific to an exempt “educational” organization exercising an academic boycott.
F. ASA BOYCOTT ALSO IS DISCRIMINATORY AND CONTRARY TO PUBLIC
In addition to not being “educational,” the ASA boycott is discriminatory and contrary to
The Supreme Court and the Service have consistently held that under the principles of
charitable trust law, the purpose or activities of a charitable or educational organization may not be
illegal or contrary to public policy. 64 This doctrine was famously applied in Bob Jones University
v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983), where the Court ruled that the University’s policies,
though legal, discriminated on the basis of race and therefore violated public policy. Therefore,
revocation of the University’s §501(c)(3) tax-exempt status was warranted under the public
Section 501(c)(3) therefore must be analyzed and construed within the framework of the
Internal Revenue Code and against the background of the Congressional purposes. Such
an examination reveals unmistakable evidence that, underlying all relevant parts of the
Code, is the intent that entitlement to tax exemption depends on meeting certain common
law standards of charity—namely, that an institution seeking tax exempt status must serve
a public purpose and not be contrary to established public policy. (461 U.S. at 586)
As detailed above, ASA’s academic boycott violates a clear public policy against such
boycotts as widely accepted in the academic community.
In addition, ASA’s boycott explicitly discriminates on the basis of national origin. As 70
ASA members, including eight Past Presidents, wrote in opposition to the academic boycott
“educational” for exempt purposes.
See, e.g., Rev. Rul. 80-278; Rev. Rul. 71-447, 1971-2 C.B. 230; Rev. Rul. 75-384, 1975-2 C.B. 204; General
Counsel Memorandum 34631; and General Counsel Memorandum 38415.
(emphasis added): 65
A fundamental principle of academia is academic freedom; the belief that scholars must be
free to pursue ideas without being targeted for repression, discipline, or institutional
censorship. The adoption of an academic boycott against Israel and Israelis would do
violence to this bedrock principle. Scholars would be punished not because of what they
believe – which would be bad enough – but simply because of who they are based on their
In no other context does the ASA discriminate on the basis of national origin – and
for good reason. This is discrimination pure and simple. Worse, it is also
discrimination that inevitably diminishes the pursuit of knowledge, by discarding
knowledge simply because it is produced by a certain group of people….
The President and Provost of the University of Maryland, in addition to objecting to the
anti-educational nature of the boycott, noted the discriminatory basis (emphasis added): 66
…. In the United States, we can disagree with the governmental policies of a nation
without sanctioning the universities of that nation, or the American universities that
collaborate with them. To restrict the free flow of people and ideas with some
universities because of their national identity is unwise, unnecessary, and
irreconcilable with our core academic values.
The President of Wesleyan University similarly noted that the national origin discrimination made
this boycott particularly pernicious: 67
But the boycott is a repugnant attack on academic freedom, declaring academic
institutions off-limits because of their national affiliation.
The President of Franklin & Marshall College also wrote about how damaging “national
affiliation” academic boycotts are (emphasis added): 68
Franklin & Marshall College rejects the call of the American Studies Association for a
boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Boycotting colleges and universities based on
national affiliation or alleged government transgressions arbitrarily and unfairly
penalizes students and faculty. It limits academic freedom, scholarly inquiry and
scientific research, cross-cultural discourse, political discussion, the growth of
knowledge, and the free exchange of ideas in every field.
Although ostensibly discriminating only on the basis of Israeli national origin, there can be
little doubt based on the history of the BDS movement that the ASA boycott is based on and will
discriminate on the basis of the Jewish religion, as it relates to Israeli academics. (See discussion
above in Section B. Anti-Semitic Roots of Modern Boycott Movement.)
The Service cannot ignore that the ASA boycott is a direct descendant of the anti-Semitic
Durban NGO forum and an indirect descendant of the anti-Semitic Arab boycotts of Jews dating
back to before the creation of the State of Israel.
Indeed, the elimination of the Jewish national identity of Israel is part of the mission of
USACBI and PACBI, upon which ASA based its Resolution and as to which ASA relies for a
determination of when the academic boycott ends:
These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation
to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully
complies with the precepts of international law by:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their
homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.” 69
Based on the history, political purpose and terms of the Boycott Call as implemented by the BDS
movement and the USACBI and PACBI guidelines, to which ASA has committed itself by
Resolution, there is a distinctly anti-Jewish aspect of the boycott.
The singling out of Israeli academic institutions and faculty for boycott is, as both former
Harvard President Lawrence Summers 70 and the President of Loyola University Maryland 71 have
pointed out, anti-Semitic in effect if not in intent. That is not surprising given the direct roots of the
academic boycott in the anti-Semitic Durban NGO forum.
http://www.usacbi.org/mission-statement/ Exhibit R, attached hereto.
Lawrence Summers: Academic boycott of Israel is “anti-Semitism in effect”,
University statements rejecting academic boycott of Israel, http://legalinsurrection.com/2013/12/indiana-wash-u-st-
There is a clear public policy against religious discrimination in public life, since the
earliest days of our nation. 72
In operation, the boycott must reflect this religious bias, in addition to a national origin
component. Given the nature of the boycott and its source in hostility to the Jewish majority
presence in Israel, it is unlikely in practice that ASA would refuse to deal with non-Jewish Israeli
Arab academics who otherwise would be covered by the boycott.
New York Human Rights Law, §296(13) prohibits boycotts based on national origin:
It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice (i) for any person to discriminate against,
boycott or blacklist, or to refuse to buy from, sell to or trade with, any person, because of
the race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status or sex of such
person, or of such person's partners, members, stockholders, directors, officers, managers,
superintendents, agents, employees, business associates, suppliers or customers, or (ii) for
any person wilfully to do any act or refrain from doing any act which enables any such
person to take such action. This subdivision shall not apply to: (a) Boycotts connected
with labor disputes; or (b) Boycotts to protest unlawful discriminatory practices.
The ASA boycott does not fall under the exception for protests against “unlawful
discriminatory practices” because it applies uniformly to all Israeli academic institutions and
faculty. It is this broad national origin discrimination which the law was intended to prevent. The
provision in the NY Human Rights law quoted above was a direct response to the Arab League
boycott of Israel. 73
Although one of the objectives behind the enactment of section 296 (subd. 13) of the
Executive Law was to curb the discriminatory business practices of corporations which
resulted from the pressures of foreign governments, including the Arab boycott of Jewish
businesses and individuals …. its broad language prohibiting discrimination in a wide
range of commercial activity is not confined to boycotts imposed by foreign countries. In
fact, as then Governor Carey observed in his memorandum of approval, the legislation
was intended to “affirm * * * that no nation or person is welcome to do business in this
George Washington’s Letter to The Touro Synagogue, Newport, RI, 1790: “May the children of the Stock of
Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one
shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
Mehtani v. NY Life Ins. Co., 145 A.D.2d 90, 94, 537 N.Y.S.2d 800, 803 (1st Dept. 1989).
state, if that business is accompanied by religious or racial bigotry” (1975 McKinney's
Session Laws, p. 1765 [emphasis supplied] ). 74
California has a similar statute, Cal.Civ.Code § 51.5, which provides in pertinent part:
(a) No business establishment of any kind whatsoever shall discriminate against, boycott
or blacklist, or refuse to buy from, contract with, sell to, or trade with any person in this
state on account of any characteristic listed or defined in subdivision (b) or (e) of Section
51, or of the person's partners, members, stockholders, directors, officers, managers,
superintendents, agents, employees, business associates, suppliers, or customers, because
the person is perceived to have one or more of those characteristics, or because the person
is associated with a person who has, or is perceived to have, any of those characteristics.
(b) As used in this section, “person” includes any person, firm, association, organization,
partnership, business trust, corporation, limited liability company, or company.
ASA does business in New York and California, has numerous members in in such states; and its
current President is based in California and its President-Elect is based in New York.
The Service need not find that ASA violates a specific law in order to find that the anti-
Israel boycott is against public policy. The public policy against discrimination on the basis of
national origin or religion is our national policy, across many areas of public policy, including but
not limited to, employment law. 75
For example, NY Executive Law §96(4) provides in part, for example (emphasis added):
4. It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for an education corporation or
association which holds itself out to the public to be non-sectarian and exempt from
taxation pursuant to the provisions of article four of the real property tax law to deny the
use of its facilities to any person otherwise qualified, or to permit the harassment of any
student or applicant, by reason of his race, color, religion, disability, national origin,
sexual orientation, military status, sex, age or marital status, except that any such
institution which establishes or maintains a policy of educating persons of one sex
exclusively may admit students of only one sex.
Moreover, U.S. anti-boycott laws prohibit U.S. persons, including U.S. non-profit
organizations, from participating in boycotts that are unsanctioned by the United States. These
Holly v. Pennysaver Corp., 98 A.D.2d 570, 471 N.Y.S.2d 611 N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept.,1984 (citations omitted).
U.S. State Anti-Discrimination Law, http://www.thelawfareproject.org/us-state-anti-discrimination-law html; see
also, e.g., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/titlevii.cfm
rules are set forth in the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”) issued under the Export
Administration Act, as amended, and the Ribicoff Amendment to the 1976 Tax Reform Act
(“TRA”). 76 The U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Antiboycott Compliance (“OAC”)
provides the following background on the purpose and objectives of the U.S anti-boycott laws:
To encourage, and in specified cases, require U.S. firms to refuse to participate in
foreign boycotts that the United States does not sanction. They have the effect of
preventing U.S. firms from being used to implement foreign policies of other
nations which run counter to U.S. policy. The Arab League boycott of Israel is the
principal foreign economic boycott that U.S. companies must be concerned with
today. The antiboycott laws, however, apply to all boycotts imposed by foreign
countries that are unsanctioned by the United States. 77
The Export Administration Act defines boycotts as: refusing, or requiring any other person
to refuse, to do business with or in the boycotted country, with any business concern organized
under the laws of the boycotted country, with any national or resident of the boycotted country, or
with any other person, pursuant to an agreement with, a requirement of, or a request from or on
behalf of the boycotting country. 78 Numerous state anti-boycott laws mirror the federal statute. 79
Under the principles of charitable trust law, the purpose or activities of a charitable or
educational organization may not be illegal or contrary to public policy. 80 Boycotts of Israeli
academic institutions are unsanctioned by the United States. 81
There is an argument that ASA is not violating the federal and state anti-boycott laws
because it is not responding to a country-sponsored boycott call. The Service need not resolve that
issue on this complaint, because regardless of whether ASA is violating the federal and state anti-
Export Administration Regulations (currently codified at 15 C.F.R. Parts 730 - 774 (2013) issued under the
authority of the Export Administration Act of 1979, as amended (50 U.S.C. §§ 2401-2420 (2000)) and 26 U.S.C. §
Section 2407(a)(1)(A) of the Export Administration Act of 1979 (PL 96-72 of September 29, 1979) as amended.
U.S. State Anti-Discrimination Law, http://www.thelawfareproject.org/us-state-anti-discrimination-law html.
See supra note 64.
See U.S. Relations with Israel Fact Sheet, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Department of State, November 28,
2012 viewed at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3581.htm
boycott laws, it is violating the clear public policy against such international boycotts directed at
Israel. The violation of the public policy in itself is enough to warrant revocation of ASA’s tax
ASA’s boycott is in direct conflict with fundamental U.S. public policy that prohibits tax-
exempt educational organizations from engaging in discriminatory activities or otherwise violating
public policy. As a result, ASA is no longer “organized and operated exclusively for charitable
purposes” and does not serve a public purpose as required under §501(c)(3) and revocation of
§501(c)(3) tax-exempt status is warranted.
ASA’s boycott of Israel is (1) not in furtherance of ASA’s educational exempt purpose;
(2) contrary to U.S. public policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of national origin or
religion; and (3) contrary to U.S. public policy against international boycotts singling out Israel.
As a result, ASA is no longer “organized and operated exclusively for charitable or
educational purposes” and does not primarily serve a public purpose as required under §501(c)(3).
Accordingly, we respectfully request the Service to investigate this matter and make a
determination that ASA’s boycott of Israeli academic institutions and faculty adversely impacts its
§501(c)(3) tax-exempt status and that revocation of its §501(c)(3) tax-exempt status is required
under the law.