Dec. 1, 2015
In many cases, educational associations that shun Israel may be sued for violating their charters.
The American Anthropological Association (AAA) voted on Nov. 20 to boycott Israel, though the resolution—which would prohibit Israeli academic institutions from any involvement in the organization, such as participation in conferences and hiring events—must still be approved by the group’s full membership in coming months. Ten days later the National Women’s Studies Association voted to call for a boycott of “entities and projects sponsored by the state of Israel.” Boycott votes are also scheduled at the annual meetings of the American Historical Association (AHA) and the Modern Language Association.
The moral myopia and academic perversity of these boycotts have been widely discussed. Less well understood is that in many cases they also are illegal. Under corporate law, an organization, including a nonprofit, can do only what is permitted under the purposes specified in its charter.
Boycott resolutions that are beyond the powers of an organization are void, and individual members can sue to have a court declare them invalid. The individuals serving on the boards of these organizations may be liable for damages.