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Antisemitism Finds a Home With the American Branch of the International Law Association

It is dangerous when antisemites use the imprimatur and gravitas of once-respectable institutions to mainstream hate and lies.
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October 20, 2022
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The prominent American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA) has apparently been hijacked by the advocates of modern antisemitism. Sadly, illustrious New York law firms, the New York Bar Association, and Fordham Law School are among their unwitting enablers.

From October 20 to October 22, 2022 the ILA’s American Branch will hold its annual meeting in New York City. This year, the program includes a panel dedicated to the demonstrable lie that the Jewish state is racist, guilty of the crime against humanity of apartheid, and therefore deserving of criminal prosecution and economic ruin.

For the past month, the online program described the annual meeting on “Racism and the Crime of Apartheid in International Law” this way: “Today, in contexts across the world, from Myanmar’s abuses of Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State, to the Israeli authorities’ systematic oppression of Palestinians, to the Chinese government’s actions in Xinxiang against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, human rights organizations, UN bodies, experts, and scholars have concluded that the crime of apartheid is being committed with impunity.” In just one paragraph, the authors did their very best to casually lump Israel in with some of the worst human rights abusers in the world.

According to the official program, the Opening Plenary and Reception is taking place at the New York City Bar Association. The Centennial Gala is hosted by the law firm of White & Case LLP, the Opening Reception by Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, and the panel itself by Fordham Law School. The panel’s list of participants is a who’s who of Israel-bashing advocates and nobody from the other side. This stands in marked contrast to the promise of the ILA to exemplify a “diverse and inclusive community of individuals working or interested in international law,” the promise of legal practitioners to hear and evaluate all sides fairly, and the promise of the legal academy to ensure students and faculty are educated, not brainwashed.

Brainwashed they will be, however. The panel includes a UN official, E. Tendayi Achiume who charges Israel with vaguely defined international crimes at every chance she gets—sometimes working with an Israeli-designated terrorist organization to do so. Her UN anti-racism mission has a well-documented blind spot when it comes to advocating for racial and ethnic justice for Jews, and in 2021 Achiume herself signed a wildly antisemitic letter expressing outrage that UCLA dared to condemn antisemitic attacks in the United States (during a massive uptick of such incidents) without also condemning “Jewish supremacists” in Israel.

The panel also includes an academic, Victor Kattan, who claims that only the non-existent State of Palestine has sovereign title over Jerusalem, and has encouraged the Palestinians to file claims against the United States at the International Criminal Court for daring to move the U.S. Embassy to Israel’s capital city. But the highlight is probably Omar Shakir, an NGO activist and extremistwho has publicly supported and defended murderous terrorists and antisemites. For years he advocated and worked for the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and then, when Israel revoked his work visa for engaging in boycott activities, lied and claimed that he had not done so. Since then, he has worked hard to mainstream the thoroughly debunked Human Rights Watch report that denied Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state, dismissed its security concerns, and accused Israel of apartheid.

Lest you be concerned that a neutral moderator might ask these folks some hard-hitting questions for the benefit of those watching who may not know better, rest assured that the rabid anti-Israel spell will not be broken. The moderator is Mai el Sadany, a human rights attorney who, among other things, has demanded that the NY Bar Association rescind an invitation to Dani Dayan, the former Consul General of Israel in New York, falsely accusing him of racism, apartheid and other criminal activity. She has also accused the United States of collaborating with Israel to cover up human rights violations.

Lest you be concerned that a neutral moderator might ask these folks some hard-hitting questions for the benefit of those watching who may not know better, rest assured that the rabid anti-Israel spell will not be broken.

For the record, because facts matter, apartheid involves an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups committed with the intention of maintaining that regime. Israeli Arabs enjoy full equal rights, and hold positions in the highest levels of every branch of government. Israel does distinguish between citizens and non-citizens, as does every country, but that has nothing to do with race, which is why when Amnesty International made the same claim of apartheid a few months back, they had to literally invent a new definition that was not based on race in order to play a game of antisemitic double standard “gotcha” with the Jewish state.

It is dangerous when antisemites use the imprimatur and gravitas of once-respectable institutions to mainstream hate and lies. This is particularly so in a perilous environment of rising antisemitic hated and the inextricable bond between accusing Israel of apartheid and antisemitism. We let these claims go unchallenged at our peril because study after study has shown that this kind of inflammatory, discriminatory, antisemitic, anti-Zionist rhetoric is actually dangerous, and leads directly to the kinds of antisemitic attacks against innocent Jewish people and institutions that we are seeing around the world.

Late last week, the law firms in question and Fordham Law School began to receive inquiries about why they would host and celebrate such a gathering. In response, the ABILA did two things: First, the program description in the online brochure was reworded so it did not explicitly accuse Israel of international crimes. Second, they added an additional speaker, ostensibly to bring balance to the panel. The speaker they added, however, Mia Swart, is an Al Jazeera reporter who has done fawning interviews with Omar Shakir “calling out Israeli apartheid,” and just last week tweeted in support of another event in which the leader of an Israeli-designated terror organization gave a talk on “Apartheid and Israel’s Assault on Palestinian Civil Society.” So much for offering a different perspective.

These changes were clearly made so that the hosts could have plausible deniability. They don’t have it. They know exactly what is going on—at their expense, and at the expense of all the attendees who deserve better.


Dr. Mark Goldfeder, Esq. is an international lawyer and Director of the National Jewish Advocacy Center.

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