Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

For Immediate Release

Contact

Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, (212) 614-6449, jnessel@ccrjustice.org

Press Release

Lawsuit Dismissed Against American Studies Association, Steven Salaita, others for Israel Boycott

WASHINGTON -

Last night, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed against Dr. Steven Salaita over the American Studies Association’s (ASA) resolution to endorse the call to boycott Israeli academic institutions as part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The entire lawsuit against the ASA and other individuals was dismissed as well. Dr. Salaita, who is represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, joined the board of the ASA after the boycott decision was made, but was nonetheless added as a defendant to a lawsuit filed by four ASA members. He is an outspoken advocate of Palestinian rights who was unlawfully fired from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for tweets criticizing Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza.

“I'm thrilled that this baseless case has been dismissed. It served no purpose other than persecuting those who dare to criticize Israeli policy and seek to end the occupation through peaceful means,” said Dr. Salaita. “Our victory further illustrates that it's important to stand firm against attempts to silence those devoted to the cause of justice.”

The case was filed in April 2016, claiming that the resolution to endorse the boycott of Israeli academic institutions violated the ASA’s by-laws and the ASA officers breached their fiduciary duties. In March 2018, plaintiffs amended their complaint to add several new defendants, including Dr. Steven Salaita, who did not join the ASA board until two years after the vote. The Center for Constitutional Rights moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the plaintiffs had failed to establish jurisdiction over Dr. Salaita and failed to state any claims against him. Dr. Salaita was clearly sued for his advocacy around boycotting Israel, which is protected by the First Amendment. Last night, the judge found the plaintiffs had failed to show they suffered injury sufficient to be in federal court, and that they lacked standing to sue on behalf of the ASA.

“These desperate lawsuits brought to silence advocates of Palestinian rights are not only losers—they’re helping to grow the movement by making even clearer who’s on the wrong side of history, who is the aggressor, who is unreasonable, and who wants to silence debate,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Deputy Legal Director Maria LaHood.  “Freedom, justice and equality have always been on the right side of history.”

This lawsuit is part of a broader nationwide phenomenon suppressing speech critical of the state of Israel and in support of Palestinian rights. Advocates have documented censorship efforts on college campuses, against public libraries, and at other institutions, targeting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which seeks to withdraw economic and social support for human rights violations by the state of Israel. Advocates for Palestinian human rights have lost jobs and incomes, been punished, and faced harassment for their advocacy.

For more information, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case page.

The Center for Constitutional Rights also represents former board members of the Olympia Food Co-op who were sued over the co-op’s boycott of Israeli goods. That case was dismissed last year because plaintiffs failed to show that the co-op suffered any injury. See Davis v. Cox

###

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CCR is committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

Peace Advocates Sound Warnings as Progressive Lawmakers Go All-In for $40 Billion Ukraine War Package

"Russia's invasion of Ukraine must be condemned," says one activist. "But the administration has been telegraphing for weeks that its war aims now go well beyond defending Ukraine."

Brett Wilkins ·


Oklahoma Lawmakers Pass Strictest US Abortion Ban While Roe Still Stands

Reproductive rights supporters vowed to fight against the ban that begins at fertilization and, like legislation in Texas, "creates a bounty-hunting scheme" for enforcement.

Jessica Corbett ·


Judy Blume, Mo Willems Among 1,300 Children's Authors to Condemn 'Wave of Book Suppression'

"Reading stories that reflect the diversity of our world builds empathy and respect for everyone's humanity."

Kenny Stancil ·


Now Do Windfall Tax, Say Climate Groups After Passage of Big Oil Price Gouging Bill

"Voters will reward politicians who stand up for people, not polluters," said one campaigner, "and taxing windfall profits is wildly popular in every part of the country."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ocasio-Cortez: Maloney Should Quit DCCC Post If He Runs Against Mondaire Jones

"It's completely inappropriate" for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney to be in charge of the House Democrats' campaign arm "if he's going to challenge another member," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo