Blow to BDS: Progressive law group forced to refrain from anti-Israel bias

The advocacy group said the settlement could have a sizeable impact on the viability of BDS activity in America more broadly.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

A New York-based legal advocacy group said Thursday it garnered a “significant legal victory” when the self-described progressive National Lawyers Guild (NLG) agreed to settle out of court over a lawsuit that charged it with anti-Israel bias.

“The settlement, signed on Tuesday, commits the National Lawyers Guild to refraining from discriminating against Israelis,” the Lawfare Project tweeted, calling it a “great victory.”

Lawyer David Abrams of the Zionist Advocacy Center filed a lawsuit in 2016 after the NLG refused to publish an advertisement Abrams submitted on behalf of a client in Israel.

The small ad was to go in the booklet for the NLG annual dinner, but the Guild refused, saying “we have a resolution barring us from accepting funds from Israeli organizations.”

The NLG termed Abrams’ client, Bibliotechnical Athenaeum, located in the town of Elazar south of Jerusalem, a “shadowy company located inside an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.”

In the lawsuit, Abrams said the NLG violated the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law by rejecting his plaintiff’s advertisement on discriminatory grounds and sought up to $100,000 in damages.

An angry press release from the NLG called Abrams an “anti-Palestinian activist and serial litigant,” but stated that “as part of the settlement, NLG will clarify and reaffirm its policy opposing all forms of discrimination and circulate it to members.”

The group also agreed to post the Bibliotechnical Athenaeum ad in its next dinner journal, but said “the new ad will not include the name of Gush Etzion – or any illegal settlement – nor make any claims that such settlements are part of Israel.”

No monetary details of the settlement were released, but the Lawfare Project said it was a warning to other groups that support the anti-Israel Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement and try to boycott Israel.

“This case underscores the potential consequences awaiting those who violate civil and human rights law by illegally discriminating against Israelis, and deters future discrimination based on national origin, citizenship, religion and all other protected classes,” the Lawfare Project’s Director of Research Benjamin Ryberg said on the group’s Facebook page.

The advocacy group said the settlement could have a sizeable impact on the viability of BDS activity in America more broadly, given the acceptance by NLG in the settlement that discrimination on the basis of national origin violates anti-discrimination laws.

In representing the Israeli company, the Lawfare Project argued that New York State’s Human Rights Law, specifically its anti-boycott provision, prohibits BDS-motivated commercial discrimination, and the case eventually made its way to the New York State Supreme Court.