Note: This article has been updated to incorporate the American Studies Association's response. The American Studies Association is facing a challenge of its tax-exempt status in the wake of a vote by the membership to endorse the boycott of Israeli universities. William A. Jacobson, a clinical professor of law at Cornell University and author of the conservative Legal Insurrection blog, wrote late yesterday that his lawyers had filed a whistle-blower complaint with the Internal Revenue Service charging that the boycott is not consistent with ASA’s purpose as a tax-exempt educational organization: “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,” the complaint states.
In a statement released by the ASA on Tuesday, Liz Jackson, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, dismissed the challenge as "yet another instance of baseless legal bullying meant to harass and intimidate critics of Israeli policies."
More than 100 university presidents have issued statements opposing the boycott resolution, as have major higher education organizations including the American Association of University Professors, the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. The legal challenge may be yet another deterrent to scholarly organizations that consider following in the ASA’s footsteps, as, if nothing else, it could compel the association to incur legal costs.