University

“The hostile-environment issue is the one to watch; the Jewish community’s traditional commitment to freedom of expression will be under challenge”

One approach to fighting BDS, advocated especially by those who dramatically overstate the problem, is through anti-BDS legislation, and there is a momentum building in that direction.

Such legislation is a complicated matter, and falls into two categories. An example on the federal level was a provision in the 2013 trade bill, which provided that, in negotiations on trade with European Union countries, the EU resist boycotts of Israel. Legislation in the states is varied. An Illinois bill, for example, would prohibit investing pension funds in companies that boycott Israel. Other bills would cut off funding to schools that engage in academic boycotts. National Jewish groups, faced with the question of schools losing their funding if they engage in criticism of Israel, have mostly stayed out of this fray.

The larger legal question on campus, yet to be addressed, is whether BDS will create an environment hostile to Jews. This is a federal Title VI question. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in federally funded institutions, and almost every university in the land falls under this rubric. Legal analysts predict that there will be a spate of Title VI lawsuits. The hostile-environment issue is the one to watch; the Jewish community’s traditional commitment to freedom of expression will be under challenge.

Jerome A. Chanes, “BDS: The Legal Fights To Come”, The Jewish Week (21 August 2015), 40.