ASU Sued Over 'No Boycott of Israel' Clause in Speaker Agreement

Pro-Palestinians activists demonstrate at a boycott, divestment, sanctions Israel protest
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March 6, 2018

Arizona State University has been hit with a federal lawsuit alleging it has violated its constitutional free speech promise by requiring an invited speaker to affirm his opposition to the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement.

The complaint was filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on behalf of Hatem Bazian, founder of American Muslims for Palestine and Students for Justice in Palestine, leading anti-Israel campus organizers in North America.

Bazian, a senior lecturer at the University of California-Berkeley, alleged that he was asked to sign a speaker agreement with a "no boycott of Israel" clause when he was invited by the ASU Muslim Students Association to give an April 3 presentation on BDS.

Bazian, touted as a leader of the BDS movement in the suit, "cannot in good faith certify or state" that he does not boycott Israel, reads the complaint.

The no boycott contract was issued in compliance with a 2016 Arizona state law mandating that public entities not contract with those who apply BDS to Israel.

More than a dozen states have passed similar laws, and the American Civil Liberties Union has filed multiple federal lawsuits claiming the legislation violates BDS activists' freedom of expression.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has described the anti-BDS statute as an expansion of the existing state prohibition on discrimination based on national origin.

ASU spokesperson Bret Hovell told a local news outlet the conflict with Bazian is a "misunderstanding."

The no boycott certification did not apply to Bazian given that he was invited by the MSA students, not the university, according to Hovell.

"It was a simple mistake that the ASU form containing the certification was used,'' Hovell told the Arizona Daily Sun.

CAIR senior attorney Gadeir Abbas rejected ASU's explanation as disingenuous.

"There's no misunderstanding," Abbas said in a written statement to the Washington Free Beacon, adding, "ASU's response reflects their desire to avoid defending an obviously illegal law. I empathize with their predicament, though we find objectionable ASU's attempt to obfuscate the real issue here: Arizona's anti-free speech law."

Abbas maintained that the speaker contract with the anti-BDS clause was created by the university and disseminated to student groups to issue to invited guests such as Bazian.

Hovell did not respond to the Free Beacon's request for comment.

Bazian has recently been facing calls for his removal from Berkeley following revelations of multiple anti-Semitic posts he published on social media, including a meme depicting orthodox Jews as murderous.

Published under: Israel