Robert J. Tolchin, a New York-based civil rights lawyer who in 2012 helped a Florida family win a landmark $323 million judgment from Iran and Syria over those countries’ involvement in a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, said he may file legal action against the New Israel Fund (NIF) if the organization fails to confirm that it does not fund boycotts against Israel.
In a letter dated March 12 that was obtained by JNS.org, Tolchin wrote on behalf of The Berkman Law Office, LLC to NIF President Rabbi Brian Lurie, “This letter is a warning that the New Israel Fund should under no circumstances support, publicly or privately, any boycott or similar effort against the Israeli government or the nation’s organizations, academic institutions, corporations or other entities. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement’s efforts are unlawful racial discrimination on the basis of national origin and/or race, creed and religion under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (‘Anti-Racism Convention’) and numerous U.S. state and federal statutes.”
Tolchin’s full letter can be read here.
While the NIF publicly states that it opposes the BDS movement, the organization has come under fire over its funding of anti-Israel and BDS-linked groups such as B’Tselem, Adalah, Shovrim Shtika (Breaking the Silence), Yesh Din, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights, Machsom Watch, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.
“Participants in the BDS movement act with the clear purpose and actual effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise on an equal footing of the human rights and/or fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural fields of those persons and organizations whom they seek to boycott, divest from and sanction,” Tolchin wrote. “A boycott is not protected by the freedom-of-speech language of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because a boycott is not speech, it is action.”
Tolchin urged the NIF “to take no steps to engage in, support or implement any boycott against Israeli agencies, organizations, institutions, academics or any other entities,” and asked the organization to provide The Berkman Law Office with written confirmation of its intention not to fund BDS activities.
“Please also take careful note that in the event of your failure to comply with the above, we reserve the right to take all steps permitted by law to ensure that New Israel Fund is not engaged in funding, promoting or inciting boycotts of the State of Israel or Israeli-based entities, including without limitation filing legal action without further notice,” he wrote.
Some pro-Israel activists have been campaigning for the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York to ban the NIF from the May 31 “Celebrate Israel Parade” in Manhattan, citing NIF’s funding of anti-Israel groups.