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Opinion

Cornell law professor challenges academic group's tax-exempt status over Israel boycott

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Education,Israel,Charles Hoskinson,Nonprofits,Higher Education

American Studies Association members who voted on Dec. 16 to boycott Israeli academics probably didn't expect that decision to boomerang so painfully against them.

It has already brought uncomfortable scrutiny to how far the ASA has strayed from its academic mission and become a home for tenured radicals to vent their political grievances under the guise of "scholarship."

As a result, universities across the country are distancing themselves, not just from the boycott, but from the ASA itself.

Now William A. Jacobson, a Cornell University law professor who writes a blog called Legal Insurrection, has filed a whistleblower complaint with the IRS seeking to have the agency revoke the ASA's tax-exempt status.

Jacobson argues that the boycott is not consistent with the ASA's status as a tax-exempt educational institution and violates public policies against discrimination based on national origin and participation in boycotts that single out Israel.

"As a result, ASA is no longer 'organized and operated exclusively for charitable or educational purposes' and does not primarily serve a public purpose as required under §501(c)(3)," Jacobson noted in his complaint.

The organization's membership, meanwhile, has withdrawn deeper into a left-wing fantasy world where "academic freedom" is limited to the freedom to study the United States as an empire, as Yale University professor Matthew Frye Jacobson (no relation to William Jacobson) declared at the group's annual meeting in 2012.

A petition posted Tuesday and tweeted by the ASA asks Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie, who withdrew his university's membership in the ASA, to make a donation to the group as compensation for "this procedurally flawed withholding of resources."

My suggestion to ASA members: Don't hold your breath waiting for him to comply. Since the boycott took effect, there are many more people who are discovering they can live without the organization — and certainly without having to subsidize it with an undeserved tax exemption.

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