Below is a complete transcript of my speech at the United Nations, where I addressed the BDS movement’s mounting attacks against the State of Israel across the globe—and why it’s crucial that we stand with our ally. Watch the complete address above.
It’s a pleasure and an honor to be with you. You saw the video, you saw what goes on in the campuses…
Mr. Ambassador, Your Excellency, Justice Rubinstein, Justice Amin, Ambassador Lauder, friends: what you saw in that video, taking place on America’s college campuses, is unacceptable.
It is unacceptable. It is unacceptable in a country governed by a constitution. It is unacceptable as a matter of law.
I’m before you today, and it’s a humbling experience for me. My grandfather, Schmulik Sekulow, traveled from Russia in 1914 aboard a boat that took him past the Statue of Liberty. He was a fruit peddler in Brooklyn, New York.
His grandson—me—I get to argue cases at the Supreme Court of the United States, at international tribunals, and now appear before you. It is humbling.
But the task that we have before us is great, and we have no time for delay. In one of my very first Supreme Court arguments, one of the legal journals said I was rude, aggressive, and obnoxious.
That's what my mother did, too. She applauded at that. We won that case unanimously. In 2009, we opened our permanent office in Jerusalem. One year later, I found myself before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The ICC. The Palestinian Authority, much like the BDS movement of today, sought to utilize an international tribunal for one purpose and one purpose only—delegitimize the Jewish State of Israel.
I argued the law, and the law was clear: the Palestinian Authority was not a state, and it had no business being before the ICC. And the case must be dismissed.
Two years later that law was established, and the court did dismiss that action. That’s a victory, but the fact of the matter is BDS is the flip side of that same coin. We call it lawfare – utilizing the legal system to delegitimize a people or a group.
Now, this is an ongoing battle at the ACLJ. Along with our partner organizations, we put forward a four-part strategy:
First, expose the true nature of the BDS movement for what it is, and make no mistake about it—it is not a civil rights movement. It is a movement with one aim and one aim only. It is a long-term project created by anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activists that is designed with one purpose: to delegitimize and destroy the State of Israel. To delegitimize the Jewish people. To delegitimize those non-Jewish people that stand with Israel.
This is the agenda. They cloak it in the garb of the civil rights movement. This is no civil rights movement; this is an unconstitutional and illegal advocacy taking place in the United State of America. Make no mistake, the goal is unambiguous. The intent is clear. It is to create an environment so hostile that those students of you that are here today would be afraid to say the words, “I am a Zionist. I am Jew.”
Never, never, on the memory of our families, should we allow that to take place in the least in the United States of America.
In the past year, ACLJ lawyers have briefed 30 state legislators on passing laws specifically to protect students, businesses, and others from this Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction scheme. We believe that this year we will see that legislation passed in a number of states.
I want to talk about the legal issues. You know, I make my living practicing law. I have represented a variety of groups around the globe. We have offices in Strasbourg, France, Jerusalem, two in Africa, in Moscow. But in the United States of America, we are seeing right now a marked upswing on college campuses and universities, this targeted BDS.
And it comes in multiple forms. It is sometimes aimed at a student, who merely speaks out—exercises his or her free speech right. One of those students, from Loyola University, is with us today. She’s brave. She’s a hero. She stood up for her people and she did it in her college, and she was the one brought up on charges.
Now hear me: she exercised free speech rights, was non-disruptive, was being harassed by the BDS proponents of Loyola University in Chicago. She spoke out for her rights, and she was being prosecuted by the college. That student, Talia Neiman, is here today. I'd like her to stand up please for a moment.
We had the privilege and honor to work with her, to put the College—the University—on notice that you better read your own rules. You better read your own regulations. You better read your own accrediting agencies’ principles because it does not allow targeted discrimination because someone is Jewish or pro-Israel. And that fact, by the way, got Loyola to back down. That’s some good news.
But let me take it a step further: it is not just students. There are professors. We are handling a number of those right now. Some of those professors are Israeli, most of them are Americans. Most of them—but not all of them—are Jewish. They have stood up for their rights as well.
I'd like to recognize another professor that we successfully represented who stood for his principles, spoke out on behalf of the State of Israel, was going to be sanctioned, is no
longer being sanctioned. Professor Andrew Pessin is here as well. I’d like Professor…
He's in the back. Thank you, Professor, for taking the stand you did.
The American Sociological Association decided to have a meeting at the Westin Hotel in California in Los Angeles. They decided, however, that because of their support of Palestinian civil society, they would boycott Israeli academic institutions, the ASA said. But they were meeting at the Bonaventure Hotel. Hotels are places of public accommodation—places of public accommodation don't host groups that harass or discriminate against someone because of their faith, who they are, or what they believe.
The ASA was being aggressive. So was I. And the end result of that was that the event took place, and—as the ASA did not want to acknowledge, but did acknowledge—with Israeli academic participation.
But it doesn't stop there. The United Auto Workers local college union, representing 4,000 graduate students, the University of California student workers union, passed a BDS action. We went directly to the United Auto Workers Union, reminding them that they are now violating state and federal law, as is their chapter, because discrimination on the basis of national origin, or race, or religion, is a violation.
Not only did we notify the United Auto Workers, their local student workers union, but also the entire University of California system, whose Chancellor sent out an email immediately. The Provost said, reminding all University Chancellors, that the policy on course content at the UC system prohibits exactly what the UAW 2865 did. One year after 2865, one year after that labor union passed that resolution, the entire United Auto Workers passed their own resolution and nullified that BDS boycott. In its decision, the United Auto Workers representative stated that the local chapter had overstepped its parameters, that the resolution would harm UAW represented workers and other unions, and the provisions of the resolution—despite semantical claims to the contrary by the local union—can easily be construed as academic and cultural discrimination.
Here you have the United Auto Workers recognizing a chapter representing 4,000 individuals was violating the laws of the United States, and that union’s own issues.
I told you it’s not just Jewish students and Jewish professors. We represent Milan Chatterjee. He’s from India, he’s Hindu. He stood up against a move by those…he’s also the President of the Government Graduate Student Association. The Social Justice for Palestine organization demanded money for funding an event. The GSA’s policy was, we don’t—either side—they don’t fund the events, they’re not in that business. He was harassed, he was threatened, he received a letter co-signed by the Palestinian Legal Defense Group, and the Social Justice for Palestine.
They also received a letter from the American Center for Law and Justice, from Stand With Us, from the Brandeis Center, from the Lawfare Project, from the World Jewish Congress, from the Zionist Organization of America. And that letter said, Knock it off—you don't get to do that. You don't get to do that in the United States of America.
City University of New York, right here, passes a resolution their Doctoral Student Council, boycotting Israeli academics and institutions. We not only pointed out the federal law and the state law, but also CUNY’s own rules and regulations. Again folks, they wanted to utilize the law in a delegitimate way to delegitimize the State of Israel.
We’re using the law to support and defend the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Fundamental difference is the law is actually on our side.
On May 10, the Chancellor—President Milliken—responded to us in saying, Do not worry—they have no teeth and no authority to implement their resolution. CUNY has every intention to continue its long-standing practice of exchanges with international universities, including those in Israel.
Folks, friends, there’s a website that our coalition partners put together. EndBDS.com. For the students that are here: as you can tell, you’re not alone. Between us and our partners, there are hundreds, I will say thousands, of lawyers here in the United States and around the globe willing to defend—desiring to defend—winning these cases if we fight back.
You know, I said we win these cases when we fight back. The truth is, we must win—we have no other option. This is our time and this is our moment.
On behalf of the American Center for Law and Justice, I would like to present to
the Ambassador…I gave it to him earlier but I wanted those in the assembly to see it… The signatures of over 110,000 people from 100 countries and territories around the world.
I will read this letter:
On behalf of more than 110,000—that, by the way, as of this morning is a 120,000 people—from over 100 nations and territories around the world have signed our petition “Defend Israel from anti-Israel Attacks Across the Globe.” The American Center for Law and Justice presents these signatures to you, Ambassador, on behalf of our organization to the people of Israel. But also to you, students, concerned citizens, and distinguished guests.
We said in our letter Israel’s under constant deadly terrorist attacks. Jewish students, professors, and Christians who support—and people of other faiths—who support Israel face vicious discrimination. We are fighting back, and we're fighting back with 110—120,000 other people.
Let me close with this: You can’t see these, I don’t think you can see my cufflinks. Three things I’m wearing of significance for me today. This was my watch my grandmother gave me for my bar mitzvah in 1969. This is the ring Schmulik Sekulow got when he became a US citizen. These cufflinks have in them shells, mortar, and rocket pieces fired from Gaza, because when Operation Cast Lead took place and we knew there was going to be actions at the ICC, I went with my son—who is also one of our senior lawyers, and a number of others of our team—to the front line.
That rocket landed about 75 feet from my son. Fortunately, he was not harmed. But we took pieces of that. Those rocket mortars are with me today as a constant reminder we’re in a struggle for life and death. It is a struggle we will win. We have no option.
Thank you very much.
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