JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Virginia State Bar canceled its plans to hold a legal seminar in Jerusalem, citing “unacceptable discriminatory policies and practices pertaining to border security.”
The Midyear Legal Seminar trip to Jerusalem had been scheduled for November, according to the state agency’s website. The agency is looking into other venues.
In a letter sent late Friday night, Kevin Martingayle, president of the Virginia State Bar, wrote, “Upon review of U.S. State Department advisories and other research, and after consultation with our leaders, it has been determined that there is enough legitimate concern to warrant cancellation of the Israel trip and exploration of alternative locations.”
Martingayle told the Washington Times that the trip was canceled due to concerns that “many of its members” would not be let in to Israel.
The concerns appear to stem from a change.org petition by the Concerned Members of the Virginia State Bar, which said, “It is without question that Israel employs discriminatory entry and exit policies for U.S. citizens, particularly against visiting Arab- and Muslim-Americans.
The petition also said, “As members of the VSB, we have taken an oath to uphold our profession’s highest ideals. At the core of these ideals is the belief that no person or group should be subjected to differential treatment on the basis of their immutable characteristics. The location of this year’s Seminar, however, strikes at the heart of our profession’s ideals.”
The petition was closed after the decision to cancel the trip. It had 39 signatures.
David Bernstein, the George Mason University Foundation professor at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Va., wrote in the Washington Post, “If the Virginia State Bar is in effect boycotting Israel, I, and I suspect many others, will henceforth be boycotting the State Bar, in my case beyond what is necessary to assist my students, which is my professional obligation. I would hope that no Virginia attorneys who are supporters of Israel will attend whatever alternative venue the State Bar settles on.”
Bernstein also pointed out that the American Bar Association has in recent years held two meetings in Israel, and that Virginia has a state agency called the Virginia Israel Advisory Board “that proactively serves as the bridge and facilitator between Israeli companies and the Commonwealth of Virginia.”