(JTA) – The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC) and B’nai B’rith International condemned the Virginia State Bar for canceling its legal seminar in Jerusalem. “It’s a reprehensible decision,” the JCRC’s executive director, Ron Halber, told the Washington Jewish Week on Monday. “It’s based on politics. It’s not based on logic. And it contravenes the spirit and the will of Virginia and the people of Virginia and its leadership. It is a disastrous decision.”
In a letter sent to members late Friday night, March 13, Kevin Martingayle, president of the Virginia State Bar, said that the Midyear Legal Seminar trip to Jerusalem scheduled for November would be changed to another venue due to “unacceptable discriminatory policies and practices pertaining to border security.”
In a statement released on Monday, March 23, the JCRC called on the bar to “immediately release all documents related to this decision.” The JCRC also said that the Bar’s decision “provides comfort and a rallying cry for supporters of the BDS movement.” B’nai B’rith called the decision “highly regrettable” and urged the agency to reconsider, adding that the “situation plays into the hands of the malicious Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.” “Israel’s entry and exit procedures, while certainly strict, are entirely necessary in light of the country’s onerous security predicament,” B’nai B’rith also wrote.
A change.org petition signed by 39 bar members had called on the state bar agency to cancel the trip, objecting to Israel’s “discriminatory entry and exit policies for U.S. citizens, particularly against visiting Arab- and Muslim-Americans.” The petition was closed after the decision to cancel the trip.