Five weeks ago, Virginia legislators unanimously passed a resolution reaffirming the friendship between the United States and Israel.
But on Friday, the Virginia State Bar made the decision to cancel its upcoming seminar in Jerusalem, citing anti-Israel BDS rhetoric as the deciding factor.
B'nai B'rith International was quick to rebuke the state bar in a statement released on Monday. JBS (formerly ShalomTV) carried the statement as part of their coverage in Tuesday's News Update (2:45 mark).
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and B’nai B’rith International condemned the Virginia State Bar for canceling its legal seminar in Jerusalem.
“In the face of this information, we felt it necessary and appropriate to forego this trip,” they wrote. “This was not a political decision and is not a ‘boycott.’ We are an inclusive organization and do not discriminate against any religion.”
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.
The Virginia State Bar is experiencing a teachable moment about Middle East politics.
The bar’s decision to cancel a planned November trip to Israel as part of its mission to further legal education of its members has provided the state agency with several painful lessons about planning a trip to the turbulent region.
The spectacle is particularly dismaying to Tommy P. Baer, a Henrico County immigration attorney who served as president of B’nai B’rith International. “For this to happen almost needlessly, it’s just very unfortunate,” he said Tuesday.
While Baer said he “would like to believe” the bar’s explanation, he is concerned that the body that registers, supports, and polices all attorneys licensed to practice law in Virginia would “wittingly or unwittingly play into the hands” of a movement that seeks punitive economic measures against Israel at a tense time in the country’s relationship with the United States.
“The bar has placed itself in that position,” he said.