Sunday, March 29, 2015

  • Sunday, March 29, 2015
  • Elder of Ziyon
EoZ reader Karin received another email from the Virginia State Bar in response to many complaints about their sudden decision to cancel a meeting in Israel:

March 29, 2015

Dear Fellow Members of the Virginia State Bar,

On Friday March 27th, we canceled the Virginia State Bar's planned Midyear Legal Seminar trip to Israel. The decision was based primarily on a U.S. State Department advisory:

http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/israel.html, "Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements." We were forced to conclude there were potential difficulties some of our VSB members might face in obtaining entry to Israel. Additionally, we were well short of the required number of confirmed attendees necessary for the trip to proceed.

President-elect Edward L. Weiner, chair of the Midyear Legal Seminar Committee, communicated with the Israeli Embassy. An embassy official expressed a desire to facilitate the trip but acknowledged that security protocols are strict and could lead to exclusion or restriction of some VSB members.

In the face of this information, we felt it necessary and appropriate to forego this trip. This was not a political decision and is not a "boycott." We are an inclusive organization and do not discriminate against any religion.

Unfortunately, some mischaracterized this decision as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, even going so far as to mislabel it as a "boycott." Although the message was sent over the president's signature, we jointly drafted and approved what was sent Friday night. Apparently we could have done a better job of explaining the situation and decision. We are writing now to provide further clarity.

Our decision was not based on any political factors or influences. We understand that Israel is in a difficult position when it comes to security. We are not expressing opinions regarding Israel's border security measures. We are merely recognizing the reality that our very large and diverse membership, consisting of well over 40,000 members, includes individuals who may encounter lengthy examination and possible rejection in attempting to navigate the immigration security procedures in Israel.

You may recall that on March 25, 2015, we sent a message urging VSB members to sign up for both the Israel trip and the Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach. We very much wanted the Israel trip to be a success and were trying to reach the required number of participants for it to be a go. We deeply regret that a combination of circumstances led to the trip's cancellation, and we also regret that our good faith efforts and decisions may have been misinterpreted and misunderstood.

We remain committed to the core objectives of the VSB: public protection, access to justice and improvement of the legal profession. Thank you for reading and thank you for allowing us the privilege of serving.

Kevin E. Martingayle, President
Edward L. Weiner, President-elect & Chair, Midyear Legal Seminar Committee
Part of that US advisory that they used as proof that travel to Israel is too risky, while it emphasizes potential violence, also says "Although threat mitigation efforts by authorities are not 100 percent effective, hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Israel and the West Bank each year for study, tourism, and business." It also says "Personal safety conditions in major metropolitan areas, including Tel Aviv and Haifa and surrounding regions, are comparable to other major global cities."

As far as the chances that individual VA State Bar members might be barred from entry into Israel, I'd love to know the specifics of the phone conversation where "An embassy official expressed a desire to facilitate the trip but acknowledged that security protocols are strict and could lead to exclusion or restriction of some VSB members."

Guess what? US airlines have a terror watch list, whose security protocols are also strict and could lead to exclusion or restriction of some VSB members!

In other words, it is important to know exactly what the question was that was asked, and the exact answer. There are scores of professional conferences in Israel every year where not a single attendee has a problem entering the country. The VSB knows this, and this letter is obfuscating the information.

Israel does limit or deny access specifically to the West Bank for Americans who hold Palestinian IDs. I am not sure what the restrictions are, if any, for them going into pre-1967 Israel.

I have never heard of any other organization suddenly cancel a planned event because of a last minute discovery of possible Israeli restrictions on some potential visitors, issues that can almost certainly be cleared up in advance.

The fact that they sent out a letter on March 25 urging people to go on the trip and then another letter only two days later canceling it  supposedly because of not enough people signing up sounds ridiculous.

This is very, very fishy, and the letter does not seem to be on the level.

See also Legal Insurrection for lots more.



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