Virginia State Bar Israel trip cancellation FOIA news


Professor Jacobson over at Legal Insurrection has received the documents he FOIAed to shed light on the Virginia State Bar's sudden decision to cancel a planned meeting in Israel. He reveals what he's learned, and what he still wants to know, in this post.

The information is still incomplete, by my read at this point is that top state bar officials panicked when they received a phone call from a reporter about a petition signed by around thirty bar members objecting to the meeting in Israel on grounds of Israel's allegedly "discriminatory" security policies for visitors, and then the petition itself.

Bar president Kevin Martingayle seems to have been particularly exercised by the fact that Americans with dual Palestinian nationality might face some restrictions on entering Israel, something that bar president-elect Edward L. Weiner has focused on in interviews. These restrictions, as I have pointed out, are a result of Israel's agreement with the Palestinian Authority that PA citizens, including dual citizens, must enter Israel via Jordan, not Tel Aviv, if they are to enter PA territory during their trip. This gives the PA and not just Israel a say on which Palestinians get to travel to the West Bank, thereby enhancing the PA's authority. It has nothing to do with "discrimination," except perhaps on the PA's part.

But given that Martingayle and other officials made the decision in less than twenty-four hours, with a mysterious role apparently played by the Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, there was no time to examine such subtleties, or even to consult with relevant bar committees. And Martingayle made matters worse by later making foolish comments to the media, such as suggesting that he had to cancel the trip to be true to the "equal-protection provisions of the U.S. and Virginia constitutions."

Martingayle seemed to believe he was shortcircuiting a potential controversy by pulling the plug on the trip. Instead he created an international incident that is by no means over.

UPDATE: I initially referred to the State Bar as the state Bar Association, which is a different organization. Please forgive the error.