Bill Howell responds to Va State Bar’s boycott of Israel

Scales of justiceBy Lynn R. Mitchell

News of the Virginia State Bar’s cancellation of a trip to Israel for its Midyear Legal Seminar quickly spread through social media on Saturday, a decision that appeared to come as a surprise to many within that very group who had received the news through an email.

On Sunday Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell sent a letter to Kevin Martingayle, president of the Virginia State Bar (see text of letter here):

Dear Mr. Martingayle:

I was surprised to receive your e-mail Saturday regarding the cancellation of the State Bar’s upcoming trip to Israel for the Midyear Legal Seminar. I write to you both as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia State Bar to express my deep disappointment in this decision and strongly urge you to reconsider.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has a strong and longstanding relationship with the State of Israel and its people that has been formalized as the policy of the Commonwealth on several different occasions. In 1986 Governor Gerald Baliles created the Virginia Israel Commission. In 1996 the General Assembly created the Virginia Israel Advisory Board to further the economic and cultural links between the Commonwealth and Israel. In 2008 Governor Tim Kaine signed a memoranda of understanding with Israel. Most recently, the General Assembly adopted a resolution in support of Israel, renewing the Commonwealth’s longstanding commitment to our ally.

We also share deep cultural and economic ties with Israel. There are over 95,000 Jewish people living in the Commonwealth. Virginia sent over $75 million in exports to Israel in 2014. The Virginia Israel Advisory Board works tirelessly to further these ties.

The State Bar’s decision to cancel this upcoming trip is inconsistent with the policy of the Commonwealth and sends the wrong signal about our relationship with Israel. I feel that it is very important that every agency of the Commonwealth take steps to demonstrate our commitment to Israel and its people. This decision does the opposite.

I strongly urge the Bar to reconsider this decision.

William J. Howell

Martingayle’s original email is here (see Virginia State Bar boycotts Israel).
UPDATE: David Bernstein has more at the Washington Post (The ongoing saga of the Virginia State Bar and Israel: It’s time for the bar president and president-elect to apologize) with a link to this post.
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2 thoughts on “Bill Howell responds to Va State Bar’s boycott of Israel

  1. Dave Webster says:

    Good for speaker Howell. I am also a member of the Virginia State Bar and am outraged by this decision. The chance that any members of the Virginia State Bar would be refused admittance to Israel is zero. Thus the purported reason for the boycott is false.

  2. Craig Davis says:

    First of all, there is and has been no boycott. Secondly, unless you are on the Bar’s membership committee, I am uncertain as to how you know with such certainty that no one would be rejected. Is it possible that your “outrage” may be allowing your to make an assumption without having the necessary facts. Moreover, if you read the follow up statement released by Kevin Martingayle and president-elect Ed Weiner, then you saw that the explanation wasn’t limited to the threat of members being denied admittance but was also based on (1) the terms of a State Dept. travel advisory, (2) a lack of registered attendees from the membership (can I assume based on your outrage that you were one of the registrants?), and (3) security protocols – verified with the Israeli Embassy – that confirmed members could be subjected to lengthy examinations.

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