Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)

Profile

Country/TerritoryUnited States
Websiteccrjustice.org
Founded1966 “by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South.”
In their own wordsA “non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.” Claims to use “litigation proactively to advance the law in a positive direction…to guarantee the rights of those with the fewest protections and least access to legal resources, to train the next generation of constitutional and human rights attorneys, and to strengthen the broader movement for constitutional and human rights.”

Funding

  • In FY 2018-2019, total income was $10.9 million; total expenses were $10.4 million.
  • In 2016-2018, CCR received $1 million from the Ford Foundation.
  • According to its FY 2015 990 form, CCR received contributions from the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, the Bertha Foundation, the Kaphan Foundation, the Libra Foundation, and the Tides Foundation. (See table below for further funding information.)

Activities

  • Active in lawfare suits against Israel and Israeli officials (including Avi Dichter and Moshe Ya’alon); promotes anti-Israel BDS campaigns; urges the U.S. government to stop providing military aid to Israel; presents an entirely biased and distorted view of the conflict and utilizes highly politicized rhetoric, accusing Israel of  “war crimes,” “crimes against humanity,” and other such allegations.
  • Accuses the U.S of “unqualified U.S. diplomatic, economic, and military support for the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestine and apartheid policies in the region.”
  • In July 2020, CCR supported a call to “suspend military aid to Israel if West Bank annexation goes ahead.” According to CCR Advocacy Director Nadia Ben-Youssef, “the people rise up across this country in protest of systemic anti-Black racism and demand a fundamental reprioritization of public investment — defunding police and investing in community safety and wellbeing — we must also work to ensure U.S. taxpayer funds are not perpetuating gross violations of human rights abroad.”
  • In 2020, CCR represented the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) in a lawsuit brought by the Jewish National Fund against USCPR for allegedly “conspiring to give financial and other means of assistance to terror organizations active in the Gaza Strip.” As of August 3, 2020, the lawsuit is ongoing.
    • USCPR is a national coalition of hundreds of groups working to advocate for Palestinian rights and a shift in US policy and is a leader and mobilizer of anti-Israel BDS campaigns.
  • In 2019, CCR lobbied in support of the discriminatory UN database of businesses operating across the 1949 Armistice line, aimed at bolstering BDS campaigns against Israel.
  • In January 2019, during the violence on the Gaza border, CCR Senior Staff Attorney Katherine Gallagher filed a joint submission to the UN with Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P) and CUNY School of Law Human Rights and Gender Justice Law Clinic, replete with egregiously false statements, gross distortions of the law and the facts, and the whitewashing of terror groups including Hamas. (See here for NGO Monitor’s letter to CUNYLaw.)
  • On May 15, 2018, CCR signed a joint letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, calling for sanctions against Israel. The letter demanded that the State Department “Investigate Israel’s Use of Lethal Force in Gaza” and “halt any further assistance to all Israeli military units involved in these shootings” of Palestinians participating in the violent protests along the Israel-Gaza border.
  • On May 14, 2018, CCR accused Israel of an “ongoing massacre of Palestinians in Gaza” and called for an end to “U.S. complicity in Palestinian oppression.”
  • In April-May, 2018, CCR led a “Justice Delegation” to Israel and the West Bank claiming to provide a “better understand[ing of] the human rights situation in Israel and Palestine.” However, the trip met with Israeli and Palestinian organizations that promote a one-sided Palestinian narrative of the conflict, BDS, lawfare, and antisemitism, and some with alleged ties to terrorism.
    • Two of the trip’s participants, CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren and CCR board chair Katherine Franke, were denied entry visas due to their support for BDS and other political warfare campaigns.
    • On May 14, 2018, the Justice Delegation released a statement accusing Israel of “settler colonialism and ethnic cleansing on Palestinian communities through blatantly obtrusive policies” as well as “structural racism and apartheid.”
    • On June 1, 2018, CCR held an event titled “Palestine Is Everywhere,” where members of the delegation shared their experiences from the trip. The event featured Tamika Mallory, the co-leader of the Women’s March, who when discussing the formation of Israel in 1948 stated, “you don’t show up to somebody’s home, needing a place to stay, and decide that you’re going to throw them out and hurt the people who are on that land. And to kill, steal, and do whatever it is you’re gonna do to take that land! That to me is unfair. It’s a human rights crime” (emphasis added).
      • The event also featured Linda Sarsour, the Executive Director of the Arab American Association and co-chair of the 2017 Women’s March, who stated that “This is apartheid happening in Palestine, funded by our taxpayers’ money.”
  • In February 2018, CCR participated in a panel at Yale University titled “Ferguson to Palestine: Lawyering for Liberation” discussing the “parallels of occupation… the IDF response to movements for Palestinian liberation, the for-profit prison detention of people of color, and systemic apartheid.” The panel also featured Hassan Jabareen, the founder and executive director of Adalah.
  • On November 29, 2017, CCR organized a conference titled “The Criminalization of Home: Organizing to Protect Communities from NYC to Palestine,” examining how “state violence enforces a system of racialized dispossession, whether through eviction, deportation, incarceration, or colonization and ethnic cleansing.” The conference featured Sahar Francis, General Director of Addameer.
  • In August 2016, published an article,  “The Genocide of the Palestinian People: An International Law and Human Rights Perspective,” claiming that “Israel’s prolonged belligerent occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza for 50 years far exceeds the kind of occupation that animated the creation of legal rules of occupation contained in international law. Given the seemingly permanent nature of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, some human rights experts, including Israeli historian Ilan Pappé, have warned of an ‘incremental genocide’ of Palestinians and the ultimate destruction of Palestinians as a national group.”
  • In a January 2015 interview, President Emeritus Michael Ratner alleged: “Israel’s war crimes are so extreme and so open and notorious, both the assaults on Gaza as well as the movement of civilians into occupied territories, that I think there’s a chance that, if they have any legitimacy, the International Criminal Court will have to go forward on opening an investigation on at least some part of those crimes. So I’m not without hope.” In a 2010 blog posting entitled, “From Hebron to Yad Vashem: Jewish Sorrow Justifying the Sorrow of Others,” he condemned Yad Vashem for “trying to make me accept, or at least justify, what was unacceptable: the apartheid state that is today’s Israel. In this narrative, the Holocaust is used to ask us to wash away the sins of the occupier.”
  • In a July 2014 interview, Ratner stated that “today I want to talk about Israel, but particularly its criminality–its war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, and apartheid,” and called Israel’s massacres of Palestinians “incremental genocide.”
  • In 2014, Ratner signed a petition titled “Jews Say: End the War on Gaza — No Aid to Apartheid Israel! BDS!” legitimizing Palestinian resistance stating, “Like any colonial regime, Israel uses resistance to such policies as an excuse to terrorize and collectively punish the indigenous population for its very existence. But scattered rockets, fired from Gaza into land stolen from Palestinians in the first place, are merely a response to this systemic injustice.”
  • Issued a 2014 call for action, urging supporters to “call the White House and send a letter to your representatives to protest the U.S. government’s continued support for Israel during an onslaught that has already killed hundreds of civilians.” The sample letter states: “I am calling to protest US support of the Israeli government, as evidence mounts of war crimes by the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip…The President must condemn the ongoing atrocities by the Israeli military, and the United States government must end all military, economic, and diplomatic support for Israel.”

International Criminal Court (ICC)

  • In April 2020, CCR was a signatory on a letter to the ICC calling for relevant actors to “demonstrate support for the ICC in the face of U.S. and Israeli attacks on the Rome system and international justice” and “cooperate with…any possible investigation into the situation in Palestine.”
  • In April 2020, CCR Senior Staff Attorney Katherine Gallagher participated in a webinar on “Israel-Palestine at the ICC.” The webinar advanced the NGOs’ long-standing campaign to pressure the ICC to open an investigation of Israelis over alleged war crimes.
  • In March 2020, Gallagher submitted an amicus brief to the ICC purporting to represent the interests of 20 “victims” who “have received no remedy and no accountability for the intentional and severe deprivation of their fundamental rights.” The brief went well-beyond the specific question of jurisdiction, with one-third being devoted to alleging, in detail, a variety of crimes “suffered” by the individual victims, as an attempt to emotionally manipulate the Court.
  • In September 2018, CCR sent a letter to ICC Prosecutor Bensouda calling to open an investigation as the “situation in Palestine is rapidly deteriorating and war crimes and crimes against humanity are allegedly frequently committed to entrench Israeli control over Palestinian territory and the Palestinian people” and there is a need to “prosecute and convict perpetrators, including high-level officials of war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
  • In August 2014, CCR, together with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and others, sent a letter to Bensouda, urging her “to initiate an investigation of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity committed by Israeli leaders and aided and abetted by U.S. officials in Gaza.” The letter claims, “By transferring financial assistance, weapons and other military aid to Israel, members of U.S. Congress, President Barak Obama, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have aided and abetted the commission of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity by Israeli officials and commanders in Gaza.”

Anti-Israel Legal Activities

  • In November 2017, CCR endorsed US Congresswoman McCollum’s proposed legislation“to prevent United States tax dollars from supporting the Israeli military’s ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children.” The entirety of the proposed bill is premised on factually inaccurate claims from anti-Israel advocacy NGOs, including direct quotes from Defense for Children International -Palestine’s “No Way to Treat a Child” 2016 report and website.
  • In October 2015, CCR, alongside Palestine Legal, the South Florida Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, and CAIR Florida, sent a letter to Florida State Senators urging them to withdraw a bill that “seeks to stifle this human rights movement by blacklisting companies that decide for ethical reasons to boycott Israel because of its human rights abuses.”
  • In January 2015, CCR announced that it filed a civil rights suit against the University of Illinois for firing tenured professor Steven Salaita after he posted a series of viciously anti-Israel tweets during the 2014 Gaza War. Salaita’s tweets included: “If you’re defending #Israel right now you’re an awful human being”; “Zionists: transforming ‘antisemitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948”; “At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised?” CCR attorney Maria LaHood claimed that “The use of ‘civility’ as cover for violating Professor Salaita’s rights must be challenged… There is neither a ‘civility’ exception nor a ‘Palestine’ exception to the First Amendment.” According to the press release, “The lawsuit seeks Salaita’s reinstatement and monetary relief that includes compensation for the economic hardship and reputational damage he suffered as a result of the University’s actions.”
  • In 2005, CCR joined with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) in promoting the wrongful death suit brought by the parents of International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist Rachel Corrie against the Caterpillar Corporation, alleging it shared responsibility got the accidental death of Corrie in Gaza in 2003. As with CCR’s other cases, the suit was designed to indict Israel for its anti-terror operations.

BDS Activities

  • According to CCR, “Legal bullying will sometimes serve its purpose of intimidating people of conscience into silence, but it ultimately cannot stop the growing BDS movement in support of Palestinian rights. The use of peaceful boycotts in movements for social justice has a rich tradition, including in the United States Civil Rights Movement and in the movement against South African apartheid. Threats to sue people engaging in BDS just confirm how powerful this movement has become.”
  • In 2011-2018, CCR represented former volunteer board members of the Olympia Food Co-op over their decision to boycott Israeli goods due to Israel’s “violations of international law and the denial of Palestinian human rights.”
    • On March 11, 2018, a Washington State court dismissed the case. In response to the dismissal, CCR Rights Deputy Legal Director Maria LaHood stated that it is a “victory for everyone who supports the right to boycott.”
  • In June 2016, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order that barred state business with organizations that have endorsed Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. In response, Baher Azmy, CCR’s legal director, stated, “Cuomo’s action has the ugliest attributes of McCarthyism…identifying organizations that engage in speech we dislike and, ‘Let’s blacklist them.’ This is a well-orchestrated, well-funded, organized strategy to disproportionately punish US-based activists. Really ugly.”
  • In April 2016, Omar Shakir, then a legal fellow for CCR, spoke at the Palestine Center on “BDS: Context and Challenges.”
  • In May 2016, CCR joined a coalition of over 100 groups to send a letter to members of the New York Legislature, “urging lawmakers to oppose bills that would effectively create blacklists of individuals and entities that boycott companies based in Israel or the occupied Palestinian territory.”
  • In 2012, CCR partnered with NLG to launch the “Palestine Solidarity Legal Support initiative.” While the initiative claimed “to protect and advance the constitutional rights of Palestinian rights activists across the U.S.,” it largely sought to promote boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel.

Campus Activities

  • On October 20, 2015, the Harvard Law School-Justice for Palestine group hosted CCR and Palestine Legal for an event titled “The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack,” to discuss the “suppression of Palestine advocacy in the United States.”
  • In May 2015, together with Palestine Legal, published a document, “Accusations of Anti-Semitism Used to Deter Advocacy for Palestinian Rights.” The report advances the argument used by many anti-Israel activists and antisemites who claim that “conflation of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism [is used] as a tool to silence activism in support of Palestinian rights,” even when their activities are in fact manifestations of anti-Jewish hatred. Furthermore, many of the BDS campaigns promoted by Palestine Legal are rooted in immoral double standards and tactics of demonization and delegitimization, all of which are expressions of modern-day antisemitism.
  • Together with the Palestine Legal, published a September 2013 “Legal and Tactical Guide,” advising students how to avoid potential lawsuits and effectively organize BDS campaigns, mock checkpoints, protests, demonstrations, and other anti-Israel activities.

Staff

  • Nadia Ben-Youssef
    • Before joining CCR as its Advocacy Director, Ben Youssef was the co-founder of the Adalah Justice Project, created by the Israeli NGO Adalah with the goal of transforming“American perception, policy and practice in Palestine/Israel into a human rights approach that guarantees historical justice and equality for all.”
    • In September 2018, Ben-Youssef was a reviewer of Jewish Voice for Peaceand Researching the American-Israeli Alliance (RAIA) report, “Deadly exchange: The Dangerous Consequences of American Law Enforcement Trainings in Israel,” which describes the Israel’s security regime as “designed to subjugate Palestinians and relies on systematic racial differentiation between Palestinians and Israeli Jews – that constitutes apartheid.”
    • Ben-Youssef was involved in creating a “platform” released by the Movement for Black Lives (MBL) that supports ‪BDS and calls Israel “an apartheid state committing genocide.” The document originally listed Nadia Ben-Youssef, as a co-author. MBL subsequently removed Youssef’s name, instead listing Adalah as an “organization currently working on policy.”
    • On October 21, 2017, Ben-Youssef spoke at an anti-Israel event at Minnesota University titled “Parallel liberation Struggles: Lessons in Resistance.” The event’s purpose was to “commemorate the 100-year Palestinian resistance to Israel’s settler-colonial project and to explore the similarities in violence used against Palestinians, African Americans, and Native Americans and their methods of resistance.”

Partners

2014-2016 Donations Received (amounts in USD)

Donor201620152014
Tides Foundation223,943245,641199,828
Foundation to Promote Open Society495,000
Bertha Foundation1,847,2001,000,000
Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund833,197729,450838,499
Kaphan Foundation200,000150,000
Libra Foundation250,000
Victoria R. Ward150,000
Atlantic Philanthropies661,3931,050,000
Ford Foundation342,500125,000
Oak Foundation250,000
Warsh-Mott Legacy345,000

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