When the United States Supreme Court ruled in the landmark campaign financing case known as Citizens United that corporations are “persons” under the law – at least for purposes of having a right to free speech expressed in the form of campaign contributions – many observers were both dumbstruck and outraged.
How can a corporation, an inanimate creation of state law, have rights normally associated with real, live persons?
When the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that, like real people, closely held corporations could object on moral or religious grounds to a federally imposed obligation to provide birth control, the reaction was much the same. Outrageous!
Truth be known, most everybody, upon reflection, understood that the Court was not actually saying that corporate personhood was the same as real-life, flesh-and-blood personhood. Rather, the Court was saying that for some purposes corporations should be recognized as vehicles legally entitled to reflect the convictions and held by their actual, real-life, i.e., human owners.
That said, if you’ve been following the news lately, you might be forgiven for thinking that at least some corporations are taking this personhood thing a bit far.
It seems that some corporations may actually be growing spines.
First, in the wake of his, shall we say, insensitive remarks about Mexicans, Donald Trump’s business interests have taken a beating (or perhaps we should say, a haircut.) Univision dropped Trump’s Miss Universe Pageant from its broadcast lineup. Macy’s stopped selling his merchandise line. The PGA yanked its Grand Slam of Golf event from a Trump-owned course, and NBC even “fired” Trump from “The Celebrity Apprentice.”
Of course, it’s nice (in a schadenfreude-y kind of way) when bad guys take it on the chin, but in the world of Israel advocacy, corporate victories are a bit subtler and less amenable to the headlines.
When the UN bashes Israel, or when a church or academic association approves a boycott resolution against Israel, the whole world knows it.
But when Israel scores a victory in the court of public opinion, or when a corporation stands up to a boycott effort, or when a company simply ignores the haters, you might never even hear about it.
So, in the interest of sharing a bit of good news, let’s raise a pint to our friends at Ireland’s Ryanair, the low-cost European carrier that just announced service from three European cities to the Israel resort city of Eilat.
And while we’re at it, let’s congratulate those amazing artists, The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, who just returned from an historic tour of the Middle East that included Israel.
There's no doubt it can be discouraging when the headlines loudly celebrate anti-Israel efforts either on campus or in the marketplace.
But take heart. A number of corporations are beginning to demonstrate some particularly admirable “personal” characteristics.
If the news from this past week is any indication, we may just be seeing a proliferation of corporate spines in a world that could surely use a bit more backbone.