Ben Ryberg is used to winning arguments.
As director of legal research at The Lawfare Project, a Manhattan-based nonprofit, he conducts research and constructs legal arguments in support of those, including moderate Muslims, who are threatened with legal harassment for reporting on terrorism or critiquing Islam. The Project’s work also includes combating attempts to use legal systems to delegitimize Israel, the U.S., and other democracies.
Last year, he helped construct the legal argument against the Brooklyn Food Co-op’s proposal to boycott Israeli products and companies that do business with Israel.
In New York State, you can’t engage in boycotting based on race, religion — or nationality.
Confronted with opposition from various groups — and a solid legal argument — Brooklyn Food Co-op members voted against a potential boycott.
Since then, Ryberg has been hard at work drafting an amicus brief in another BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) case, that of the Olympia, Washington Food Co-op.
Ryberg also headed up the research for The Lawfare Project’s legal response to Rutgers University’s collection of student-raised funds via a group called BAKA intended for an organization called U.S. Aid to Gaza; BAKA allegedly has ties to Hamas.
He was “instrumental,” according to Brooke Goldstein, director of The Lawfare Project and herself a former 36 Under 36er, “in pointing out how providing this money to U.S. Aid to Gaza could open the university up to liability for violation of the U.S. federal statute prohibiting providing money to a designated terrorist organization.”
So far, it does not appear Rutgers has released the funds.
Ryberg is from Farmington Hills, Mich., and attended Cardozo Law School, where he was senior articles editor of the Cardozo International and Comparative Law Journal.
His mom is Jewish and his dad is Christian, “incredibly pro-Israel and loves what I am doing now,” he said, adding, “It’s great to empower the non-Jewish community that also cares about Israel.”
The best defense: Ryberg worked on criminal defense cases for two summers during college as a legal intern at The Blanch Law Firm in Manhattan. Right now he’s reading “Defending Jacob,” a novel by William Landay, “about a district attorney in Connecticut whose son is accused of killing a classmate.”