Bill targeting Israel boycotters introduced in Maryland

Senator Joan Carter Conway. (Photo: Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun)

Senator Joan Carter Conway. (Photo: Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun)

The New York measure aimed at academic groups boycotting Israel is stalled for now, but a similar bill has emerged in Maryland. Authored by State Senator Joan Conway Carter, the Maryland bill bars public universities from providing funds to academic organizations that support boycotts of Israel.

The purpose of both the New York and Maryland bills is to cut off state university-subsidized travel expenses to conventions organized by the American Studies Association (ASA) and department membership fees to the ASA.  It would also apply to other academic groups that support boycotts of Israel. The legislation does not mention Israel. But it applies to state universities that have cooperation with institutions abroad, and Israeli universities maintain relationships with the University of Maryland, the main public institution in the state.

The language in the Maryland bill is similar to the New York measure, though it’s not exactly the same.  While the New York bill, in its current form, would cut off all state aid from schools in violation of the law, the Maryland bill would cut off three percent of aid that flows to state schools if they violate it. John K. Wilson, a writer for the American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) Academe blog, detailed some of the other differences in a recent post:

The Maryland bill applies to membership fees and travel expenses to any event held by the banned organization (although, bizarrely, registration fees for conferences are not mentioned, and could be paid for by a university). The Maryland bill is also not limited to state funds (unlike New York’s), and applies to any college funds, even if they come from tuition and fees, or from institutional sources. Whereas New York’s bill is really symbolic (requiring colleges to waste time and money by having travel costs paid out of non-state funds), Maryland’s bill really would require a ban on any funding of travel or membership fees.

The Maryland bill also goes beyond academic boycotts to include support for any kind of boycotts. The bill in section (B) refers only to academic boycotts, but section (C), which is the real enforcement provision, covers any resolution regarding any kind of boycott of a country.

No votes on the legislation have taken place in Maryland.  It was introduced on January 31st, and a hearing on the bill will take place on March 11th during a meeting of the Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee.

Opposition to the bill has been voiced by the AAUP, and the writer and analyst Mitchell Plitnick has set up a petition against the bill.  Plitnick’s petition criticizes the legislation for imposing “draconian limits on academic freedom and free speech.”

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is an assistant editor for Mondoweiss and the World editor for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.
Posted in Activism, BDS, Israel/Palestine, US Politics

{ 27 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. pabelmont says:

    If we think that AIPAC “has its way” with Congress CHEAPLY, consider how really, really cheaply it “has its way” with state legislatures. I imagine the Maryland state solons don’t know much about I/P, BDS, occupation, settlements, international law, etc., but they do know the one thing that politicians always know — which side their bread is buttered on. And that ain’t schmaltz!

  2. Woody Tanaka says:

    Well, if nothing else, these efforts, doomed to failure, are definately establishing that zionists are enemies of free speech and the American way of life.

  3. Daniel Rich says:

    Would State Senator Joan Conway Carter have objected against a BDS movement targeting the KKK back in the day?

    Also, when will the Apartheid State and its local attack dog AIPAC realize that in this day and age more and more people become aware of their Stalinist tendencies to silence any and all comments? This will backfire big time.

  4. Giles says:

    Time to start making the pols pay a political price for their subservience to the Lobby

  5. ritzl says:

    It is awfully hard to comprehend how a black legislator can initiate and champion this type of legislation. Money politics is really not an excuse. Possibly simple ignorance of the obvious, more-than-similarities to Jim Crow?

    This too may a teaching moment and/or pressure point as part of the larger tipping point on this issue.

    • lysias says:

      I wouldn’t say Joan Carter Conway is uninterested in money:

      In 1999 Conway was arrested and charged with hindering a law enforcement officer after a six-year-old girl was struck by a vehicle in front of her office and she allegedly refused to provide space for the paramedics to work on the child. The charges were later dropped by State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy.[3]

      In a 2005 complaint filed with the Baltimore Circuit Court, Chief liquor inspector Samuel Daniels Jr accused Conway of acting in collusion with other members of Baltimore’s Liquor Board to replace him with her husband, Vernon Conway. At the time the complaint was filed Daniels had been suspended for reasons he claimed stemmed from his attempts to investigate bars on The Block which had quid pro quo relationships with other liquor inspectors and with Senator Conway.[4] Daniels was later found by the city’s labor commissioner to have been unfairly suspended and after being reinstated he eventually dropped the charges.[5]

      In 2010, while serving as the chair of the committee that hears alcohol bills, Conway went on the record saying that a bill that would allow wine to be shipped to residents of the state “is not going anywhere” despite the fact that 6 of the 9 members of her own committee and both chambers supporting the legislation. Conway cited the fact that it would be difficult for the state to ensure taxes were collected on wine shipped into the state and that it would give minors the ability to tap the internet to obtain alcohol. 37 of the 50 States currently allow wine to be shipped directly to residents.

      But some proponents of the direct-shipping bill question whether she is too personally tied to the system to be fair. Her husband, Vernon “Tim” Conway, is a city liquor inspector since 1995 who made $67,000 in his position last year, according to city records.

      According to a 2008 analysis by The Baltimore Sun, more than 80 percent of state legislators have received campaign contributions from the liquor lobby.

    • Oh come on it should be a teaching movement for you to realize that when someone has the chance to be a turd, to get “even” they will. Look he Israelis after the holocaust or the blacks in South Africa after apartheid where they are targeting white farmers. If I was Japanese I would be worried at what the Chinese are going to do, if you read comments from the china-bots they are itching for payback for the “century of humiliation”

    • seafoid says:

      When Lehman went down the PTB wanted to take action against short sellers who drive the price of companies down and profit from it. It was pointless because short selling was not the problem. The economy was the issue.

      This Maryland thing is similar.

      By all means muzzle BDS but that is not the ur problem. The issue is YESHA.

    • You gotta laugh at this, Joan Carter Conway, a black woman support a racist, apartheid regime.

      Jim Crow would indeed roll in his grave.

  6. ckg says:

    Given the clear first amendment violations with legislation introduced in these two states, I would not be surprised if efforts to broaden the definition of defamation, one of the few categories of speech exempted by court rulings, were launched by the lobby. And who better to lead the efforts than Foxman?

  7. Kathleen says:

    Maybe she is just uninformed about what has and is going on in the conflict. I plan to contact tomorrow. Let her know what Archbishop Tutu has said about the Israeli government and the Palestinians situation. How he believes the Israeli government is worse than the South African apartheid government that finally went down. Plenty of folks here who could help educate her about the facts on the ground.
    Capitol Office:
    2 West Miller Senate Building
    11 Bladen Street
    Annapolis, MD 21401
    Phone: 410-841-3145
    Email: [email protected]

    She has a facebook page. Polite polite
    link to facebook.com

  8. bilal a says:

    Restrictions on academic freedom backfired in France:

    French Neocon suggests conspiracy behind ‘Obamania’

    Sarkozy was elected as a friend of the Jews and a friend of Israel and at the end of the day many Jews were disappointed by his government’s attitude .. The hope that Sarkozy, who had a Jewish heritage on one side of his family, might change that did not eventuate
    [W]e must end the Obama experiment. Europeans may have indulged in the Obamamania for a period of time. In fact, they are scared by the new situation where America is not as powerful and central in world affairs as it had been for so many years….
    Why should America be afraid of Russia? It is really a paper tiger. We have this incredible situation of the Obama administration giving in, not just to Iran, but also to Putin’s Russia and to most anybody except good friends of America.[Israel]..
    . Some questions must also be raised about the inner working of the Obama administration and who in fact stands behind many sectors of that administration. Those are questions which I am sure many American historians are already looking into and are going to write about.

    Is there a Future for French Jews? An Interview with Michel Gurfinkiel
    link to jewishledger.com

  9. Real Jew says:

    Terrible news. I live in Maryland and the folks here are overwhelmingly pro israel. And coupled with a lack of activism Im confident it will pass. AIPAC tried it in a big state like N.Y. and got ignored so theyre trying their hand in a “safer” state hoping to get the national ball rolling

    • Ellen says:

      RJ, perhaps the population centers around D.C., but the rest of the state and even much of Baltimore is much like the rest of the country. I’ll-informed and as you say with a lack of activism.

      But Yes, Maryland being Maryland and where it is, it was likely a target to get the ball rolling to get this kind of disgraceful legislation going. And AIPAC operatives, or whoever, found their mark in Joan Carter.

      This is especially disgusting because it was exactly moves like this –abusive local legislation — that were used to criminalize Rosa Parks, et. al. and the 18-month long Montgomey Alabama bus boycott. A boycott that ultimately prevailed and got the ball rolling to do away with Jim Crow laws.

  10. Shaco says:

    I don’t like that these bills are specifically targetting Israel boycotters, but I like the general idea that tax payer money shouldn’t be going into political causes like these. In public high school here in Houston, Texas, I had a English teacher who spent an entire class talking about how great Israel was, how Israel’s army could probably defeat America’s army, and so on. I was too young to realize the weirdness and wrongness of it at the time.

  11. Hostage says:

    Terrible news. I live in Maryland and the folks here are overwhelmingly pro israel.

    That’s not unusual, but it doesn’t entitle them to pass a law regulating the content of other individual’s speech and penalizing universities for the way they spend their own institutional funds obtained from non-appropriated sources, like endowments. None of these bills mentions a compelling state interest that would actually be impaired by the academic boycott by ASA.

    The New York Senate bill actually exempts boycotts against unlawful discrimination, so it doesn’t legally apply to the ASA boycott.

    The proposed US House Rule has the same constitutional deficiencies as the others, but allows the Secretary of Education to waive application of its provisions and fund universities anyway. The Pennsylvania resolution doesn’t have any operative clauses that do anything, except call Israel a Jewish State and label boycotters as anti-Semites and requests the Education Department to do the same. The Department of Education has consistently maintained that the laws it enforces do not restrict the exercise of expressive activities or speech protected by the 1st Amendment, e.g. link to newscenter.berkeley.edu

    So far, all of this is publicity and propaganda:
    * S6438-2013
    link to open.nysenate.gov
    * Pennsylvania-2013-HR627
    link to legiscan.com
    * Protect Academic Freedom Act
    link to docstoc.com
    * Cornell Law Prof Challenges American Studies Association’s 501(c)(3) Status Over Boycott of Israeli Universities
    link to taxprof.typepad.com

    • Real Jew says:

      Ellen- “aipac found theyre mark in Joan Carter.” Absolutely correct.

      Hostage, you have some very valid points. This sort of legislation doesn’t have sharp teeth but why give the zios the satisfaction of being able to refer to American law when they support apartheid.

      • Hostage says:

        Hostage, you have some very valid points. This sort of legislation doesn’t have sharp teeth but why give the zios the satisfaction of being able to refer to American law when they support apartheid.

        I’ve signed online petitions against these bills and donate money to organizations like CCR, e.g. link to ccrjustice.org

        I just don’t get too worried about it. The Zionists have never gotten much satisfaction from laws like the Jerusalem Embassy Act. I don’t think the people and organizations that matter are boycotting Israel because their universities or the Congress is paying their expenses.