The backlash against the American Studies Association’s (ASA) decision to boycott Israel continues to intensify. Two New York Democrats say they are planning to introduce legislation early next year that would cut off state aid to schools that retain membership in the ASA.
One of the legislators, Dov Hikind, is a right-wing Democrat who is a familiar face to any disputes on Israel in New York. The other, Jeffrey Klein, is a left-leaning Democrat who is a less well-known face on Israel. Klein, who last year joined hands with Republicans to form a bi-partisan majority in the State Senate, is the co-leader of the legislative body.
In a statement released today, Hikind and Klein say their new legislation would cut money off from private and public schools if they remain in the ASA, which earlier this month endorsed the academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The bill would give schools a month to withdraw their membership from groups like the ASA–or else lose funding. The measure would prohibit schools from spending money on ASA conferences, or on other conferences involving groups that support boycotting Israel.
“The ASA’s boycott of Israel is not only a direct violation of New York State’s Human Rights Act, it’s a slap in the face to Jews and supporters of Israel everywhere. Make no mistake: the ASA’s boycott is targeted discrimination against Israel that betrays the values of academic freedom that we hold dear,” the two legislators said in a statement. “We cannot encourage our colleges and universities to engage in this type of discrimination against Israel. New Yorkers expect us to reject discrimination in every form, and cutting off the state spigot is the best way of doing that.”
The legislation is framed as targeting colleges that support the boycott of Israel. But no school administration has come out in support of the academic boycott, and today, the City University of New York, the largest urban public institution in the country, came out against the boycott.
Hikind has been leading the push in New York to punish the ASA over its decision. Earlier this week, he wrote a letter to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman imploring him to look into taking action against the ASA. Hikind claims the boycott violates New York State’s Human Rights Law, which prohibits boycotts based on national origin. That law also upholds the right to boycott “to protest unlawful discriminatory practices.” The ASA boycott targets Israeli institutions to protest the government’s policies on the Palestinians.
Hikind, an Orthodox Jewish Democrat who wields outsize influence in New York politics, has targeted supporters of BDS before. He was one of the leaders of the campaign against Brooklyn College when the school’s Political Science Department co-sponsored a talk on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
A former member of the Jewish Defense League and an admirer of Meir Kahane, Hikind was a suspect in a series of bombings linked to the extremist Jewish group, though he was never arrested.