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New York bill to punish ASA over Israel boycott picks up 48 supporters

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A New York bill to cut off state funding to the American Studies Association over its Israel boycott has the support of 48 lawmakers.  That means that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who authored the bill, is just 28 members short of garnering a majority of the state assembly to back the legislation targeting the ASA.

The legislation would prohibit colleges from giving funds to the ASA or other academic groups that have supported a boycott of universities in countries that host schools given credentials by New York state. If the bill passes, colleges would not be eligible for state aid during the academic year if they violate the legislation.  Practically, it would mean that university funds given to students and faculty to travel to ASA events would be cut off.

While the word “Israel” is not mentioned in the bill, New York’s Regents board has certified institutions located in Israel, Lebanon, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Silver has made clear that he introduced the bill because of the ASA boycott of Israel.

“Actions such as the American Studies Association’s discriminatory boycott of Israel and its academic institutions are a blatant assault on the academic freedoms that New York and its students have come to hold dear,” Silver said in statement announcing the bill.

The measure has been referred to the Higher Education Committee of the New York State Assembly.  The chair of the committee, Deborah Glick, is a co-sponsor of the bill. Glick’s and Silver’s office have not returned phone calls I made to garner more information about the legislation.

The legislation was criticized as unconstitutional by Dima Khalidi,  Director of the Palestine Solidarity Legal Support group and Cooperating Counsel with the Center for Constitutional Rights.  In an e-mail to me, Khalidi explained:

Boycotts for the purpose of effecting social, political or economic change are considered by the United States Supreme Court to be speech activities protected by the First Amendment.

The First Amendment also prohibits public officials from denying public benefits as a way of censoring speech activities. These bills clearly aim to discourage expressive activities such as boycotts based on the legislators’ personal disagreement with the content of the expression.

Painting the ASA boycott resolution as discriminatory is not only inaccurate, but also distracts from the fact that its purpose is in fact to protest the human rights violations for which Israel is responsible, and the discriminatory policies and practices of the Israeli government. These bills would be both a violation of free speech and of academic freedom, which the proposed legislation cynically purports to defend.

The New York Assembly is the first legislative body to consider punitive measures aimed at the ASA in the aftermath of its decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions over their complicity with the occupation and human rights abuses.  At the federal level, a letter blasting the ASA boycott has picked up at least 134 members’ support, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Alex Kane
About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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11 Responses

  1. piotr
    January 24, 2014, 11:47 am

    Cracking the whip in the name of freedom.

  2. traintosiberia
    January 24, 2014, 1:51 pm

    Jewish group have always depended on the State. The kings and the emperors have always lent their support to the ideas ,interests,and concerns that the group felt vital to have, to maintain exclusive privileged nature of the Jewish club ,in exchange for intellectual and financial solution to the nation’s perennial crisis.
    Things haven’t changed much since the days of Cyrus.

  3. traintosiberia
    January 24, 2014, 1:58 pm

    Usually Congress ( Federal level ) or the Assembly ( State) level are either spending time on renaming the lane in the back alley of the backwater of unknown villages somewhere in the middle of nowhere or about investigating the doping incident in some baseball game. And rest of the time they are listening to or waiting to listen to what the Lobby has to say or order so that they could come back in 2 to 4 years and do the same for rest of their lives.

  4. traintosiberia
    January 24, 2014, 2:52 pm

    It is always the State or its equivalent that come to rescue the Jewish exclusiveness, apartness,separateness from the rest of the societal members.
    There is this article by Sylvain Cypel in NYT -A French Clown’s Hateful Gesture addressing the ” quenelle”, demand of Gypsy expulsion by the Interior Minister, anti immigrant innuendo by professor of philosophy at Ecole Poly technique and the racist ratings by Eric Zemmour on TV.
    Also Blasphemy in Secular France by Diana Johnstone 01/24/14 covers the same affairs from an interwoven political perspective of normalized hatred and eulogized memory of persecution ,depending on the color and the memory of the victims ,in which today’s ‘s Left of France make their livings.
    While ” quenelle” author Dieudonne is being prosecuted and banned by the State and being pursued by the media ,by the rabbi in most racist fashion ,is being sued by LICRA ( Ligue internationale contre le racisime et L’ antisemitism e), there is blissful ,normalized dereliction of duty by the State and acceptance of mass media and academic silence on the Roma affairs despite their shared history of Holocaust
    State decides ,when to go after similar crime of similar magnitude and scale . Sometime it even decides to go after the lesser infringement of the same laws and rights and ignore the more harmful and bigger one. State goes after the powerless guy like Dieudonne but leaves Sarkozy or the Interior Minister despite the worst racial aspect of the later two’s remarks,and suggestion.
    ASA boycott is being cited to punish its supporters and members. Will the Congress start punishing the AIPAC and ADL and AEI and ZOA for their relentless pressure on Congress to put more sanction on Iran despite the opposition of the WH and of the common American? Will the Congress ever decide to punish those who have been hounding the academics and restrict the funds of those colleges for violating freedom of speech ? Will the Congress ever decide not to employ anybody from Harvard or allow its expert opinion for allowing Dershowitz to stay on its faculty despite his pressure on De Paul and on the State of California?

  5. Krauss
    January 24, 2014, 4:32 pm

    Meanwhile, in Israel…

    The battle over AIPAC vs Shultz heats up.
    I do find it interesting that AIPAC used Washington Free Beacon(!) as their source. It’s neither an established media outlet and a wildly hard-right partisan to boot.

    The takeover of AIPAC by right-wing Orthodox Jews is happening faster than people like Beinart predicted or are we seeing the conservative elements of AIPAC break away in renegade fashion?

    • annie
      January 25, 2014, 1:17 am

      aipac count your days

    • traintosiberia
      January 25, 2014, 9:21 am

      Iran sanction by US/France through the AIPAC and its sister program in France will work to the advantage of Russia . Russia will not honor and can’t be forced to honor. Indian writer openly is now complaining that India went along with US only under the Israeli pressure through US. Success of AIPAC at this stage will only hurt US more without Israel gaining any new returns on its century’s old ant Muslim investment in imperial bank . Soon AIPAC will be kicked out for selling the West a pig on a poke . Those cakewalk,unchallenged status on world stage,control of the pipelines from Iraq out to China,lillypad to leapfrog to rest of the ponds in southern Russia,oilipeline from Basra to Haifa over the body of Nasrallah and Basher ,rewriting the school history books,and embrace of Israel as goaded by Powell by the rest of the Middle Eastern countries never happened and 6 trillion is out and counting.

  6. yrn
    January 24, 2014, 6:53 pm

    ASA count your days.

    • amigo
      January 25, 2014, 11:22 am

      “ASA count your days.” yrn

      Greater Israel count your days.

      Illegal squatters ditto.

  7. bilal a
    bilal a
    January 25, 2014, 1:33 am

    In a one state solution, can Palestinians look forward to liberation via NYC/Hollywood aggression and contempt, er, I mean, humor:

    Tablet ‘Queen of the Jewish People’,Haaretz ‘Semitic queen of lefty politics’, Sarah Silverman disgusts O’Reilly, Ingraham, and Huckabee with blasphemy (VIDEO), triumphs over Mel Brooks parody of Jesus in the Last supper (History of the World Part 1):

  8. Hostage
    January 25, 2014, 2:21 am

    Well, it was against law to boycott the buses in Montgomery until the Supreme Court declared the law in question unconstitutional:

    In February 1956, city officials obtained an Injunction against the boycott and used a 1921 law prohibiting the hindrance of a bus as grounds to arrest 156 protesters. Martin Luther King Jr. was also arrested, convicted, and ordered to pay fines. Ultimately, Fred Gray, a young black Montgomery attorney, filed an action on behalf of a group of black citizens. He sought a Declaratory Judgment finding Alabama’s state statutes and Montgomery city ordinances unenforceable and unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The laws and ordinances required separate accommodations on any commercial vehicle operated by any motor transportation company within the state of Alabama and the city of Montgomery. The bus company, in response, had alleged that segregation on privately owned buses was valid under the laws.

    A three-member federal panel struck down the laws, finding the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (repudiating a “separate but equal” principle) applicable to city buses. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision, and the successful boycott ended in major victory.

    — Montgomery Bus Boycott

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