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Amended anti-boycott bill in Maryland removes financial penalties, labels BDS as ‘racist’

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A controversial anti-boycott Israel bill in Maryland has been amended to remove financial penalties and the prohibition on public funds to groups that support boycotting Israel, according to activists in the state.

The original legislation would have prohibited the spending of public funds–for travel expenses or departmental membership fees-on academic groups that support the boycott of Israel. If schools violated that provision, aid to state universities would be cut by three percent.

But a new, amended version of the bill, published by a coalition of groups fighting against the anti-BDS legislation, removes the threat of financial sanctions and erases the language prohibiting state funds from going to academic groups that boycott Israel. The latest version was announced by the Keep Free Speech in the Free State coalition, which represents an array of civil liberties and Palestine solidarity groups working to defeat the bill targeting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

At the same time, the Maryland legislation now condemns the BDS movement as “a discriminatory and racist movement,” paving the way for the state to become the first to go on the record as labeling BDS as prejudiced.  The coalition notes that if passed, the bill would effectively “label Archbishop Desmond Tutu”–the South African anti-apartheid activist and current supporter of BDS against Israel–“a racist.”

So while the removal of the financial penalties is a victory for the Palestine solidarity and civil liberties groups that fought against it, the fight is not over. The Keep Free Speech in the Free State coalition in the state calls the language “unacceptable” and continues to mobilize to kill the bill.  A resolution condemning the ASA’s boycott of Israel could have a chilling effect on future moves by academic groups to join the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

The moves come a week after the co-author of the Senate resolution, Mary Conway-Carter, said that she plans on striking the financial penalties from the legislation.

Meanwhile, two Maryland elected officials –Delegates Kumar Barve and Mary Washington–who had originally signed on to the original legislation have reversed positions. But it’s unclear at the moment what their take on the new bills will be.

Barve is the Democratic majority leader of the House of Delegates, while Mary Washington is another Democrat in the House.  In an e-mail passed onto me from the Keep Free Speech in the Free State Coalition, a staffer from Barve’s office said, “although the delegate co-sponsored HB 998 (Public Higher Education- Use of Funds- Prohibition), he has decided to vote against it if it reaches the House floor.”  And the blog Maryland Juice, run by political consultant David Moon, reports that the office of Washington said that she “is no longer supporting HB 998 and has asked to be removed as a cosponsor.”

The Maryland effort is one of a series of state bills written in reaction to the American Studies Association’s decision late last year to boycott Israeli academic institutions due to their complicity in the abuse of Palestinian rights.

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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21 Responses

  1. Woody Tanaka
    Woody Tanaka
    March 12, 2014, 4:40 pm

    Oh, what a Wonderland that zionism has turned the world into, so that an ethno-religious exclusivist ideology like zionism once properly deemed by the UN as racist no longer deemed so by that same group (thanks, pressure on small weak nations by the zionist-controlled US government!!!), and yet the fight against that ethno-religious exclusivist ideology is slurred as racist. Down is up and up is down.

    • March 12, 2014, 8:26 pm

      is there any way some pro-palestinian rights group can sponsor desmond tutu to speak here in the US, preferably in front of the knesset west, i mean the US senate and congress, to definitively put israel in its place as the world’s aparteid state.
      i think tutu has said israel is actually far worse than israel. if not him, some other very knowledgeable expert on the differences, or similarities, between israel and south africa.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        March 13, 2014, 7:21 am

        I doubt that the US Congress would permit him to address them. So tight is the Alien-facehugger grip of AIPAC and the pro-israeli lobby on the organs of Government in the US, that they would no doubt insult the great hero and Nobel laureate, rather than let him say a bad word about their paymasters in Tel Aviv.

    • Hostage
      March 12, 2014, 9:25 pm

      Down is up and up is down.

      And both are a little sideways. The Supreme Court once ruled that:

      “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

      — West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943)

      FYI, the amended bill is more problematic than the original version. It would permit continued public funding of an organization that the State itself has labeled “discriminatory and racist”. It also condones continued employment in State institutions of personnel who elect to remain or become members of that condemned, racist organization. I don’t see how the State of Maryland could continue to receive federal grants or subsidies, under the terms of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with an absurd law, like this one, on its books.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        March 13, 2014, 7:35 am

        The reason why all the penalty provisions were stripped from the bill was to protect it from challenge. If no one suffers any actual harm, then no one can sue to have the law stricken, because there would be no one with standing to challenge it. But I don’t think that the inclusion of the language in the bill would trigger the problems you suggest, not the least of which because of separation of powers. The legislature is free to give its opinion on BDS, the courts would likely hold, and that opinion does not establish, as judicial fact, the nature of the group.

        (This assumes for the sake of the argument, the validity of the underlying theory, i.e., that the CRA would be violated if Maryland received Federal monies while it continued funding of and condoned employment by members of a group labeled “racist.” I’m not sure that is a valid argument (for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the Association Clause), but that point’s tangential at best.)

      • Hostage
        March 13, 2014, 9:02 pm

        But I don’t think that the inclusion of the language in the bill would trigger the problems you suggest, not the least of which because of separation of powers. The legislature is free to give its opinion on BDS, the courts would likely hold, and that opinion does not establish, as judicial fact, the nature of the group.

        If you are weighing the merits at all, you are definitely not thinking like the Netanyahu government or Shurat HaDin. They’re infamous for going to war against grocery coops, boat owners, and university administrators over completely meritless lawsuits – just for the propaganda value. Zionist’s are also notorious for using lawfare to push their failed legislative agenda, e.g. MBZ v. Clinton. Sometimes they win one, e.g. Afroyim v. Rusk, sometimes they don’t, e.g. Kletter v Dulles, and Widmar v. Vincent.

        I agree that legislators and university administrators can adopt positions on the BDS movement, but I don’t think they have boundless discretion to call Palestinian and other scholars “racists” for supporting equal human rights and international law without inviting lawsuits for harassment in the workplace and fostering employment discrimination in violation of Title VII.

  2. amigo
    March 12, 2014, 4:54 pm

    Well, I guess if hating Murder/Ethnic cleansing/Oppression/Theft/Collective Punishment and a plethora of other crimes against Humanity makes me a racist then so be it.It,s not as if I haven,t worked hard enough for the title.Does that mean I am an Anti semite and Jew Hater as well???.

    Where do I get my diploma.

  3. Philip Munger
    Philip Munger
    March 12, 2014, 5:20 pm

    from the amended legislation:

    WHEREAS The boycott adopted by the American Studies Association is part of a discriminatory and racist movement known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions initiated by the enemies of Israel in an effort to rewrite Middle East history and make those avowed to the destruction of Israel appear to be the victims of Israeli aggression, and……

    A very troubling statement in its entirety, or as I slice and dice it.

    Is there some sort of standard in the Maryland legislature in regard to definitions of terms? I know that is very important when crafting criminal and administrative statutes, but how about in context of legislation like this?

    Non-Zionism and anti-Zionism are, in most cases, not racist. BDS isn’t either. And Jews are not a race per se. I never have thought of any of the Jews I have known or know as different from me racially because of her or his faith or cultural heritage.

    I could convert to Judaism beginning right now. I’m mostly Norwegian. Would that change my race? No. Would my race be different after conversion, depending upon whether I was then pro-militant expansionist Zionism, neutral to the practice, or against it?

    This legislation, even as amended, is atrocious.

  4. seafoid
    March 12, 2014, 5:23 pm

    I wonder how long the US will hold out against justice compared to the rest of the world.
    The deeper organized Judaism goes into this kind of thuggery, the more serious the long term damage. Zionism isn’t worth it.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      March 12, 2014, 6:02 pm

      “I wonder how long the US will hold out against justice compared to the rest of the world.”

      A long time, until such time as the quickly-ensuing consequences of our insane and out-of-control foreign policy catches up with us.

      Just today, we saw two buidlings in New York blow up from a gas leak, because while we spend trillions on meaningless and illegal foreign wars and pay billions per year in mafia-like payoffs to a first-world economy like isarel, the infrastructure of the US is falling apart. Rather than paying for safe cities, free of exploding buildings, we throw this money away. Further, we’ve just learned that the sociopathic “intelligence” services that are mandated by our self-appointed role of God and Ceasar of the world has now turned to spy on our own lawmakers.

      Will one of these be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for the American people to wake up and say “Enough!” and stop this garbage? Maybe. We resisted the hell-bent rush to war on the Syrians and are so far holding off the neo-cons and APAICniks in their lust for war on the Iranian people. If we do reach the point where enough is enough, freeing ourselves of the zionists will be difficult, as they are so deeply intrenched in our system, but it will be necessary.

      • American
        March 13, 2014, 9:47 pm

        ”If we do reach the point where enough is enough, freeing ourselves of the zionists will be difficult, as they are so deeply intrenched in our system, but it will be necessary.”…Woody

        Not that difficult….if we’re willing to seriously threaten a lot of political careers.

  5. bilal a
    bilal a
    March 13, 2014, 4:59 am

    BDS is just another facet of the Anti-Semites to create another Holocaust (along the lines of Jack Ruby’s argument fingering the John Birch society and a Texan)
    Unfortunately, Chief Earl Warren, had you been around 5 or 6 months ago, and I know your hands were tied, you couldn’t do it, and immediately the President would have gotten ahold of my true story, or whatever would have been said about me, a certain organization wouldn’t have so completely formed now, so powerfully, to use me because I am of the Jewish extraction, Jewish faith, to commit the most dastardly crime that has ever been committed.
    Can you understand now in visualizing what happened, what powers, what momentum has been carried on to create this feeling of mass feeling against my people, against certain people that were against them prior to their power?
    That goes over your head, doesn’t it?
    Chief Justice WARREN. Well, I don’t quite get the full significance of it, Mr. Ruby. I know what you feel about the John Birch Society.
    Mr. RUBY. Very powerful.
    Chief Justice WARREN. I think it is powerful, yes I do. Of course, I don’t have all the information that you feel you have on that subject.
    Mr. RUBY. Unfortunately, you don’t have, because it is too late. And I wish that our beloved President, Lyndon Johnson, would have delved deeper into the situation, hear me, not to accept just circumstantial facts about my guilt or innocence, and would have questioned to find out the truth about me before he relinquished certain powers to these certain people.
    Mr. RUBY. I am sorry, Chief Justice Warren, I thought I would be very effective in telling you what I have said here. But in all fairness to everyone, maybe all I want to do is beg that if they found out I was telling the truth, maybe they can succeed in what their motives are, but maybe my people won’t be tortured and mutilated.

  6. March 13, 2014, 6:22 am

    This is basically a lot of excellent free publicity for the concept and application of BDS towards Israel who are practicing Apartheid against the Palestinians in a way that is comparable to the behavior of the old South African Apartheid against the blacks. The more they say BDS the more it becomes a significant concept and the more people understand it and accept it as a legitimate punishment of Israel designed to change illegal Israeli behavior.

  7. giladg
    March 13, 2014, 6:51 am

    Desmond Tutu spent all of a week being carted around by biased Palestinians and their supporters, and one week was enough for this “enlightened” person to make far reaching conclusions on the goings on in the region. This is how the world works with agenda driven Leftist who manufacture facts to suit their predetermined options and agenda. Desmond Tutu, who is a well meaning person, has allowed himself to be manipulated and abused, and he needs to take responsibility for his own short comings. I would like to hear Desmond Tutu recount Zionist Israeli positions for the purpose of understanding the full picture. If he is unable to do this then he is unable to understand the conflict and therefore he is unable to find fault with prior Arab and Palestinian actions. In the context of the South African story he has been able to retain his integrity. On the Israel/Palestine story he has yet to discover it.

    • just
      March 13, 2014, 10:41 pm

      gildag– many of us can smell the horrible stench of Israeli apartheid from here.

      Desmond Tutu knows apartheid well. He knows your “killing fields”.

      So do many of us in this world.

    • talknic
      March 14, 2014, 12:23 am

      @giladg “Desmond Tutu spent …” a great deal of his lifetime living with the stench of apartheid. More than enough to recognize it when he sees it again

      “I would like to hear Desmond Tutu recount Zionist Israeli positions..”

      Why? We can read their stinking lies first hand

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      March 14, 2014, 8:01 am

      LMAO. Giladg, 99% of the people in your sorry excuse for a state aren’t fit, morally, to clean Desmond Tutu’s cat’s litterbox, let alone form an opinion about whether he has or does not have integrity. If you are so upset about him rightly characterizing your vile, racist philosophies and policies than change them.

  8. Hostage
    March 13, 2014, 9:25 pm

    Desmond Tutu spent all of a week being carted around by biased Palestinians and their supporters, and one week was enough for this “enlightened” person to make far reaching conclusions on the goings on in the region.

    On the contrary, he was already an expert on apartheid, before he spent years on mission for the UN trying unsuccessfully to enter the State of Israel on a fact finding mission. In any event, there’s enough evidence in the public domain to establish that Israeli policies and practices constitute acts of apartheid as defined in the relevant UN conventions.

    he is unable to find fault with prior Arab and Palestinian actions.

    I guess that you don’t understand the prohibitions against collective punishment and apartheid. The international conventions stipulate that those acts result in individual criminal responsibility “irrespective of the motive involved”. So prior Arab and Palestinian actions are just not relevant. See Article III

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