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Maryland legislature passes toned down anti-BDS language

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Maryland politicians’ attempt to punish the American Studies Association (ASA) for its boycott Israel stance started with a bang.  But it ended with a whimper.  The state legislature passed anti-boycott language inserted into its budget, but the criticism was significantly toned down.

First there were attempts to pass bills cutting off some funding from any public university that subsidized travel to ASA conventions. When that failed, pro-Israel politicians turned to the budget.  The result was a comparatively weak clause criticizing the ASA and the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, and affirming the state’s declaration of cooperation with Israel.

The clause that passed is tamer than the original budget language pushed by Delegate Ben Kramer, which tied BDS to anti-Semitism. Still, the budget’s passage marks the first time a state legislature has voted to oppose BDS.

Campaigners against the anti-boycott language had a mixed reaction. “While we are grateful that the most egregious libels were removed from the budget bill amendment, we believe that boycott is a time-honored tactic that effectively and non-violently brings about social change,” Asim Ali, an ASA member and University of Maryland professor, said in a statement e-mailed to reporters. “That legislators would condemn the use of the same tactic that brought an end to Jim Crow, apartheid in South Africa, and supported farm workers’ rights is deeply saddening.”

Blogger Jeremiah Haber, who teaches at the University of Maryland, was more upbeat about the result:

BDS as anti-semitic or racist? Gone.  Forbidding the use of public funds to support travel to ASA conferences? Gone. Condemnation of institutional membership in the ASA? Gone. Condemnation of the ASA “in the strongest possible terms”? At least half-gone…

[I]t is heartening to know that under severe pressure in an election year, the legislature took a position that is articulated by J Street and other liberal Zionists, and rejected a position that has overwhelming support in the activist pro-Israel community.

The push to get the state of Maryland on the record against BDS is part of a larger nationwide effort to condemn academic groups that support boycotting Israel. The effort was a reaction to the ASA’s decision to support a boycott of Israeli academic institutions over their complicity in the abuse of Palestinian human rights.

New York’s anti-boycott bill, which would cut some funding from institutions that subsidize travel or lodging to ASA events, remains on the table.  Illinois’ does too, though an anti-boycott resolution was defeated.

Pennsylvania’s House passed an anti-boycott resolution last month.

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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18 Responses

  1. Ellen
    Ellen
    April 8, 2014, 9:43 am

    The efforts behind this and the language that finally passed and shamefully landed into the official record –watered down as it was– is just another reflection of the growing “Shut Up” culture.

    There will be more shut up actions.

    • hophmi
      hophmi
      April 8, 2014, 10:23 am

      No bigger “shut up” action than BDS.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        April 8, 2014, 10:47 am

        “No bigger ‘shut up’ action than BDS.”

        LMAO. Yeah, telling a golf club or Ivy League school not to discriminate against Jews and telling South Africa not to oppress black people were also big time “‘shut up’ actions.”

      • eljay
        eljay
        April 8, 2014, 11:04 am

        >> No bigger “shut up” action than BDS.

        Zio-supremacists like hophmeee are so very proud of their struggle against justice, equality and accountability.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        April 8, 2014, 1:48 pm

        I can see how people might argue (wrongly, but at least logically) that BDS is about achieving a political or human rights goal. But arguing that it’s a stance about academic freedom is completely hypocritical. I can’t think of anything more hypocritical than claiming that you’re defending academic freedom by boycotting academics.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        April 8, 2014, 3:49 pm

        “I can see how people might argue (wrongly, but at least logically) that BDS is about achieving a political or human rights goal. But arguing that it’s a stance about academic freedom is completely hypocritical.”

        Nonsense. Part and parcel of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is the denial of Palestinian academics the freedom to fully participate in academic life. If boycotting Israeli academics eliminates the Israeli oppression of Palestinian academics, then the net academic freedom will be increased.

        “I can’t think of anything more hypocritical than claiming that you’re defending academic freedom by boycotting academics.”

        I don’t know, how about bashing Ira, given what you’ve put out there. Friendly warning; your info is pretty exposed, hoppy. You might want to do something about that.

      • justicewillprevail
        justicewillprevail
        April 8, 2014, 5:25 pm

        Perhaps, hopper, you should acquaint yourself with BDS aims, which have been published here many times. Then you won’t make false claims as you just did, and no doubt will continue to do so. How typical.

      • Sumud
        Sumud
        April 8, 2014, 9:20 pm

        Hophmi –

        I can see how people might argue (wrongly, but at least logically) that BDS is about achieving a political or human rights goal. But arguing that it’s a stance about academic freedom is completely hypocritical. I can’t think of anything more hypocritical than claiming that you’re defending academic freedom by boycotting academics.

        In effect you are arguing that imprisoning criminals in defence of law-abiding citizen’s rights and freedoms, is hypocritical and anti-freedom.

        I don’t believe you’re that stupid hophmi, why the play-acting?

        If you want to stop BDS then all you need to do is pressure the Israeli government to end it’s criminal behaviour and observe Palestinians human rights. So simple.

        War is over if you want it.

      • Ellen
        Ellen
        April 8, 2014, 3:28 pm

        hop, participation in a boycott is and expression of free speech. If we like it or not. Preventing and punishing Constitutionally protected free speech is “Shut Up.”

        The Maryland Shut Up resolution could likely be successfully contested in a court of law. That may well happen.

  2. Anti-BDS
    Anti-BDS
    April 8, 2014, 9:52 am

    Thank G-d, a moment of fresh air amongst a sea of global Antisemitism and Anti Israel

  3. eljay
    eljay
    April 8, 2014, 10:42 am

    >> Thank G-d, a moment of fresh air amongst a sea of global Antisemitism …

    “a sea of global Antisemitism” – that’s a new one. Very catchy.

    >> … and Anti Israel

    Nothing wrong with anti-supremacism. You’re just upset because you think your brand of supremacism is better or more legitimate than everyone else’s.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      April 8, 2014, 11:15 am

      “You’re just upset because you think your brand of supremacism is better or more legitimate than everyone else’s.”

      I think that’s a prerequisite of being a Jewish oleh, isn’t it?

  4. ritzl
    ritzl
    April 8, 2014, 11:26 am

    Meanwhile, “Where is Sarah Ali?”

    http://mondoweiss.net/2014/04/where-is-sarah-ali.html

    Yes, MD legislators, that is academic freedom actually being “constrained” by Israel, right before your very eyes. Just one, and just the latest, example.

  5. Kathleen
    Kathleen
    April 8, 2014, 3:19 pm

    “Asim Ali, an ASA member and University of Maryland professor, said in a statement e-mailed to reporters. “That legislators would condemn the use of the same tactic that brought an end to Jim Crow, apartheid in South Africa, and supported farm workers’ rights is deeply saddening.”

    Hits the nail on the head!

    Keep pushing hard for the BDS movement in your communities etc. There is no turning back and those who want to protect the apartheid state of Israel know this. Keep pushing.

  6. BrianEsker
    BrianEsker
    April 8, 2014, 4:07 pm

    “Keep pushing hard for the BDS movement in your communities etc. There is no turning back…etc. etc.”

    Good luck with that. BDS will never be accepted by normal people because it’s based upon fraud, racism and terrorism. The State of Maryland (and others) didn’t just rush this statute through…it was approved UNANIMOUSLY as a perceived perverted threat to democracy and freedom.

    Dustbin of history is where you’ll soon find BDS, just like any other Jamestown Kool Aid cult.

  7. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870
    April 8, 2014, 10:06 pm

    RE: “Pennsylvania’s House passed an anti-boycott resolution last month.” ~ Kane

    MY COMMENT: I would expect virtually all of the states that once constituted (and may still) the “Old Confederacy” to to pass anti-boycott resolutions or anything else AIPAC puts in front of them.
    Anyways, down he-uh in these he-uh parts, we still knows a thing or two ’bout how to deal with uppity coloreds, y’all.
    In Dixieland we’ll take our stand, to live or die with apartheid Israel!
    Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land & apartheid Israel!
    Dar’s buck-wheat cakes an ‘Ingen’ batter,
    Makes you fat or a little fatter;
    Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land & apartheid Israel!
    Den hoe it down an scratch your grabble,
    To apartheid Israel I’m bound to trabble.
    Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land & apartheid Israel!

    BLACKFACE MINSTREL CHORUS:
    I wish I was in Canaan
    Oaber dar—Oaber dar,
    In Canaan’s lann de color’d man
    Can lib an die in cloaber
    Oaber dar—Oaber dar,
    Oaber dar in de lann ob Canaan.

    SOURCE FOR “DIXIE” LRICS – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dixie_(song)

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