Bill Targeting Israel Boycott Bounces Back in New York State — and Nationally

Congress May Consider Measure Barring Pro-BDS Moves


By Hody Nemes

Published February 07, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Just days after a coalition of unions, civil libertarians and academic groups cheered its demise, a bill targeting academic boycotts of Israel has returned to New York’s state legislature — and similar measures are now popping up in other statehouses and the U.S. Congress.

The New York bill, which passed the State Senate January 28, prohibits universities from using state funds to support academic groups boycotting Israel, among other countries; universities that violated the ban would lose all state funding.

Under mounting pressure from opponents, who criticized the measure as an assault on free speech, a companion bill was withdrawn from the State Assembly, New York’s lower house. But on Thursday, the bill was reintroduced in the State Assembly with softer financial penalties. Instead of losing all state funding, as specified in the State Senate bill, such universities would lose only the money they used to participate in the banned groups’ activities. Membership costs or travel to banned groups’ conferences would “be deducted from any future payments of state aid” to such colleges,” according to the revised Assembly bill’s language.

Opponents of the bill were unmoved. But they may have their hands full on multiple fronts. A version of the bill was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives February 6, sponsored by House Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill). The congressional bill would deny federal funding to any U.S. academic institution participating in a boycott of Israeli universities. The university would also lose funding if “any organization significantly funded by the institution” endorses an Israeli academic boycott.

Maryland state lawmakers have drafted a similar bill, which garnered more than 50 co-sponsors in the Maryland House of Delegates when it was introduced, also on February 6. Another bill, nearly identical to the New York legislation, will likely be introduced in the Illinois Legislature next week by State Senator Ira Silverstein, the Majority Caucus Whip.

The various bills come in response to a resolution passed in December by the 5,000-member American Studies Association, endorsing a boycott of Israeli academic institutions and their official representatives. The resolution, which is meant to protest Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, its alleged restrictions on academic freedom for Palestinians, and the United States’ “enabling” of these policies, exempts individual Israeli scholars from the boycott policy. The ASA, an academic organization for scholars in the field of American studies, states it continues to support such individual scholarly exchanges.

The resolution’s passage nevertheless provoked a storm of reaction, including condemnation of the measure by nearly 200 universities, reported threats sent to the ASA and attacks on and defenses of the group by prominent public figures.

But even some prominent opponents of the ASA’s original resolution are now condemning the legislative moves to sanction schools that give financial support or dues to the ASA, or that support scholars with funds to attend ASA functions.

In New York, the coalition pushing against the bill includes the powerful New York State United Teachers union, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and a group of dozens of Columbia University professors. The American Association of University Professors, which strongly condemned the ASA boycott, has also decried the legislation. The group’s New York chapter described the bill as “reminiscent, for many of us, of the loyalty oaths of the McCarthy era.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.