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

(page 2 of 3)

Several major Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, told the Forward they do not support the measure. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the large Washington-based Israel lobby, did not take a position on the bill and has said it is reviewing it. Congressional sources made clear that AIPAC did not lobby for the bill.

But the legislation’s sponsors in New York, which include State Senator Jeffrey Klein and the usually indomitable New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, have one powerful organization working on their side: the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

“Speaker Silver and Senator Klein are taking a stand against this extremist movement and in support of academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas,” said Hindy Poupko, JCRC Director of Israel & International Affairs, in an email.

Poupko noted that, as a tax exempt public charity, JCRC is not a lobbying organization, but it strongly backed the legislative effort. “This was an initiative that came out of the Assembly and State Senate and we believe in what they’re doing,” she said.

Klein said he had “worked very closely with the JCRC,” which helped him draft the bill. “I was on a conference call with their board yesterday [February 4] and they were very, very excited and supportive of the bill passing the Senate and they wanted to figure out a strategy for the bill passing the Assembly as well,” he said.

JCRC is an umbrella organization composed of 50 New York-based Jewish groups and local chapters of national Jewish groups, including the ADL and AJC. But Steven Bayme, AJC’s Director of Contemporary Jewish Life, strongly criticized the New York bill as “a constraint on academic freedom.” Bayme lamented that it was scaring away allies who had previously fought against the ASA boycott.

“We don’t think it’s a particularly wise idea,” Bayme told the Forward. “If academic freedom is a centerpiece in your argument against BDS, then don’t deny academic freedom to those who support it.” Bayme’s reference was to the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel that was initiated by a coalition of Palestinian civil society groups in 2005, to which the ASA was responding.

Evan R. Bernstein, ADL’s New York Regional Director, said in an email to the Forward that his group’s approach to the ASA boycott move “has not been to advocate for legislation.”

Two liberal Jewish groups, Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say No!, are working to defeat the New York bill.

The bill’s civil libertarian opponents say it is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment. “Basically, political boycotts are protected under the First Amendment,” said Maria LaHood, Senior Staff Attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, one of the civil liberties groups leading the fight against the bill. “The state can’t deny funding in order to suppress speech based on a particular viewpoint, in this case advocating for a boycott of Israel or Israeli academic institutions.”

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!
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen.
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • 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.