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Bill to Strip Funding of Schools Supporting BDS Becomes Law

New York State senate passes bill into law punishing schools that boycott Israel.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 1/29/2014, 4:39 PM

Anti-Israel boycotters (illustration)
Anti-Israel boycotters (illustration)
Flash 90

The New York State senate passed a landmark bill Tuesday stripping public funding for schools that support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, according to Capitol Confidential.

The bill, which passed by a landslide vote of 51-4, is a specific response to the smear campaign against Israel launched by the American Studies Association (ASA), a group of roughly 5,000 professors who recently singled out Israel for criticism and voted to boycott the Jewish state. 

In December, the ASA declared that the vote actualized “a refusal to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions (such as deans, rectors, presidents and others), or on behalf of the Israeli government."

In justifying its decision to boycott Israel, the ASA said the boycott was “in solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom, and it aspires to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians.”

Israeli academics and American Jewish leaders expressed outrage at the boycott for violating academic freedom. Not a single school has come out in support of the bill and several top universities - including Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Princeton, Boston University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Connecticut and University of Texas - have already slammed the boycott.

The bill's authors, Senator Jeffrey D. Klein and Assemblyman Dov Hikind, turned the ASA's accusations of Israel violating the academic freedom of the Palestinian Arabs on its head. 

“Make no mistake: the ASA’s boycott is targeted discrimination against Israel that betrays the values of academic freedom that we hold dear,” Klein and Hikind said in a joint statement. 

“No other nation — even those with far worse records on human rights and academic freedom than what the ASA has accused Israel of — is subject to a similar boycott by the ASA."

Klein's and Hikind's original draft for the law was somewhat vague, according to Capitol Confidential, and simply stated that funding would be revoked for any school supporting the ASA boycott. Tuesday's bill was revised to include specific preconditions for state funding to be revoked. 

According to the bill, state funding will now be revoked for any academic institutions which meets one of the following criteria: 

(a) when such college is located in a country that is determined by the United States secretary of state to be a state sponsor of terrorism;
(b) when such boycott is connected with a labor dispute; or
(c) when such boycott is for the purpose of protesting unlawful discriminatory practices as determined by the laws, rules or regulations of this state.

In practice, the bill's scope remains limited, only applying to schools which receive SUNY Regent funding. However, the bill may set a precedent for future legislation in other states or on the federal level. 

Klein welcomed the new law with gusto. 

“This legislation sends a very simple message, which is that we should never ask taxpayers to support religious, ethnic, or racial discrimination," he stated in a press release. "We need to marginalize the politics of intolerance whenever it rears its ugly head. I will not allow the enemies of Israel or the Jewish people to gain an inch in New York."

"The First Amendment protects every organization’s right to speak, but it never requires taxpayers to foot the bill," he added.