A bipartisan bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives on Thursday; if passed it will revoke all federal funding for any US academic institution that decides to boycott Israel.
The academic boycott leveled against Israel last December by the American Studies Association (ASA) was a key factor in the bill, which seeks to prevent similar discrimination. The "Protect Academic Freedom Act” was submitted by House Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D., Ill.).
Presenting the bill in the House on Thursday, Roskam said the act aims to "prevent (boycott) campaigns by prohibiting federal funds to universities that boycott Israeli organizations," adding that the "US taxpayer doesn't have to be complicit" to an act that amounts to "anti-Semitism."
In January, Roskam initiated a letter with 133 of his colleagues to ASA, in order "to admonish them on what is clearly an anti-Semitic effort on their part." Roskam argued "they looked over every other country in the world," and basically condoned what's happening everywhere by singling out Israel.
"It is ludicrous for critics to go after our democratic friend and ally Israel when they should be focusing on the evils perpetrated by repressive, authoritarian regimes like Iran and North Korea," reasoned Roskam in a statement.
The language of the bill reads "attempts to single out Israel for discriminatory boycotts violates the principle of academic freedom guaranteed by the United States."
Former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren spoke in support of the new bill, calling it "the first legislation that defends Israel against discriminatory boycotts which impede rather than advance the peace process, and that seek to deny Israelis the right to free speech on American campuses."
"As an historian and visiting professor on leading American campuses, I strongly support this courageous initiative,” Oren said. “It can be the turning point in the struggle against the delegitimization of the Jewish State.”
The new bill follows a law passed last Tuesday by the New York State senate which strips public funding for schools that support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
The ASA boycott was met with opposition from many leading American universities, including the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which declared "the concept of an academic boycott is antithetical to MIT values."
In a similar vein, the Dutch Jewish group Tradition is Our Future (TOF) initiated a counter-boycott this week against PGGM, the Dutch pension asset manager that announced in early January it was divesting from five Israeli banks because they finance "Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories."