We have reported about legislation making its way through both the NY State Assembly and Senate seeking to stop state funds being used by state higher educational institutions to support groups that engage in academic boycotts.

The bills, though they have different language, are a reaction to the anti-Israel academic boycott passed by the American Studies Association. As I have stated before, I hope the legislature will review the language of the bills very carefully, since there certainly will be challenges.

Not surprisingly, claims are being made that the legislation violates the academic freedom of the boycotters.

It’s the challenge free societies face, that those who seek to destroy what we hold precious get to invoke our laws to protect their destructive actions. So people who seek to destroy the academic freedom of everyone through academic boycotts based on national origin cry that their own academic freedom is violated when good people try to stop the destruction.

Already a threat of a constitutional challenge was made in a January 30, 2014 letter to the legislature from the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has a working group devoted to supporting the anti-Israel BDS movement. The letter is embedded at the bottom of this post.

The gist of the letter is that this is an unlawful attempt to silence unpopular speech. The letter also misrepresents that the ASA boycott only targets institutions. That is false, as I described in my IRS challenge. ASA adopted the full scope of the BDS boycott, but issued non-binding guidelines that purport to scale it back. Even so, the boycott is directed at Israelis based on national origin, which already is unlawful under the NY State Human Rights law.

Jewish Voice for Peace, a group which uses the title “Jewish” to give credibility to its anti-Israeli views, is a big supporter and organizer of the SodaStream boycott. JVP has issued an urgent call to try to stop the NY legislation:

Action needed now to stop dangerous bill in NY State Assembly!

Submitted by Liz Ingenthron on Fri, 01/31/2014 – 12:21pm

ACTION ALERT

Action Needed this Weekend and Monday Morning to Stop Passage of Dangerous Bill in NY State Assembly This past Tuesday, Jan. 28th, the NY State Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill targeting the American Studies Association (ASA) because it recently passed a resolution supporting an academic boycott of Israel. If this becomes law it would prohibit public universities and colleges from using any taxpayer money on groups that support boycotts of Israel. For instance, such funds could not be used for travel or lodging for a faculty member attending a meeting of a group that supports a boycott of Israel. Just as dangerous, this law will lay the groundwork for other attempts to silence debate and opposition on other controversial issues.   A similar bill is quickly moving through the process in the NY State Assembly…we must act now to stop it! The Higher Education Committee of the NY State Assembly is scheduled to discuss their version of this legislation this coming Monday, Feb. 3rd. If they pass it out of committee it could go to the full Assembly for a vote 3 days from that. And since Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver introduced the Assembly bill we can assume he will move to a vote immediately.

According to NY State Senator Klein, chief proponent of the legislation. “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 in inch in New York. The First Amendment protects every organization’s right to speak, but it never requites taxpayers to foot the bill.” The reality is that this legislation is a direct assault on our First Amendment right to freely and openly speak our minds in opposition to the policies of any government, including the Israeli government. Imagine if legislation like this was passed during the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa!

Now is the time for action! Now is the time for members of the Assembly to hear from us: this assault on free speech and academic freedom must be stopped today!

What you can do:   1) Contact key members of the NY State Assembly. Talking points to help you focus your ideas are below.

  • The chair of the Higher Education Committee, Deborah Glick, needs to hear from people this weekend and early Monday morning. Over the weekend, send an email to her office, just click here.
  • Early Monday morning Glick’s offices in Albany and NYC need to be flooded with phone calls: Albany Office phone 518-455-4841, District Office phone 212-674-5153.
  • Contact as many of the other members of the Higher Education Committee as you can. Click here for the list of committee members, which includes links to each of their websites
  • Call, email fax or use any other method to contact Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver…District Office phone 212-312-1420, Albany Office phone 518-455-3791to send an email click here.

2) Contact Your State Assembly Member.

  • Assuming the bill passes in the Higher Education Committee on Monday it will quickly move to the Assembly for a vote. Be sure to contact your own Assembly Member before that vote. Click here to find your member and their contact information. If you don’t know your members name, use the Search function on the right side of the page.

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Contacting Assemblymen and Senators seems like good advice. Thanks to JVP for the contact info.

(Added) Of course, that contact goes for supporters of the legislation, not just opponents.

1 30 14 CCR NLG NYC Letter to NY Assembly Members FINAL

[Featured Image via CCR BDS support website]