New York Officials Propose Bill To Defund Colleges Who Support Pro-Palestinian Groups

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A new bill has been introduced in the New York legislature to strip state aid from any college that is tied to pro-Palestinian groups.

The legislation was introduced by State Senate Co-leader Jeffrey Klein, D-Bronx, and Assemblyman Dov Hikind, D-Brooklyn, in response to the American Studies Association (ASA) boycott against Israeli Academic institutions. The bill gives colleges 30 days to sever ties with academic groups, like the American Studies Association, that boycott Israel or face the loss of state funding and bonding privileges.

In April, the ASA voted to boycott Israeli universities and academic institutions for violating the academic freedom of Palestinian scholars and students.

"Israel's violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; [and] the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights,” ASA said in a statement.

Assemblyman Hikind calls the boycott anti-Israeli discrimination that violates the state’s Human Rights Law.

“This action is a flagrant violation,” Hikind wrote state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

“Our state is under no obligation to support institutionalized discrimination — against Israel or anyone else,” Klein echoed.

Lisa Duggan, the president-elect of the American Studies Association and a professor at New York University, told the Daily News in an email that while her organization has not seen the bill’s language, “my guess is that they will get nowhere, and would fail in the courts in any event.”  

An attorney for the group Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, Liz Jackson, questioned the constitutionality of the bill

“This legislation would violate the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of speech, freedom of association and academic freedom,” Jackson said. “And, of course, it reflects another round of baseless legal bullying to silence criticism of Israeli policy.”

Hikind and Klein wrote the chancellors of the State University of New York and the City University of New York on Friday stating that the boycott is unfair because “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.”

John Bekcman, a spokesman for NYU, which does not support the boycott, says the university still views the Klein-Hikind bill as a potential attack on academic freedom.

Sources: New York Daily News, New York Post