The New York State Senate passed a bill Tuesday prohibiting state educational institutions from funding groups participating in an academic boycott of Israel.
The bill, introduced by state Senator Jeffrey Klein, will suspend state funding to colleges that fund certain academic organizations like the American Studies Association.
The ASA voted in December to endorse an academic boycott of Israel. The resolution, which passed with a 2-to-1 margin, claimed that “there is no effective or substantive academic freedom for Palestinian students and scholars under conditions of Israeli occupation.” The resolution effectively severs relations with Israeli universities and academics.
Klein’s bill passed the Senate in a 56-4 vote. It does not specifically mention the ASA or Israel but Klein, a Democrat representing the Bronx and Westchester County, made his intentions clear in a public statement.
“This legislation sends a very simple message, which is that we should never ask taxpayers to support religious, ethnic, or racial discrimination. We need to marginalize the politics of intolerance whenever it rears its ugly head,” he said. Adding, “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.”
Under the legislation, schools would no longer be allowed to reimburse students who travel to conventions hosted by the ASA. A school found to be violating the bill would have its academic funding from the state cut off for the academic year in which the infraction occurred.
The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association and the Association for Asian American Studies are two similar groups who have also announced Israel boycotts. Those organizations will also be affected by the new bill.
Speaker Sheldon Silver has introduced a similar bill in the state Assembly. That bill currently has 48 sponsors in the 150 member legislative body.
The ASA has denounced the bill as an attack on free speech.
“While proposed in the name of academic freedom, the bill is a direct attack on such freedom,” The ASA said in a statement. “As the American Association of University Professors notes, it proposes a political litmus test for faculty seeking research and travel support and thus recalls the McCarthy era, one of the darkest periods of political repression in U.S. history.”