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.
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!
According to Dima Khalidi of Palestine Solidarity Legal Support and Cooperating Counsel with the Center for Constitutional Rights, the First Amendment “prohibits public officials from denying public benefits as a way of censoring speech activities.These bills clearly aim to discourage expressive activities such as boycotts based on the legislators’ personal disagreement with the content of the expression. Painting the ASA boycott resolution as discriminatory is not only inaccurate, but also distracts from the fact that its purpose is in fact to protest the human rights violations for which Israel is responsible, and the discriminatory policies and practices of the Israeli government. These bills would be both a violation of free speech and academic freedom, which the proposed legislation cynically purports to defend.”
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 518-455-3791, to send an email click here.
- 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.
2) Help spread the word.
- Share this message as widely and as quickly as you can
- Try to get this information to people throughout NY State…it is important that this be a state-wide effort.
- Send a letter to the editor to express your opposition to this legislation