Congressmen Try to Restrict Free Speech To Prevent Boycotts of Israel

This article originally appeared at LobeLog.

Earlier this week, a bill was hastily removed from the agenda of the New York State Assembly. The bill was designed as a response Freedom_of_Thought_Ben_Franklinto the American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli educational institutions. But it was so poorly written that even opponents of the ASA boycott saw it as potentially damaging to academic freedom in general. The bill was removed from the fast track in New York so it could be re-written to be more acceptable to its potential supporters. A similar bill is currently working its way through the Maryland state legislature.

Now the US Congress is getting into the act, with a bill that has the same goal, but takes a different approach. The bills in New York and Maryland did not specifically mention Israel, although it was clear that the ASA action against Israeli academia is what prompted the bills. Instead, they tried to argue that academic freedom meant that the state must penalize institutions that choose to express themselves through the power of boycott if the target is a country that has extensive academic connections with the United States. Continue reading

Oppose Anti-Boycott Maryland Bill (SB 647): Impinging on Academic Freedom and Free Speech

Readers, I have started a petition to oppose this bill in the Maryland State Senate. It would be a severe governmental intrusion on academic freedom and freedom of speech.

The bill was put forth in response to the American Studies Association decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Whether or not you support the ASA decision, a law like this one must be opposed. It’s simply a bad idea. It would not only penalize any state-funded academic institution (as most are) from participating in ASA or any other association which passed a similar decision, it would even prevent individual academics from participating in conferences organized by such groups. The irony is that ASA went out of its way to make sure that individual academics would not be so constrained by their own decision.

Please sign the petition which is directed to the Maryland legislature and governor, especially if you live in Maryland. This attempt to promote governmental interference in academic freedom and free speech must be defeated.

Netherlands Businesses Cutting Ties With Israel’s Occupation

This article originally appeared at LobeLog.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte receives Israeli President Shimon Peres on September 29, 2013

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte receives Israeli President Shimon Peres on September 29, 2013

In recent weeks, Israel and especially advocates for its right-wing in the United States have been scrambling to lash back at a boycott resolution passed by the American Studies Association (ASA). This was an initiative of an academic group in the United States directed at all of Israel in support of the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. But all of this activity against the ASA has overlooked a much more important act of economic pressure against Israel — this one from Europe.

The ASA boycott has divided peace activists, some of whom support economic actions against settlements and the occupation but not against Israel as a whole. Others have been reluctant to support the ASA action because they support certain actions against Israel but not an academic boycott. While there has been a good deal of support for the ASA action from the broader BDS movement, these questions have left the ASA action more open to attack from those who oppose any sort of action that might compel Israel to change its policies. Continue reading