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New York Senate Passes Anti-BDS Bills

March 9, 2017
 
 

The New York State Senate passed three bills Wednesday that limit activity related to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Two of those bills directly relate to universities and student groups.

Senate Bill 4837 would “prohibit any college from using state aid to fund an academic entity, to provide funds for membership in an academic entity or fund travel or lodging for any employee to attend any meeting of such academic entity if that academic entity has undertaken an official action boycotting certain countries or their higher education institutions.” Specifically the bill would apply to boycotts of countries “if the country subject of such boycott hosts a higher education institution chartered by the Board of Regents” -- a category that includes Israel.

Senate Bill 2493, meanwhile, would “prohibit student organizations that participate in hate speech, including advocating for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israel and American allied nations from receiving public funding.”

A third bill passed by the Senate, Senate Bill 2492, would restrict the state from contracting with or investing in “persons and businesses that promote or engage in activities to boycott American allied nations,” again, a category that includes Israel.

All three bills have been delivered to the New York State Assembly.

The legal advocacy organizations Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights issued a statement saying it would fight to prevent the bills from passing the Assembly and becoming law.

“These bills are blatantly unconstitutional attacks on First Amendment rights to protest and dissent. They resurrect widely condemned tactics used to undermine democracy: creating McCarthyite blacklists, punishing dissent, attacking academic freedom and cracking down on student organizing,” the groups said in a joint statement.

State Senator Elaine Phillips, a Republican who sponsored the latter two bills, issued a press release hailing their passage by the Senate (Phillips is also a cosponsor of the first of the three bills). “New York State has no business funding attacks against Israel or supporting hate; it’s an inappropriate and offensive use of taxpayer dollars,” she said. “Entities facilitating an economic war against Israel and student groups that are harassing, intimidating and abusing Jewish students should not receive one penny of state support.”

 
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