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New York State Senate passes bill targeting the American Studies Association

MEMO | February 3, 2014

The New York State Senate has overwhelmingly passed a bill that targets the American Studies Association (ASA) for supporting an academic and cultural boycott of Israeli institutions. The bill is due to be discussed this week by the New York State Assembly’s Higher Education Committee, and if passed the bill would be voted on by the full assembly shortly thereafter. The governor also has to approve any bill before it becomes law.

Members of ASA voted in December 2013 to endorse the call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel. Shortly afterwards, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association also announced its support for the boycott. Both follow the precedent set by the Asian American Studies Association in April 2013.

Al-Jazeera America reported that the New York bill, sponsored by Democratic Senator Jeff Klein, passed the state senate by a vote of 56-4 and would “prevent academic institutions from using state aid to pay for membership fees to organisations like the ASA or to reimburse state employees for travel or lodging associated with ASA travel.”

In a statement released by his office, Klein threatened that, “I will not allow the enemies of Israel or the Jewish people to gain an inch in New York.”

The Palestinians calling for the boycott, as part of the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, are protesting the on-going Israeli occupation of Palestine.

According to Students for Justice in Palestine, the bill has wider ramifications than just targeting the ASA. The group said in an e-mail that: “If [the bill] 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.”

Dima Khalidi of the Palestine Solidarity Legal Support and Cooperating Counsel with the Centre for Constitutional Rights noted that the bill clearly aims to “discourage expressive activities such as boycotts based on the legislators’ personal disagreement with the content of the expression.” She added that: “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.”

February 3, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US academic organization endorses boycott of Israel

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Al-Akhbar | December 5, 2013

The American Studies Association, a 60-year old US academic organization with 5,000 members, passed a resolution on Wednesday committing to the boycott movement against Israel.

Citing its commitment to “the pursuit of social justice” and to “the struggle against all forms of racism,” the ASA revealed in a statement published on its website that it had voted to support the academic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

“The American Studies Association endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions,” the statement read.

“The ASA supports the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement.”

ASA noted the “significant role” played by the United States “in enabling the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the expansion of illegal settlements and the [apartheid] Wall in violation of international law, as well as in supporting the systematic discrimination against Palestinians, which has had documented devastating impact on the overall well-being, the exercise of political and human rights, the freedom of movement, and the educational opportunities of Palestinians.”

The BDS movement has gained traction over the past years, as a growing number of scholars and academic entities have committed to the cause.

More than 950 scholars working in American institutions have endorsed the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

The Association for Asian American Studies became the first US academic organization to officially support the boycott movement in April.

In May, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking withdrew from an Israeli conference, citing his decision to respect the Israel boycott.

December 5, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on US academic organization endorses boycott of Israel