Updated July 12, 2019
S. 4001/A. 5755
What it does:
In June 2019, New Jersey lawmakers introduced a bill that would amend the state’s education law to require state public schools and universities to apply a widely contested redefinition of antisemitism that equates criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish discrimination.
Included in the law’s definition of antisemitism are the so-called 3 D’s related to Israel:
“[D]emonizing Israel by using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israeli people, drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, or blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions;
[A]pplying a double standard to Israel by requiring behavior of Israel that is not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation, or focusing peace or human rights investigations only on Israel; and
[D]elegitimizing Israel by denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and denying Israel the right to exist.”
The “3 D’s” are so broad and vague that they would encompass almost any criticism of Israel, encouraging infringements on constitutionally protected speech related to advocacy for Palestinian rights and undermining the fight against real antisemitism.
Efforts to codify the redefinition found in the Act are widely opposed. Civil and human rights organizations, including the ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights, have recognized the damage its application would cause to vulnerable students. First Amendment scholars have explained how it would violate constitutional rights. Even Kenneth Stern, who authored the redefinition, opposes its use on college campuses.
S. 4001 was introduced in the state senate in June 2019 and was sent to the Senate Education Committee for consideration. An identical bill (A. 5755) was also introduced in the state assembly.
Palestine Legal et al., Coalition legal letter opposing S. 4001, July 2019.
Palestine Legal, Backgrounder on Efforts to Redefine Antisemitism as a Means of Censoring Criticism of Israel, May 2019.
Hannan Adely, NJ anti-Semitism bill would stifle free speech, advocates say, North Jersey Record, July 9, 2019.
Randy Bergmann, N.J. anti-Semitism bill runs counter to First Amendment, Asbury Park Press, July 12, 2019.
Read the bill: S. 4001
What it does:
A925/S1923 requires New Jersey's public pension funds to divest from companies that boycott Israel or Israeli businesses. A2940 prohibits public funding of colleges/universities to be directly or indirectly used to support entities and associations that support BDS.
A925/S1923 passed both houses of the NJ state legislature and was signed into law by Governor Christie on August 16, 2016.
A2940 was introduced but failed to be enacted.
Palestine Legal & Center for Constitutional Rights legal memo on amended A925/S1923.
Palestine Legal & Center for Constitutional Rights notified NJ lawmakers that the anti-boycott bills are unconstitutional.
ACLU-NJ tells NJ lawmakers that S1923/A925 raises serious constitutional problems by harming free speech and using government resources to build political blacklists (June 8, 2016).
Star Ledger Editorial Board, N.J. pro-Israel bills take Big Brother to the extreme, June 10, 2016.
Abed Awad, Why New Jersey shouldn't block freedom of speech in Israeli boycott debate, by New Jersey Star Ledger, May 26, 2016.
Steve Shalom, New Jersey anti-BDS bill is an affront to the First Amendment and basic human rights, Mondoweiss, May 18, 2016.
Leslie Scott, New Jersey politicians on the verge of voting to suppress residents who support Palestinians' human rights, Alternet, May 12, 2016.
In 2015 the New Jersey legislature introduced a bill prohibiting state pensions and annuity funds from investing in companies that boycott Israel. The bill passed the senate but failed in the assembly.
The legislature also introduced a joint resolution condemning boycotts for Palestinian rights as antisemitic. The resolution was adopted in 2016.