January 29, 2014, New York – The New York Senate passed S.6438, legislation drafted in response to the ASA resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, yesterday afternoon. The legislation would defund academic entities which choose to boycott, imposing an unfair price on protest by students and academics at public institutions across New York. In response to the New York Senate’s passage of S.6438, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Palestine Solidarity Legal Support (PSLS) issued the following statement by PSLS Director and CCR Cooperating Counsel, Dima Khalidi:
The anti-boycott bill targets core political speech and raises serious constitutional red flags. If this bill goes forward it is likely to face constitutional challenge in the courts.
Boycotts to bring about political and social change, which would be targeted by this bill, are unquestionably protected speech under the First Amendment. Our country has a long tradition of boycotts, from the Montgomery bus boycott led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to the boycott of Apartheid South Africa, recently celebrated at the passing of President Nelson Mandela.
Courts have been very clear that the denial of funding, where motivated by a desire to suppress speech, is prohibited by the First Amendment.
For more information on the legality of academic boycott, please see Palestinian Solidarity Legal Support’s frequently asked questions