IL Senate Consider Anti-BDS Bill

 Credit: Bryan MacCormack

Credit: Bryan MacCormack

Bill Prohibiting Academic Boycotts at Public Universities is under Illinois State Senate Consideration

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 4, 2014

Bill Prohibiting Academic Boycotts at Public Universities is under Illinois State Senate Consideration

Contacts: Dima Khalidi, Director, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support & Cooperating Counsel, Center for Constitutional Rights, 773-357-7526 Lynn Pollack, Jewish Voice for Peace- Chicago,  847-902-4455. Nadine Naber, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, 734-476-9241 Junaid Rana, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, junaidrana@gmail.com

Advocates Assert Bill Violates First Amendment

March 4, 2014, Chicago – A bill that would prohibit public universities and colleges from using any state funds on groups that have made statements in support of, or that participate in boycotts of Israeli academic institutions has been introduced in the Illinois State Senate and will be considered in the Senate’s Higher Education Committee.  For instance, state aid could not be used for travel, lodging or membership dues for a faculty member attending the conference of an academic association that made a statement in support of a boycott of Israel.  Universities that do so would lose all of their state funding for that year.  According to the legislation’s sponsor, Senate Bill 3017 was drafted in response to the American Studies Association’s (ASA) recent resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

A coalition of groups have organized in opposition to the bill, which would be a substantial blow to academic freedom and free speech in the university context.

“The Illinois anti-boycott bill is a clear violation of the First Amendment,” said Maria LaHood, Senior Staff Attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. “By singling out for punishment advocacy for boycotts aimed at changing Israeli policy, the bill’s sponsor attempts to dictate what kind of political speech is acceptable on college campuses, where free inquiry and debate should be able to thrive without government interference.”

“Anyone who cares about public education and the future of free speech should oppose this bill.  It creates a culture of fear and intimidation on college campuses, and contradicts the very values of higher education. Rather than teaching our students the values of critical debate and differences of opinion, this bill punishes dissent and tells faculty and students to keep their ideas to themselves,” said Nadine Naber, Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and member of the American Studies Association.  “If legislators can do this to protect Israel from scrutiny, imagine what other dissenting speech they could silence on university campuses.”

“We all have an obligation to stand up against these attempts to define what is in the interests of the academic community and the Jewish community.  We need to hear a range of voices on this internationally important issue that has been festering without resolution for decades,” said Lynn Pollack, Jewish Voice for Peace–Chicago.

The American Studies Association endorsed a resolution in December 2013 to boycott Israeli academic institutions in protest of the central role that they play in Israel’s denial of Palestinian human rights, in an effort to contribute to the larger movement for social justice in Israel/Palestine. The ASA resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions is available here, and an explanation of the resolution is available here.

Similar anti-boycott legislation has been introduced in New York, Maryland and the U.S. House of Representatives.

See CCR’s letter to the Illinois Higher Education Committee.

See ACLU-IL's letter to the Illinois Senate Higher Education Committee: ACLU-IL_LetterToHECreSB 3017

See Action Alert to contact State Representatives.

See information about other anti-boycott bills.

For more information on the legality of academic boycott, see Palestinian Solidarity Legal Support’s frequently asked questions.

The Illinois Coalition to Protect Academic Freedom and Free Speech was formed in response to anti-boycott legislation introduced in the Illinois State Senate.  The Coalition includes the Center for Constitutional RightsCAIR-ChicagoJewish Voice for Peace-ChicagoPalestine Solidarity Legal SupportAmerican Studies AssociationCommittee for a Just Peace in Israel and PalestinePalestine Solidarity Group-ChicagoArab-Jewish Partnership for Peace and Justice in the Middle EastCommittee Against Political RepressionFriends of Sabeel: North AmericaUnited States Palestinian Community Network,  American Friends Service Committee- Chicago, Just Foreign Policy, Defending Dissent Foundation, and other individuals.