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(Jeff Haynes / Agence France Presse)

New US bill to punish academic boycott inspired by Israeli ambassador

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Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL) speaks at a dinner of the Israel lobby group AIPAC in Chicago, June 2013. (Screenshot from Youtube)

Weeks after Ambassador Michael Oren, Israel’s former envoy to the United States, suggested it, members of the United States Congress have introduced a bill to punish American universities if their members support the academic boycott of Israeli institutions.

The so-called “Protect Academic Freedom Act” would deny federal funding to any institution that participates in a boycott of Israeli universities or scholars or even whose departments issue statements in support of a boycott.

Punishing statements

The proposed law defines “an institution of higher education to be participating in a boycott” if “the institution, any significant part of the institution, or any organization significantly funded by the institution adopts a policy or resolution, issues a statement, or otherwise formally establishes the restriction of discourse, cooperation, exchange, or any other involvement with academic institutions or scholars on the basis of the connection of such institutions or such scholars to the state of Israel.”

Unconstitutional

The restrictions even on speech – issuing statements – prompted the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee to issue an action alert warning that the bill is unconstitutional and violates First Amendment rights.  

The bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives yesterday by Representative Peter Roskam, the Republican member for the sixth district of Illinois, and co-sponsored by Representative Dan Lipinski, an Illinois Democrat.

In his speech to Congress introducing the “bipartisan” bill (video above) and in a press release, Roskam specifically cites as motivation the December vote by the American Studies Association (ASA) to support the academic boycott of Israeli institutions.

Pushed by Michael Oren


But the law itself was directly inspired by Michael Oren, the former American who renounced his citizenship to serve as Israeli ambassador to the United States until last year.

In December, Oren demanded repressive laws against those seeking to use boycott tactics to pressure Israel to end its abuses of Palestinians.

“What’s needed is a way to fight back, and Congress can do it,” Oren wrote in Politico.

Oren specifically cited as a desirable precedent a 1977 US law “making it illegal for US companies to cooperate with any boycott of Israel and imposing stiff penalties on those that did.”

Now Roskam and Lipinski have obliged. Indeed, Roskam says on his Facebook page that “I’m thankful for the wisdom and leadership of Ambassador Michael Oren, who has helped raise awareness for this important effort.”

Wave of repressive bills

The Roskam bill follows similar initiatives introduced in the state legislatures of New York and Maryland recently.

As Steven Salaita writes for The Electronic Intifada, these bills demonstrate that “For some, commitment to Israel overrides the maintenance of traditional American legal protections.”

You can add Roskam, Lipinski and anyone else who supports such repressive laws to the roster of those for whom free speech is subordinate to maintaining Israeli apartheid and occupation.

Comments

Loosely quoting the distinguished Senator, "Americans should not be forced to subsidize academic boycott", then respectively, Americans should not be forced to subsidize the occupation of Palestinians. He also points out that institutions supporting boycott are picking on Israel. They ignore the inhumane acts transpiring in the rest of the world. The difference here is, we don't call those countries "friends", we don't call them "democracies", and we don't provide over $3 bn in military aid to support a colonial occupation of another body of people by an unjust military stranglehold.

Fortunately some Jews don't quite see the world as AIPAC do.

“ I once led a delegation of 60 parliamentarians from 13 European Parliaments to Gaza. I could no longer do that today because Gaza is practically inaccessible .... it is the Israelis who have imposed the blockade and are the occupying power.

Again and again, Israel seeks to justify the vile injustices that it imposes on the people of Gaza and the west bank on the grounds of the holocaust. Last week, we commemorated the holocaust; 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza are being penalised with that as the justification. That is unacceptable.

The statistics are appalling. There is fresh water for a few hours every five days. Fishing boats are not allowed to go out—in any case, what is the point, because the waters are so filthy that no fish they catch can be eaten? The Israelis are victimising the children above all. Half the population of this country is under the voting age. What is being done to those children—the lack of nutrition—is damaging not only their bodies and brains; it will go on for generation after generation .....".

Search; “We Must Impose Sanctions says UK MP Sir Gerald Kaufman"

But you wont find any report of it on the UK mainstream media, why is that I wonder, I thought the UK was supposed to be a Democratic society where all points of view are made public, but it looks as if even the supposed bastions of liberty and free speech such as the Guardian have been cowed before the 'friends of Israel'.

Orwell couldn't have chosen a better name!

Oren proves himself to be, once again, the instrument of a brutal colonial power. He should ashamed of himself. But, it seems that these kind of people know not what shame means.

We are not living under Colonial Powers, So therefore as a Democratic country how can we allow it. Who is Israel to dictate to the USA on our schools, University what they can do or not do.

Congratulation to all who are leading and supporting the Israel Boycott.
A beautiful example of non-violent fight.
Israel is the last Apartheid on Earth, time to end it.

congress is more like church.
most Americans don't agree with anything they do. and most of us don't vote because the choices offered suck. this is what we end up with.

BDS is the best way out! we don't need them. thank you, Electronic Intifada.

Sick puppies determined to repress free speech. For such people the constitution only applies outside of their own convenience. Anything they CAN manipulate is fair game. Sick, wrong, irresponsible, indifferent, bound in greed and fear.