Anti-boycott measure slipped into Maryland state budget

Maryland State House (Holley St. Germain/Flickr)

The American Studies Association (ASA) is calling for “immediate” action by the public to oppose a measure making its way through the Maryland legislature.

This is one of several measures introduced in US state legislatures and in Congress to punish or condemn universities or organizations that endorse academic boycott of Israel.

The initiatives were prompted by the ASA’s vote last December to endorse the Palestinian call for boycott of Israeli institutions.

Slipped into budget

“Proponents of the anti-boycott legislation failed to secure passage of the unconstitutional attack on academic freedom, so they have used the tried and true method of getting positions to be approved by the legislature by including their language in the state budget bill,” the ASA explains in a statement.

The ASA says:

The anti-boycott language was inserted into the House version of the budget bill as an amendment (which no one voted on since it was accepted as “friendly”), along with other amendments not in the version of the budget passed by the Senate. The two versions of the budget bills, including the various amendments, now must go to a conference committee. That committee is charged with deciding on the final language of the budget bill, which will then be voted on by both the Senate and the House with no further changes allowed.

All of this must happen before the Maryland General Assembly ends at midnight on Monday, April 7th, one week from today. We do not know when the conference committee will meet and that is why our immediate action is needed.

“Anti-Semitism”

The amendment condemns the ASA boycott, affirms the State of Maryland’s commitment to cooperation with Israel and alleges that “anti-Semitism is an intolerable and ugly form of bigotry, prejudice, and hostility directed toward individuals of the Jewish faith and the State of Israel, often based on ethnic, cultural, or religious identity.”

The ASA urges its members and the public to “call the members of the budget bill conference committee today,” and provides their contact information.

“Our message is clear: they should remove the offensive anti-boycott language in the House version of the budget bill. Attacks on academic freedom and charges of anti-Semitism should not be in any bill our legislature passes.”

However, the ASA notes, “there was never a public hearing on this language.”

Unconstitutional

Yesterday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois condemned a resolution before the state senate calling on Illinois college and university presidents to publicly condemn academic boycotts.

The ACLU said that “boycott is an important and powerful form of protected expressive association protected by the First Amendment.”

The resolution was scheduled to be discussed at hearing of the Judiciary Committee today.

The Jewish United Fund (JUF), a major pro-Israel organization in the Chicago area, has urged the public to support the resolution by contacting key members of the Illinois legislature.

The JUF claims that “a vigorous campaign has been unleashed against the resolution and its supporters by those promoting boycotts of Israel and [who] misrepresent the resolution as itself an attack on academic freedom.”

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Comments

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As I commented months ago in this space, the legislative expertise of big time
lobbyists is a given. I was referring at that time to the measure introduced in
the House of Representatives with only two "co-sponsors". It was referred to
committee. I warned that it may appear somewhere in stealth as an ammendment
(say, for example, no 250???) to a measure which no Respresentative will
oppose (such as a defense appropriation bill).

The lobbyists continue to demonstrate their back room legislative abilities
in manipulating in the example described above. .

Bewhere! (What you don't see may hurt you very much!)

(I have emailed my own Representative urging him to contact universities in
his area and discuss the meaning for their financial survival as well as
academic freedom. ----The Boston area is filled with universities.)

At present the bill in Congress is HR 4009.

Peter Loeb, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.