In a show of solidarity with Israel, the New York Senate voted to defund anti-Israel groups operating on campuses.
The New York Senate voted last Wednesday to withhold state university funding from any student group calling for a boycott of Israel or other “allied nations.”
Supporters of the measure said it was a way of showing solidarity with Israel during a time of increasing anti-Semitism. Opponents, including the New York Civil Liberties Union and the group Palestine Legal, claimed it would unfairly deprive certain students of public funding based on constitutionally protected political speech.
The bill passed the Republican-led Senate 49-11 and now moves to the Assembly, where it is expected to face significant challenges.
Specifically, the bill would prohibit state university funding from going to campus groups that engage in hate speech, a term that in the bill includes calling for a boycott.
“We don’t have to stand by and give taxpayer money to groups that sell such hate,” said Sen. Todd Kaminsky, D-Long Island.
The anti-boycott bill would cover, besides Israel, other NATO countries, South Korea, Japan, Ireland and several Pacific and Latin American treaty signatories.
An attorney with Palestine Legal, Rahul Saksena, said similar bills have popped up in other states, but to his knowledge, none has been signed into law. He described his organization as one that defends the rights of organizations advocating for “Palestinian freedom.”
“Today, by singling out for punishment those who advocate for Palestinian rights, the New York state Senate has sent a message, loud and clear: that New Yorkers cannot count on them to safeguard democracy in the Trump era,” he said.
The Senate also passed legislation that would codify into statute an executive order from Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo prohibiting the state from doing business with companies that support a boycott of Israel. That bill also passed the Senate last year but did not proceed through the Assembly.
In June, Cuomo issued the first executive order in the country that forces state entities to drop investments linked to boycotts of Israel. He stated that New York will boycott anyone who is boycotting Israel.
“This order sends the message that this state will do everything in its power to end this hateful, intolerant campaign,” the governor said. “New York and Israel share an unbreakable bond and I pray that the Israeli and Palestinian people will find a way to live side by side and find peace, prosperity and security.”
He just returned from a trip to Israel in a gesture of support for the Jewish state spurred by acts of anti-Semitism at Jewish cemeteries, college campuses and community centers across the US.