The American-Israel Public Action Committee (AIPAC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) have joined educators, academics, and university faculty in opposing a bill in the House of Representatives, which calls for a ban of federal aid for academic institutions that boycott Israel or its institutions: the Protect Academic Freedom Act.
Representative Peter Roskam (Republican, Illinois) and Representative Dan Lipinski (Democrat, Illinois) introduced the bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 last Thursday. The bill, which has bipartisan support, is in response to the decision by the American Studies Association (ASA) to boycott Israeli institutes of higher education to protest it calls their support of Israeli policy against the Palestinians.
The Protect Academic Freedom Act states in its preamble, "Israel is a vital American ally and a fellow democracy that fosters free speech," and "Attempts to single out Israel for discriminatory boycotts violates the principle of academic freedom guaranteed by the United States."
"This bipartisan legislation seeks to preserve academic freedom and combat bigotry by shielding Israel from unjust boycotts. It is ludicrous for critics to go after our democratic friend and ally Israel when they should be focusing on the evils perpetrated by repressive, authoritarian regimes like Iran and North Korea," said Roskam in a statement. These boycotts not only threaten educational cooperation between the US and Israel, but ultimately undermine the academic goals of all nations. Congress has a responsibility to fight back against these hateful campaigns, which contradict academic freedom and are designed to delegitimize the Jewish State of Israel."
According to the "The Washington Free Beacon", a conservative site, Roskam has described the ASA’s efforts as “anti-Semitic,” said that the US taxpayer should not fund institutions that seek to unfairly isolate Israel.
Scholarship and research should be about the pursuit of knowledge, and universities have been and always should be a community where different opinions and ideas are encouraged and nourished," said Lipinski, who is co-sponsoring the bill. "The boycott of US-Israeli academic exchanges proposed by the American Studies Association and Association of Asian American Studies would lead to negative effects on educational and research institutions in both nations. I am proud to join Rep. Roskam in introducing legislation that would help assure that no federal funds would go to any American university that would consider this ill-conceived boycott and thus deter US based academic institutions from joining it."
Such legislation would normally go through both houses of Congress quickly and arrive on the president's desk for his signature, but the bill has encountered unexpected opposition, and there is no assurance that it will be approved. One of the obstacles is the decision by AIPAC and the ADL to oppose it on First Amendment grounds. Given that these two groups are considered the strongest and most important Jewish organizations in the US, their reservations provide ammunition for the bill's other opponents and greatly weaken it.
"The legislation is almost certainly unconstitutional, it’s a bad law, and it reinforces stereotypes about Jewish influence,” conservative site "Buzzfeed" quotes a pro-Israel Democratic strategist familiar with the groups’ thinking as saying. “It’s so bad that AIPAC and ADL oppose it. There’s no way they’ll say they support it."
"Buzzfeed" adds, "Asked if the group had taken a position on the bill, an AIPAC official said on Thursday that the organization had received the bill and was reviewing it."
"Buzzfeed" quotes ADL director Abe Foxman as saying, "We welcome any effort to challenge or fight the boycott, divestment and sanctions in colleges and universities. However well-intentioned, we are not sure that this bill would be the most effective means of recourse."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 9, 2014
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