Update on Anti-Boycott Legislation in NY State Assembly - April 7
In case you forgot, the NY State Senate passed an anti-boycott bill in January. Speaker Silver then introduced his similar bill in the NY Assembly and we quickly mobilized strong opposition to the unconstitutional assault on academic freedom and free speech. We successfully forced Silver to withdraw that bill but he then introduced one with different punishment, although still unconstitutional. Since then there have been no new efforts to move this legislation forward.
Now that the budget has been completed, the legislature will take up many other initiatives and items. We do not yet know when there will be an attempt to move the anti-boycott bill through the process. The first step will be discussion and a vote in the Assembly's Higher Education Committee. Should the bill pass there it will have to go through several other procedural steps before it can be voted on by the full Assembly. If something does pass it will then have to be reconciled with the language passed in the Senate before the full legislature votes on it. And then whatever they might pass will need to be signed by the governor to make it law. In other words, there are still several steps in this process, important places where our efforts can make a difference.
The Assembly is in session 3 days this week (April 7, 8 and 9) and then not again until the end of the month. It is possible that some action could be taken this week, and if we hear anything we will immediately let you know. In the meantime, we are gearing up for a major push later this month. Here's how you can help:
- We are producing a video with very brief statements from Jewish NY voters. An explanation of why we are doing this, and how you can participate, is below. There is still time to be part of this project!
- Share this message as widely and as quickly as you can. Get this information to people throughout NY State...it is important that this be a state-wide effort.
- Send a letter to the editor to express your opposition to this legislation.
Finally, while things have been quiet here in New York there has been a lot of action in other states: Maryland, Illinois, Florida and other places. In MD, organizers where able to stop the passage of a punitive anti-boycott bill, although the maker of that bill did secure an anti-boycott resolution in the text of that state's budget. Organizers in IL were able to prevent the passage of resolution (which does not have the force of law) in that state's Senate and while there is still time for a bill to pass it looks very unlikely. In other words, victories are being secured and momentum is on our side.
One exciting development was the statement issued just last week by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. It is a powerful statement critical of the anti-boycott legislative efforts here in the U.S. Click here to read it, and please feel free to share it with other people.
We will do our best to make sure you have the most up-to-date information about what's happening in Albany, and we are confident that when it is time to take action we'll be able to count on you again!
Ad Hoc Group In Support of Academic Freedom and the First Amendment
Members include the Center for Constitutional Rights, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, the National Lawyers Guild, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC – CUNY faculty and staff union), Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Say No!, the American Studies Association and others. In addition, the Ads Hoc Group works closely with NYSUT (NY State United Teachers), AAUP, NY Civil Liberties Union, and many individuals.
IN NEED OF 100 JEWISH VOICES TO TELL OUR LEGISLATORS TO VOTE NO ON THE ANTI-BOYCOTT BILL!
If you have any questions about this project, please contact us.
We invite those of you who are Jewish to join a specific effort we are organizing to make sure our NY State legislators know there are Jewish New York voters who oppose the anti-boycott bills in Albany. We would like to get very brief video messages from 100 Jewish New Yorkers. These will be edited into one piece, copied onto dvd's and sent to all of our elected officials in Albany.
It has become clear that at least some of our elected representatives in the NY State Legislature are afraid of appearing anti-Semitic if they vote against these bills (see history of bill below). All too often any criticism of Israeli policy is explained away as being anti-Semitic. We need to counter this manipulative distortion. Defending the right of an academic organization to support a call for a boycott is part of our rich history of protecting free speech.
This will be a powerful statement, one that we know will help in our state-wide campaign to defeat this legislation. But for this to work we need everyone to follow the guidelines below. Please feel free to share this with other Jewish New Yorkers, especially people throughout the state.
Jane Hirschmann, firstname.lastname@example.org Leslie Cagan, email@example.com
GUIDELINES FOR VIDEO MESSAGES TO NY STATE LEGISLATORS
1) Each statement should be no more than 30 seconds long, less would be better. Write out what you want to say and then read it out loud slowly. Time yourself to make sure you are under 30 seconds. Sample statements are below.
2) Be sure to: include your name; say that you are Jewish, and that you live and vote in New York State. If you are not from NYC, it would be great to include the city you are from.
3) You can record your statement with a camera or on your smart phone, Ipad, or computer. - Get fairly close to the camera look straight into the camera. - Make sure you are in focus and there are no lights shining behind you, or anything else that will be a distraction from your message. - Make sure the room you are in is quiet and there are no noise distractions. - The camera must be perfectly still during the entire statement, no shaking, make sure your camera is propped up securely.
4) Once it is done, you can upload it to us by going to vimeo.com. - Do not enter your information and hit the join button. Rather, click below on the "Already have an account?" link. - It will take you to a log in page where you enter in user name: Karenranucci@riseup.net and password: stopthebill. - Once on the welcome page, click on the upload a video button on the right. Click on "choose a video to upload" which will browse your computer. Select your video file and hit open. - On the next page choose the "upload selected videos" button. It will take time to upload so just keep it running until it is complete. If you have technical difficulties, write to Karenranucci@riseup.net
5) We must have your message immediately. Please make your recording now and send it right in!
My name is Jane Doe. I am a Jewish New York who votes. I oppose the anti-boycott bill because it infringes on academic freedom and free speech. All of us have the right to express our opposition to government policies, including Israeli policies. We must not be punished for exercising that right. The anti-boycott bills must be defeated.
My name is Joe Schmo. I live in Rochester, NY, I am Jewish and I vote. The anti-boycott bill being considered by the NY State Legislature would undermine academic freedom by punishing those who support the academic boycott of Israel. You must defeat this legislation.
My name is Jane Doe. I am a voting New Yorker, Jewish and an academic. The anti-boycott bill is aimed at limiting my academic freedom and punishes me economically for participating in organizations which support the boycott against Israel and its institutions. You must defeat this legislation.
HISTORY OF ANTI-BOYCOTT BILL
In January a dangerous bill was passed in the NY State Senate. If it becomes law, this bill will severely punish any state-funded college or university that uses any of those funds to support activities connected to an organization that supports the academic boycott of Israel. This bill is in direct response to the resolution passed last fall by the American Studies Association in support of the academic boycott of Israel. A similar bill was introduced in the NY State Assembly in February, but quick and effective organizing forced that bill's main sponsor to withdraw it and re-introduce a new version of the bill. The new version has less severe penalties, but the fact that there are any penalties makes the legislation an unconstitutional assault on academic freedom and free speech.