ALBANY, New York — The New York Senate voted on Wednesday to withhold state university funding from any student group calling for a boycott of Israel or other “allied nations.”
Supporters of the measure say it’s 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 say 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.
Besides Israel, the anti-boycott bill would cover 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 have 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 (Republican President Donald) 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.