WASHINGTON – National Jewish organizations oppose a bill under consideration by Maryland legislators that would financially penalize any college involved in an academic boycott of another country.
The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League in statements have said that while they clearly do not support the American Studies Association’s call for a boycott of Israel, which occasioned this bill, they also do not support any attempt to stifle academic freedom.
There were two lengthy hearings in Annapolis on March 5 and March 6 on the bill, which would prohibit public universities from paying for its employees to attend conferences or use public funds in any way if they participated directly or indirectly in support of academic boycotts of countries that have a declaration of cooperation with Maryland. Israel has such a declaration.
The bill also would reduce state funding to the boycotting universities by three percent.
“Maryland’s proposed legislative action, which itself raises academic freedom questions, is not the answer to discriminatory acts against Israeli academics,” Alan Ronkin, the director of AJC’s Washington office, said in a March 5 statement. “More helpful would be a General Assembly call for publicly-funded colleges and universities to increase their cooperation with Israeli institutions of higher learning.”
Among regional Jewish groups, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington objects to any financial penalties, while the Baltimore Jewish Council is a strong supporter of any attempts to stop those who would de-legitimize Israel. The Baltimore-Israel Coalition and Agudath Israel of Maryland, also support the bill.
The national groups have objected to similar bills under consideration in other state legislatures.