The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations-USA (CAIR-USA) sent members of the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce a letter urging them to oppose legislation that would deny federal funding to colleges and universities that participate in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars. According to the legislation’s sponsors, H.R. 4009 was drafted in response to the American Studies Association’s recent resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.
The CCR, NLG and CAIR-USA letter urges lawmakers to recognize that denying federal aid based on such protected speech violates the First Amendment and threatens academic freedom. It stresses that boycotts to bring about political, social and economic change are protected speech under the First Amendment, and warns that legislation to deny public funding in response to the assertion of unpopular views would likely face Constitutional challenges. The letter also notes that the United States is itself a product of a colonial boycott against British, Irish, and West Indian goods.
The American Studies Association endorsed a resolution in December, 2013 to boycott Israeli academic institutions in protest of the central role that they play in Israel’s denial of Palestinian human rights, in an effort to contribute to the larger movement for social justice in Israel/Palestine. The ASA resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions is available here, and an explanation of the resolution is available here.
See the full letter to the House Committee.
See CCR’s letter to New York Assembly Members regarding the New York anti-boycott bill.
For more information on the legality of academic boycott, please see Palestinian Solidarity Legal Support’s frequently asked questions.