WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two national Jewish organizations are opposing a Maryland bill that would financially penalize colleges involved in an academic boycott of another country.
The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League in statements said that while they clearly do not support the American Studies Association’s call for a boycott of Israel, which occasioned the measure being considered by Maryland legislators, they also do not support any attempt to stifle academic freedom.
“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.”
The AJC and ADL have objected to similar bills under consideration in other state legislatures.
Two lengthy hearings on the Maryland bill were held last week in Annapolis.
The bill prohibits public universities from paying for its employees to attend conferences or use public funds 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.
Also, the measure reduces state funding to the boycotting universities by 3 percent.
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 attempt to stop those who would delegitimize Israel. The Baltimore-Israel Coalition and Agudath Israel of Maryland also support the bill.