Pro-Israel bill threatens academic freedom

FEB 11, 2014, 1:00 PM 

Dawud Walid: Pro-Israel bill threatens academic freedom

Two Republican congressmen have introduced a bill that if passed would be the biggest assault on freedom of speech and academic freedom in this generation in America.

Illinois Representatives Dan Lipinski and Peter Roskam recently introduced the Protect Academic Freedom Act (H.R. 4009), a title which is a complete misnomer. The bill seeks to block any institution of higher learning from receiving federal funds or financial assistance of any sort if:

[The] institution, any significant part of the institution, or any organization significantly funded by the institution adopts a policy or resolution, issues a statement, or otherwise formally establishes the restriction of discourse, cooperation, exchange, or any other involvement with academic institutions or scholars on the basis of the connection of such institutions or such scholars to the State of Israel.

In effect, any institution which votes to divest its holdings in Israel based upon objection to illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land, would have its funding cut. Even if a university allows a forum to have a discourse on the merits and drawbacks for boycotting Israeli made products would qualify. This is outrageous.

One of the most important traits separating our nation from the rest of the world is our robust right to express ourselves freely, both academically and politically. Unlike rogue states across the world, we can criticize our own government and its policies without fear of being arrested or sanctioned. If American academics can criticize President Barack Obama to collegestudents, or groups are able to boycott American companies based on their unscrupulous practices, then it’s a completely absurd proposition to say that such can’t be freely done with any of our allies. Yes, including Israel.

We all should be contacting our congressmen to tell them to vote no on H.R. 4009, which violates the essence of the First Amendment. If we let this slide, who knows what else from our free speech rights will be stripped away.


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