Last week the New York State Senate fast tracked three anti-free speech, anti-protest bills. These bills are now headed to the State Assembly.
The bills specifically target critics of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians. While as a civil liberties organization we take no position on the Israel-Palestine conflict, we recognize that the speech targeted by these bills is exactly what the First Amendment is designed to protect. Bills that attack the right to protest impact all of us adversely.
Here are what the three anti-free speech bill would do
S.2493–Would deny funding to student groups at public universities who advocate for “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel and American allied nations[..]”
S.4837–Would deny public universities from using state money to fund membership in, or travel and lodging for a meeting of, an academic association that boycotts Israel.
S.2492–Would create a blacklist to deny state contracts to and investment in individuals, organizations, and businesses that boycott “American allied nations.” It’s sponsors have made it clear that supporters of Palestinian human rights are its targets.
The Supreme Court has explicitly stated boycotts for political, economic, and social change are protected political speech under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has also ruled that the state cannot deny public benefits based on individuals or organizations exercise of free speech rights. Courts across the country have also continuously found that public universities cannot deny funding or other resources to student groups, because of their political point of view.
Boycotts, including those of “allied nations,” have long been an important tool of human rights activists. The state of New York should not penalize individuals for exercising their First Amendment rights.