What's The Deal With the State of New York and Free Speech?

Sorry, I am a bit late on this but it came out while I was out of the country.  While the New York AG is going after ExxonMobil and a number of think tanks to try to prosecute them, or at least intimidate them, for their past speech on climate issues, apparently the state of New York is also going after college students who want to boycott Israel.

I have never thought much of the BDS movement -- while like most western governments Israel certainly has its flaws, I find it bizarre that the BDS movement treats Israel like it's the worst government on Earth.  In particular, I am amazed that BDS folks frequently, while they condemn Israel, act as apologists for neighboring Arab nations whose human rights records are objectively far worse.

All that being said, if they don't want to have anything to do with Israel and want to advocate for others to take the same approach, they are welcome to do so in a free country.  But now there is this:

Continuing Gov. Andrew Cuomo's crusade against New Yorkers who don't support Israel, state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Nassau County) wants to ban public colleges and universities from funding pro-Palestinian student groups. A new bill sponsored by Martins would require state and city schools to defund any campus organization that supports efforts to "boycott, divest from, and sanction" (BDS) Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. The BDS movement has become popular on U.S. and U.K. campuses.

Martins' bill would also prohibit the funding of campus groups that support economic boycotts of any American-allied nation, although this bit seems designed to distract from his true goal: preventing anti-Israel sentiment on campus. In an interview with the New York Daily News, Martins referred to calls to boycott Israel as "hate speech" and "anti-Semitism" and said the state legislature has "no choice but to step in and prevent taxpayer dollars being used to promote" such sentiment.

If a state institution is going to fund student groups, then it needs to do so in a viewpoint neutral manner.

The only teeny tiny good part of this story is that perhaps a few campus Leftists who want to ban everything that they consider hate speech might have an epiphany that giving the government this sort of power is a bad idea, since one can never guarantee that one's own fellow travelers are going to be writing the hate speech definitions.

  • DirtyJobsGuy

    There is money behind BDS, some Qatari/Saudi, some Soros, other? This is not a few radicals alone. I'm not sure if there is a Russian interest but if you look at the highly organized social media/commenter campaign run by the Russians against the Baltics or Ukrainians recently it could be. Notice that Black Lives Matter has ceased for now, was this just running out of steam or the end of the outside support. The KGB as responsible for almost all of the old CND (committee for nuclear disarmament) activism in the 1980's. So it was difficult to see if there was a true public clamor to accept the Soviet claims or just a front. Reagan called their bluff.

    Remember that these students are not fools. I once thought that nonsense degrees and social activism was a path to unemployment, but actually you can get nice well paid jobs with NGO's. A few protests under your belt and Greenpeace or MSF will give you a nice offer. The same is true for the academic centers and departments that teach them. They get funding, not huge amounts, but more than the English Department I'll bet.

  • bacchys

    There is essentially zero chance the leftists will have such an epiphany. They, after all, are on the side of all that is Holy and Righteous, so there's nothing wrong with them stamping out Evil.

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  • markm

    One reason many leftists pressure Israel while ignoring the much worse barbarities of the Palestinians is that Israel responds to such pressure with real actions. The Palestinians either utterly ignore disapproval or make meaningless promises.

  • http://www.asplint.com/ Jeffrey Deutsch

    As an acquaintance of mine pointed out: Never support anything you wouldn't want your worst enemies interpreting and executing. Because one day, they will do just that.