The New York Assembly is modifying a much-criticized bill that would bar state funds from being used for groups that boycott Israeli universities.
A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement Friday that the measure had being altered to make clear that it did not ban institutions from using other monies to fund boycotters.
We are simply saying you cannot use state funds -- taxpayer dollars -- to participate in a hateful and bigoted boycott," Michael Whyland said. "It does not limit an academic entity or organization from participating in such a boycott, it only says you cannot use state funds to do so. The use of state funds to an entity participating in any boycott (aimed at the certain countries) would be violating the provisions of the bill.”
Last week the American Jewish Committee joined those opposing the original bill as unhelpful because it penalized people for expressing opinions. The state teacher's union and a civil liberties group also opposed it.
“There is no question that the academic boycott against Israel is a gross violation of academic freedom,” Steven Bayme, AJC’s director of Contemporary Jewish Life, said in a statement. “But the proposed legislative action, which itself raised academic freedom questions, is not the answer to discriminatory acts against Israeli academics, such as boycotts.”
The bill and its companion passed last month in the New York Senate technically target boycotts of universities overseas that are also chartered in New York – including, among others, Israeli universities – but its sponsors have made clear that the impetus was a number of boycotts of Israeli academic institutions launched last year by U.S. academic groupings.
The lead among these, the American Studies Associations, has said that such bills are unlawful.
A bill introduced on Jan. 31 in the Maryland state Senate would reduce by 3 percent state funding to colleges that used any monies, including tuition fees, to pay membership dues or travel expenses to boycotting groups.
A non-binding resolution condemning such boycotts is under consideration in the Pennsylvania Legislature.
Seven chasidic-owned stores in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sued by the city for posting signs requesting modest dress by customers, settled this week with the city just prior to trial. The city’s Human Rights Commission dropped its request for $75,000 in collective fines (up from the original fines of under $5,000) in exchange for new modesty signs that clarified that all individuals would be “welcome to enter the stores free from discrimination.”
Bronx Democrat Eliot Engel, who represents Rabbi Avi Weiss and his Riverdale congregation in Congress, expressed his concerns to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Chief Rabbinate’s decision to reject Jewish status letters written by the rabbi.
At the request of the king, prayers for rain were held at synagogues throughout Morocco.
The prayers were recited on Saturday, one day after Muslims said similar prayers in mosques at the request of King Mohammed VI, the Moroccan daily Le Matin reported. The king made the request upon learning that Morocco may suffer a drought this year.
Israel earned $370 million in tax revenue on the sale of the navigation app Waze to Google.
Google is set to pay $230 million in taxes on its acquisition of the property rights to the free application for smart phones on top of the more than $143 million in taxes already paid on the purchase.