Silverstein bill to censor critics of foreign country stymied in Illinois Senate
By Ray Hanania
Senate Bill 3017, introduced by State Sen. Ira Silverstein to protect Israel from American citizens expressing their constitutional rights to criticize a foreign country, failed to be called for a vote last week, suggesting that it might dies, opponents of the illegal law said.
Leaders of Jewish Voice for Peace, an American Jewish grassroots organization of Americans seeking to end the Israeli oppression of civilians including through protests and boycotts, reported this week that the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee failed to call the legislation for consideration at its Wednesday March 19 meeting.
“It now appears, although there is no certainty on this, that the bill will not be moved forward during this legislative session. If the March 28th deadline for moving a bill is not met, it means this unconstitutional assault on academic freedom and free speech will have effectively been defeated,” explained a statement from JVP spokesperson Lynn Pollack.
“We have come this far because people and organizations throughout Illinois took action. Our hundreds of phone calls and email messages, the petitions, and the direct discussions with members of the State Legislature all had an impact and made a difference! We had a sense we were on strong footing when we saw that 95 organizations and individuals had submitted to the Judiciary Committee “witness slips” through Wednesday indicating that they opposed this legislation, even though they could not appear at the committee hearing in person. Only 3 people submitted witness slips in support of the bill.”
Pollack cautioned that the issue is not dead.
“The issue is not quite settled though. A State Senate resolution introduced by the same Senator Silverstein, SJR 59, is still pending. It has much the same purpose of undermining academic boycotts of Israel, minus the punitive measure of defunding public universities. The Resolution has still not been assigned to a Senate Committee, so we will keep you updated on its status, and on what you can do to oppose it,” Pollack said in the news update.Boycott Israel-poster (Photo credit: Creap)
Here is the key wording from the new censorship provision introduced by Senator Silverstein:
(b) The University may not use State aid provided directly to the University to fund an academic entity, provide funds for membership in an academic entity, or fund travel or lodging for any employee to attend a meeting of an academic entity if the academic entity has issued a public resolution or other official statement or undertaken an official action boycotting a country that is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development or higher education institutions located in that country.
(c) Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, the University is not eligible for State aid during the academic year in which the University is in violation of subsection (b) this Section. (d) The provisions of this Section do not apply:
(1) if the country is determined by the United States Secretary of State to be a state sponsor of terrorism;
(2) if the boycott is connected with a labor dispute; or
(3) if the boycott is for the purpose of protesting 19 unlawful discriminatory practices, as determined by the 20 laws or administrative rules of this State.
Silverstein’s illegal law specifically targets the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University, Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Governor’s State University, Illinois State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, and Western Illinois University.
Silverstein represents a heavily pro-Israel district including the Chicagoland suburbs of Skokie,Glenview, Morton Grove, Lincolnwood, Evanston, and the northernmost neighborhoods of Chicago. Click here to view a map of his senate district.
Many American academic institutions have voted to boycott Israeli educational institutions because those educational institutions discriminate against Christian and Muslim civilian populations. But Silverstein’s legislation is not based on reason but on politics. Silverstein is a leading supporter of Israel, but more importantly, supports Israel’s continued oppression of Christians and Muslims in Israel and in the Occupied West Bank of Palestine.
Silverstein’s illegal law was quietly introduced to the Illinois Senate on February 7, 2014. It may actually violate the state’s hate laws because it is intended to sanction Israel’s discriminatory policies against Christian and Muslims who are both citizens of Israel and also occupied residents of the West Bank of Palestine.
Silverstein’s illegal law is modeled after similar state legislation introduced in New York, Maryland, Florida, Kansas, and congressional legislation introduced around the same time by rightwing Tea Party fanatic U.S. Peter Roskam and U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski whose 3rd congressional district has one of the nation’s largest concentrations of American Arabs and Muslims.
Joining in supporting JVP’s campaign to protect American constitutional rights to free speech, especially against a foreign country, are a number of American organizations including: The Illinois Coalition to Protect Academic Freedom and Free Speech was formed in response to anti-boycott legislation introduced in the Illinois State Senate. The Coalition includes the Center for Constitutional Rights, CAIR-Chicago, Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, American Studies Association, Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine, Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago, Arab-Jewish Partnership for Peace and Justice in the Middle East, Committee Against Political Repression, Friends of Sabeel: North America, United States Palestinian Community Network, American Friends Service Committee- Chicago, Just Foreign Policy, Defending Dissent Foundation, American Muslims for Palestine, UIC Graduate Employees Organization, IFT-AFT Local 6297, and other individuals.