NEW YORK (Middle East Eye) – Students at a prominent New York university have denounced a decision by a city council member to pull $50,000 in funding for a program that provided free legal services to the community after faculty members endorsed a boycott resolution in support of Palestinian rights.
Councilwoman Inna Vernikov, a Ukrainian-born Jewish Republican representing parts of Brooklyn, pulled the funding last week after claiming that professors at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law were engaging in anti-Semitism following their decision to support the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Late last month, CUNY Law professors voted unanimously to endorse the BDS movement after the law school’s student government passed a similar resolution in December.
Founded in 2005, the BDS movement aims to mimic the success of the boycott movement that peacefully ended apartheid in South Africa. That success was built upon the realization that boycott, sanctions and divestment carried too high an economic price tag for South Africa to continue with its human rights violations.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has warned of a “disturbing surge of government-led attempts to suppress the speech of people on only one side of the Israel-Palestine debate”.
More than 30 states have passed laws that would penalize entities that boycott the Zionist regime, although federal judges have found anti-BDS legislation in Georgia and Texas to be unconstitutional.
“This unconstitutional defunding of CUNY Law should immediately be reversed,” Palestine Legal, a Chicago-based advocacy group, said in a statement.
“The politically motivated attacks on CUNY Law from city officials for the protected expression of its faculty members are a clear violation of the First Amendment and an affront to the principles of free speech and academic freedom.”