Illinois officials stand against anti-Semitism


By Paul Miller | for

With the primary election just days away, negative television ads — vile, personal attacks — only reinforce public disdain for the political scene in the Land of Lincoln. Every so often, though, our representatives in Washington and Springfield come together and actually make us proud.

ROSKAM: Along with Illinois Democrat Dan Lipinski, Peter Roskam (R-IL) introduced legislation to cut federal funding to universities participating in an anti-Israel academic boycott.

Last month, the partisans joined forces to take a stand for academic freedom and a swipe at anti-Semitism. Congressmen Peter Roskam, R-Illinois, and Dan Lipinski, D-Illinois, introduced the Protect Academic Freedom Act. This bipartisan legislation amends the Higher Education Act of 1965, blocking universities from receiving federal funds if they engage in the boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars. It’s a direct response to the American Studies Association academic boycott of Israel that took place in December.

The Roskam/Lipinski measure goes beyond merely penalizing academic institutions for obstructing academic freedom and singling out the Jewish state. It sends a clear, unequivocal message calling out the boycott and delegitimization campaigns against Israel for what they truly are — bigotry.

“These boycotts not only threaten educational cooperation between the United States and Israel, but ultimately undermine the academic goals of all nations. Congress has a responsibility to fight back against these hateful campaigns, which contradict academic freedom and are designed to delegitimize the Jewish State of Israel,” said Roskam in a written statement.

“As a former university professor, I appreciate the value of academic exchanges involving universities and individuals, particularly between strong international allies with robust academic programs like the United States and Israel,” Lipinski added. “I am proud to join Rep. Roskam in introducing legislation that would help assure that no federal funds would go to any American university that would consider this ill-conceived boycott and thus deter U.S. based academic institutions from joining it.”

Denunciation of discrimination coupled with support for academic freedom has also gained momentum in Springfield. Democratic state Sen. Ira Silverstein has proposed an amendment (SB 3017) that will restrict “public universities from using state funds to promote political boycotts of Israel and other foreign nations.”

Silverstein stated in a Feb. 19 press release, “Boycotts of foreign nations limit students’ access to diverse, meaningful study abroad opportunities. We live in a complex, connected world — universities stand for inclusion, not narrow-mindedness.”

The measure by the northside senator “removes state aid from any public university that supports boycotts of nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD is a 34-country partnership that promotes intergovernmental relations — of which the United States and Israel are members.”

Silverstein can expect support from his colleagues across the aisle.

“Senator [Christine] Radogno stands with Israel,” said GOP Senate leader spokesman Mark Gordon. “She is very much opposed to using taxpayer dollars for schools and any institution that attacks the Jewish State. I will support this measure when it comes up for a vote.”

Currently both amendments are in committee, awaiting review.

Standing up against “hateful campaigns” should never be a partisan issue. Republicans and Democrats may not agree on much, but combating discrimination and protecting the free expression of ideas should always be a shared value.

At a time when the Illinois governor’s mansion is regarded as the “last known address” in the federal penal system and our elected officials receive more attention by late night comedians than by a disillusioned electorate — resigned to believe nothing good comes from elected officials with an “IL” next to their name — finally something to be proud of.

Paul Miller is an op-ed contributor to the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. He serves as principal of Pauliegroup LLC, a Chicago-based new media and political consulting firm. Follow him on Twitter @pauliespoint.

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