Proposed antisemitism bill could cut funding for colleges that divest from Israel

(The Center Square) — New Jersey public colleges that divest from Israel could lose state funding under a proposal filed by Republican lawmakers, which comes in response to a wave of antisemitic protests on campuses.

The package of bills calls for withholding state aid and other funding to any university that divests from Israel — including if their endowment fund or any university subdivision, department, or section. It would also ban New Jersey colleges from entering into agreements with universities in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank or Gaza territories, which would be punishable by the “immediate” loss of state aid and other funding.

One of the measure’s primary sponsors, state Sen. Robert Singer, R-Lakewood, said the intent is to “ensure that organizations in New Jersey that take steps to support or permit activities expressing antisemitism will not receive taxpayer funding.”

“Many of these protests are either deliberately, or unknowingly, advocating support for Hamas and, at the same time, for a complete divestment from Israel,” Singer said. “While I wholeheartedly support free speech, including speech I vehemently disagree with, New Jersey taxpayers should not have to financially support institutions that allow anti-Semitic behavior.”

Other provisions of the omnibus antisemitism bill would require preapproval from schools to set up tent encampments on campuses and prohibit the flying of flags from countries designated by the U.S. State Department as terrorist organizations.

Rutgers University, an elite public school, and other New Jersey colleges and universities have been the scene of anti-Israel protests over the past month in response to Israel’s war in Gaza, which was prompted by the Oct. 7 attack by the terrorist group Hamas that killed 1,200 Israelis and injured many others. More than 2,500 demonstrators nationwide have been arrested at dozens of college campuses.

The protesters’ demands vary by college campus, but most are calling for an end to the Israel-Hamas war and divestment from companies with ties to Israel or that otherwise profit from its ongoing military operation in Gaza.

But another sponsor of the New Jersey proposal, state Assemblyman Sean Kean, R-Wall, said many of those demonstrations “have caused Jewish students to feel intimidated and fearful at colleges and universities.”

“Further, some of the demonstrations have led to anti-Semitic speech and actions,” Kean said. “This cannot be tolerated or allowed, especially by institutions that receive taxpayer funding.”

Another bill in the package would condemn Rutgers for what Republican lawmakers describe as “acquiescing” to pro-Palestinian protesters demands by reaching an agreement with them to take down an encampment.

Sen. Owen Henry, R-Old Bridge, said it is “unacceptable” for a publicly funded university to give into the demands of “anti-Semitic demonstrators” and said the demonstrations disrupted final exams for more than 1,000 Rutgers students.

“By prioritizing the demands of demonstrators that disrupted academic learning by spewing hateful rhetoric they have demonstrated a glaring weakness that hurts the integrity of their institution and the Jewish community,” Henry said. “It is imperative that Rutgers ensure the safety and well-being of all their students by holding students and staff who perpetuated messages of hatred on their campus accountable.”

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