Israeli Bill Would Cut Funds to Universities With Lecturers Backing Boycott

The legislation, however, has not yet been run by the governing coalition; a key committee meets on the matter Sunday.

A BDS stand at the University of California Berkeley, January 2015.
Noam Eshel

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation will decide Sunday whether to support a bill that would let the Council for Higher Education reduce state funding to an academic institution if a lecturer calls for a boycott of Israel.

MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beiteinu) initiated the bill but did not coordinate it with Education Minister Naftali Bennett. Moreover, the governing coalition has not yet crafted a position on the legislation, so it is not clear if it will pass.

“The bill is to prevent a situation in which the state pays the wage of a professor who calls for a boycott of it,” Forer told Haaretz. “The bill doesn’t ban universities from employing such lecturers. But if they want to continue employing them they’ll do so from private donations, not from state funds.”

The bill is an amendment to the law preventing harm to the state in the form of a boycott, which includes a boycott of the settlements.

According to the bill, “The chairman of the Council for Higher Education will be eligible, in consultation with the authorized committee, to deduct annually the sums that should be transferred from the state budget to the academic institution, on condition that the staff member or senior employee knowingly publicized a call to boycott Israel when a reasonable possibility existed that the call would result in a boycott.”

Forer could not say exactly what would stipulate whether a lecturer had called for a boycott. “The education minister will have to decide exactly where the line is,” he said.

He said he opted for the bill because he believed that institutions of higher education were not addressing a problem he pointed out months ago.

“I initiated the bill following a debate on the subject at the [Knesset] Education Committee in which lecturers who earn their wages from academic institutions in Israel support the BDS movement abroad,” Forer said, referring to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

“I told the university heads that if they didn’t deal with the phenomenon, we’d do so through legislation.”