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Pennsylvania Senate passes bill to bar universities and pension funds from divesting from Israel

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s state Senate approved legislation Thursday that would block state aid from going to any university that boycotts or divests from Israel, following pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses across the country that included demands for divestment.

The measure, which passed by a vote of 41 to 7, also would bar the state treasurer and public pension systems from boycotting or divesting from Israel’s government or commercial financial activity in that country.

The bill won support from all but one Republican and most Democrats. It now goes to the House.

Supporters of the legislation said it was motivated by a desire to support an ally nation in its war with Hamas, to fight a rising tide of antisemitism in the United States and to alert state-subsidized universities that they must protect Jewish students from threats and bullying by anti-Israel protesters.

The bill was opposed by some of the Senate’s more liberal members, including Democrat Art Haywood, who said he was concerned that it would restrict free speech.

Fellow Democratic Sen. Steve Santarsiero, who was a sponsor, disputed that the bill infringes on freedom of speech and said students and faculty will still be able to protest peacefully.

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