A bill introduced in the California legislature on Monday would ban the state from doing business with companies that engage in boycotts based on nationality—preventing the state from partnering with entities that participate in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
“California strongly opposes discrimination,” Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), who introduced the bill, said in a statement. “Of particular concern lately is the fact that boycotts of entities and individuals affiliated with specific countries can amount to ethnic, religious, racial and/or national origin discrimination. No group better demonstrates this fact than the [BDS movement], whose use of false, demonizing and delegitimizing propaganda against the State of Israel has become a pretext for the expression of anti-Jewish bigotry.”
The bill—officially designated AB 1552—would require companies that wish to do business with the state government to certify that they do not conduct boycotts against California’s trading partners. Israel is one such country: In 2014, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and California Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed an agreement at a ceremony in Silicon Valley to promote trade and joint research initiatives. “California and Israel will build on their respective strengths in research and technology to confront critical problems we both face, such as water scarcity, cybersecurity and climate change,” Brown said at the time. As part of their environmental cooperation, the Israeli company IDE Technologies is building a $1 billion desalination plant near San Diego—the largest in the Western Hemisphere—to help alleviate California’s drought.
California is just the latest place to have anti-BDS bills work their way through state legislatures. In May 2015, a bill in Illinois that would prohibit the state pension fund from investing in companies that boycott Israel was passed unanimously and signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner (R). Similar bills were passed in Indiana and Tennessee. And in June, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) signed a law similar to the California proposal, preventing state entities from contracting with business that boycott “a person or an entity based in or doing business with a jurisdiction with whom South Carolina can enjoy open trade,” such as Israel.
A bipartisan resolution was introduced in the Florida legislature last month that “condemns the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the State of Israel and calls upon [Florida’s] governmental institutions to denounce hatred and discrimination whenever they appear.”