Bipartisan bills have been introduced into both houses of Congress that would protect the rights of state and local governments to withdraw their business from companies or entities that engage in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
The bill, known as the Combating BDS Act of 2016, is sponsored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Reps. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) and Juan Vargas (D-Calif.). A preliminary version of the House version of the bill is available here. The bill was first reported on by Liel Leibovitz of Tablet.
The bill comes after a wave of governors and state legislatures passed laws disassociating themselves from the BDS movement. Illinois passed a law last year prohibiting the state’s pension funds from investing in any entity that boycotts Israel. A month later, South Carolina passed a law prohibiting the state from doing business with any entity or individual that boycotts Israel. Tennessee passed a law last year condemning the BDS movement.
Already this year, the Indiana House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution prohibiting the state from commercial dealings with any business or person that boycotts Israel. “Similar bills have already been introduced in Ohio and California, with momentum in New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania, as well,” Tablet reported. An activist involved with the effort to fight anti-Israel boycotts told Leibovitz that he expects the number of such states to reach double digits by the summer.
“With efforts to wage economic warfare on the Jewish state gaining serious traction on American college campuses and elsewhere, the newly proposed act is important because it empowers states to follow the conscience of their citizens, most of whom overwhelmingly support Israel, according to a recent Gallup poll, and categorically reject the BDS movement’s effort to single out Israel alone for opprobrium,” Leibovitz wrote.
“Drawing on a 2010 federal law targeting companies engaged in business with Iran’s terror-sponsoring regime, this bipartisan bill would authorize state and local governments in the United States to follow Illinois’s lead and divest from companies engaged in boycotts and other forms of economic warfare against Israel,” Kirk told Tablet. “With this bill, Congress underscores the critical role that state and local governments and their communities have to play in the ongoing struggle against anti-Semitism worldwide.”
Dold derided the BDS movement as seeking “to delegitimize Israel’s existence,” and said that the new legislation “empowers community leaders and individuals who seek to counter the hateful targeting of Israel, while sending an unquestionable message about our steadfast opposition to BDS and strong support for those who stand up for Israel.” “BDS efforts depict Israel in a negative light causing a loss of economic opportunities and penalizing commercial relations,” added Vargas.
Omri Ceren, managing director at The Israel Project, pointed out to Tablet that Americans overwhelmingly support Israel, regardless of party affiliation. “It’s only natural that Congress would step in to support what their constituents in blue and red states are doing to stand with Israel.” The Israel Project publishes The Tower.
BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti, a hard-line opponent of the two-state solution, said in 2014 that Palestinians have a right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance.” Leading BDS activist As’ad Abu Khalil acknowledged in 2012 that “the real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel.”
An analysis published in Forbes last year concluded that boycotts of Israel would take a significant toll on the Palestinian Authority’s economy.
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