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Arizona Law Bars State from Contracting Companies That Boycott Israel

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a measure prohibiting state and local agencies from contracting entities that boycott Israel, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.

The bill requires that all companies doing business with the state certify that they are not boycotting Israel. The state treasurer and pension funds are also required to divest public holdings from such companies.

The legislation passed Arizona’s House of Representatives by a margin of 42-16 and its Senate by 23-6.

“Boycotts and related tactics have become a tool of economic warfare that threaten the sovereignty and security of key allies and trade partners of the United States,” explained State Representative David Gowan, who sponsored the bill. “The state of Israel is the most prominent target of such boycott activity [and] companies that refuse to deal with the United States’ trade partners such as Israel … make discriminatory decisions on the basis of national origin that impair those companies’ commercial soundness.”

“We applaud the State of Arizona for HB-2617 the law,” said Joseph M. Sabag, Deputy Director of the Israel Allies Foundation, in a statement. “Arizona’s new anti-discrimination/boycott law is good as a matter of economic policy, public policy and foreign policy. We salute Speaker David Gowan and Arizona’s legislature for their leadership and public service.”

Stand With Us, a group that advocated in favor of the measure, added in a statement that “[HB 2617] does not raise any 1st Amendment concerns because it does not in any way regulate, penalize, or infringe on anyone’s private speech or conduct. Private parties who wish to boycott Israel can continue to do so freely [but] boycotts of entities and individuals of specific countries often amount to ethnic, religious, racial, and/or nationality discrimination, which directly contradicts the public policy of Arizona and the values of its people.”

The law is seen as a blow to the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which seeks to stigmatize and isolate Israel socially, economically, and politically until it accedes to a number of unilateral Palestinian demands. Critics of the campaign have accused it of being discriminatory in tone and intention, and pointed out that many of its leaders have publicly affirmed that they seek Israel’s destruction. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti, an opponent of the two-state solution, said in 2014 that Palestinians have a right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance,” while leading activist As’ad Abu Khalil acknowledged in 2012 that “the real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel.”

The passage of Arizona’s anti-BDS bill follows the adoption of comparable bills in other states. Florida overwhelmingly passed anti-BDS legislation last month, despite the organized efforts of anti-Israel groups, while Indiana passed a similar measure in January.

Numerous governors and state legislatures also passed laws disassociating themselves from BDS last year. Illinois approved a measure in May prohibiting the state’s pension fund from investing in any entity that boycotts Israel. A month later, South Carolina passed a law prohibiting the state from doing business with any firm engaged in a boycott “based on race, color, religion, gender or national origin.” Tennessee passed legislation in April condemning the BDS campaign.

Tablet Magazine reported in February on the introduction of a bipartisan congressional bill designed to support states that pass anti-BDS legislation. One activist involved in promoting the measure noted that such laws had been introduced and proceeded through the legislatures in California, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania. The activist predicted that the number of states that passed anti-BDS legislation would reach double digits by the summer of 2016.

[Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr ]