Georgia has become the sixth state to pass legislation preventing the government from contracting with individuals or businesses that boycott the state of Israel or companies in Israeli-controlled territories.
The bipartisan bill passed in the state House by a 95-71 vote on March 22, and by a 41-8 vote in the Senate two days later. It is expected to be signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal.
“The State of Georgia is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our friend and key trading partner Israel,” said State Sen. Judson Hill, who sponsored the legislation. “We are also pleased to join our neighboring states of South Carolina and Florida, along with other states all around America, in taking a stand against the anti-Semitism and discrimination of the BDS movement.”
“The U.S.-Israel relationship is based on shared values, and opposing bigotry in all its forms is fundamental to the people of both nations,” said Jacob Millner, Midwest regional director for The Israel Project, which lobbied in favor of the bill. “Georgians don’t want their state supporting the anti-Semitic BDS efforts, and that’s why the legislature voted to prevent this insidious movement from gaining a foothold here.” The Israel Project publishes The Tower.
Advocates of a similar bill that was signed into law in Arizona last week emphasized that such legislation does not raise any First Amendment issues because private parties are still free to boycott Israel, but states may be obligated to avoid promoting or supporting boycotts based on religion, race, or nationality.
Georgia’s bill is the latest state-driven measure to counter 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 Palestinian demands. Critics of the BDS 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.”
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a measure prohibiting state and local agencies from contracting entities that boycott Israel last week. Florida overwhelmingly passed anti-BDS legislation last month, despite the organized efforts of anti-Israel groups, while Indiana approved a similar measure in January. Illinois passed a law in May prohibiting the state’s pension fund from investing in any entity that boycotts Israel, while South Carolina approved a law in June 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: State of Georgia]