Gov. Chris Christie signed into law on Tuesday a bipartisan bill prohibiting New Jersey’s pension fund from investing in companies that boycott Israel.
The legislation passed the state’s Senate unanimously in May and its General Assembly by a wide margin of 70-3 in July, The Jerusalem Post reported.
New Jersey currently does $1.3 billion worth of trade with Israel annually. Its pension fund, which covers 800,000 current and retired state employees, is worth $71 billion.
“It is important to the economic well-being of New Jersey that persons or entities conducting commercial trade and doing business in the State do not engage in boycotts of a legitimate and viable partner with whom New Jersey can enjoy open trade contracting,” the legislation stated. “Therefore, it is in the best interest of this State that a statutory prohibition be enacted to prohibit the investment of public employee retirement funds in companies boycotting Israel.”
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon praised the legislation as an important step in defeating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against his country. “State after state, we see our most important ally, the United States, continuing to stand by Israel in the fight against BDS,” he said. “This is how you defeat the forces of hate – by boycotting the boycotters.”
In a statement released upon signing the bill, Christie said that “standing with Israel, for peace and democracy, requires more than just pledging military defense and support.”
“It is in all of our best interests to invest in and partner with Israel, while opposing any attempt to wipe out Israel, economically or otherwise,” he added. “I’m proud to take this action today and help set an example for other states and nations throughout the world to join New Jersey by enacting similar laws against the radical ‘BDS’ movement.”
In June, New York Governor Chris Cuomo signed an executive order prohibiting the state from doing business with any entity that boycotts Israel. Other states that have passed anti-BDS legislation include Illinois, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, Florida, and Alabama. Advocates of these measure have emphasized that the 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 discrimination based on religion, race, or nationality.
Following passage of the Illinois bill last year, legal expert Eugene Kontorovich said that the measure reflected a belief that “BDS is not like the civil rights protests, as its supporters love to claim, but rather more like the anti-Jewish boycotts so common in Europe in the 20th century, and in the Arab world until this day.”
Foreign investment in Israel has nearly tripled since the BDS campaign was formally launched by Palestinian groups in 2005, hitting a record high of $285.12 billion last year.
Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, outlined at a congressional hearing in April how members of a network that used to fund Hamas have become the driving force behind the BDS campaign in the United States through the group American Muslims for Palestine.
The BDS campaign attempts to delegitimize and isolate Israel in an effort to advance Palestinian interests, and 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.”
[Photo: Famartin / WikiCommons ]