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Ohio Becomes 14th State to Enact Anti-Boycott Legislation

Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a bill into law on Tuesday that prohibits state agencies from contracting with businesses or individuals who boycott Israel.

The law, which was overwhelmingly passed by the state’s legislature earlier this month, requires any company that seeks to conduct business with the state to assert in its contracts that it is not boycotting or divesting from Israel. Ohio is the 14th state to pass such a law.

“With Governor Kasich’s signature, Ohio becomes the latest state to stand up against the discrimination based on national origin inherent in efforts to boycott, divest or sanction Israel,” Howie Beigelman, executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities said in a statement. “It’s also a stand in support of free trade and academic freedom.”

“Our state’s relationship with Israel generates more than $200 million of economic benefit for Ohio each year. This legislation provides more opportunities for Ohio to continue its strong alliance with Israel, as well as bolster our economy here at home,” state rep. Kirk Schuring, who introduced the bill said in a statement last month.

Kasich condemned “all attempts to isolate, pressure and delegitimize the State of Israel” when he spoke at the AIPAC Policy Conference earlier this year.

The law follows the passage of similar measures in PennsylvaniaIllinoisSouth Carolina, Tennessee, ArizonaGeorgia, Colorado, Florida, Alabama, California, and New Jersey. New York governor Andrew Cuomo approved  a similar measure by executive order.

Advocates of these measures have emphasized that they do not raise any First Amendment issues, as private parties are still free to boycott Israel. Furthermore, states may be obligated to avoid promoting or supporting discrimination based on religion, race, or nationality.

The measures reflect an understanding that the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement “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,” Northwestern University Law School professor Eugene Kontorovich wrote in The Washington Post last year after a similar measure was signed into law in Illinois.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political party, the Christian Democratic Union, echoed this criticism earlier this week, passing a resolution stating that the party “declares with this motion its disapproval and rejection of every form of BDS activity and condemns these activities as anti-Semitic.”

Many BDS leaders have publicly opposed the two-state solution and affirmed that the movement seeks Israel’s destruction. Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of the movement, said in 2014 that Palestinians have a right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance.” Leading activist As’ad Abu Khalil wrote in 2012 that “Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”

[Photo: tlarrow / Flickr ]