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Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Fight Economic Warfare Against Israel

Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) introduced a bill on Tuesday that would improve legal protections for states that enact legislation to fight boycotts of Israel.

The bill, called the Combating BDS Act, has 19 cosponsors from both parties. Its provisions would apply to state legislation addressing businesses or other entities that participate in boycotts against Israel or “Israeli-controlled territory.” Fifteen states have passed laws that prevent state-funded programs, such as pension funds, from being invested in companies that support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

“This legislation is an important step forward in reassuring Israel that we are protecting our shared national security interests, while also protecting our joint economic interests,” Manchin explained in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation gives state and local governments a legal way to combat the shameful boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Israel has been our strongest ally in the Middle East and we need to send them a strong signal that we will do everything in our power to fight the BDS movement.”

Manchin introduced similar legislation last year along with then-Sen. Mark Kirk (R – Ill.).

“This legislation supports efforts by state governments and local communities to use the power of the purse to counter the BDS movement’s economic warfare targeting Israel,” Rubio added. “This bipartisan bill is all the more timely after the United Nations Security Council’s passage of Resolution 2334, a deplorable one-sided measure that harms Israel and effectively encourages the BDS movement’s campaigns to commercially and financially target and discriminate against the Jewish state.”

After Resolution 2334 was passed (which was enabled by an American abstention rather than a veto), Fox News reported that the UN had authorized the creation of a database of companies that did business in territories captured by Israel in 1967, raising fears that it could be turned into a “blacklist.”

In testimony before the Senate on Tuesday, Gov. Nikki Haley (R – S.C.), President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for United Nations ambassador, tied the passage of Resolution 2334 to the BDS campaign, stating that she would “not go to New York and abstain when the UN seeks to create an international environment that encourages boycotts of Israel.”

Though the BDS campaign is often presented as an effort to pressure Israel, its leaders are more explicit and extreme in their goals. Many leaders of the campaign, which was launched by Palestinian groups in 2005, 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: Gage Skidmore / Flickr ]